Winter 2013 Season Wrap

Yet another season ends, while another begins! Quite a few of the anime this season were late add-ins either because they were backlogged or because I overlooked them the first time around.  Many thanks to the people who convinced me to pick them up and catch up with everyone! So you see, I do take your recommendations into account any time through the year🙂

While there isn’t really an order to the shows as I discuss them here, I do want to highlight Shirokuma CafeMinami-ke Tadaima, Shin Sekai Yori, and Girls and Panzer as being my personal favorites through these cold months.

Anime in the order that I discuss them:

  • Boku no Imouto wa Osaka Okan
  • Mondaijitachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo?
  • Psycho-Pass
  • Tamako Market
  • Love Live!
  • Kotoura-san
  • Shin Sekai Yori
  • Girls und Panzer
  • Bakuman 3
  • Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT
  • AMNESIA
  • Zetsuen no Tempest
  • Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo
  • Magi
  • Maoyuu Maou Yuusha
  • Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru
  • Minami-ke Tadaima
  • Shirokuma Cafe

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Boku no Imouto wa Osaka Okan
There haven’t been many shorts like these that I’ve found interesting enough to watch–in fact, I can only think of of a few off the top of my head: this one, Thermae Romae, and Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki. Osaka Okan is an interesting one since it, like TR, is flash-based. While I found flash complementary to TR, its use in this case was less appealing. I guess I could argue that the quirkiness fit Namika’s personality, but that would be stretching it.

And like I’ve mentioned several times in the past, I’ve started to really veer away from any show that includes “little sister” in the title, or has the idea in a prominent place in the first episode. BUT! Osaka Okan gets away with the premise by merging what is normally portrayed as the impressionable little girl with the stereotype of the average Osakan–loud, blunt, cheap, and always amusing. Each episode short features a clash of cultures between Namika and her brother, where usually two odd facts about Osaka and its people are taught to the viewers. I’m not sure how accurate they are, since some of the information seemed a bit too bizarre, but I started to enjoy how open Namika’s personality was when most other people would suck up their feelings to please others.

Secret ingredient: I’m not stranger to haggling, since my mother finds every occasion to do so no matter what the store or location, but what I’m not used to is someone as young as Namika being able to comfortably do so, even in her new home. I’ve always felt awkward attempting to haggle in the places where its socially acceptable, much less somewhere where the practice is not the norm.

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Mondaijitachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo?
I think there’s only one other blogger I know who watched this show, much less blogged it, which is a shame given the pleasurable mesh of myth and folklore in this simple fantasy. Just take a look at the anime’s MAL page and you’ll see that the characters have next to nothing written about them. It really wasn’t at all what I expected given its premise and the fact that I had just stepped away from Sword Art Online the season before. I thought the whole game aspect of the world would be much more life-threatening to our main cast and that they’d be struggling to escape it. Instead, the show leans more towards the game ideas of Dog Days, where the “communities” of various world levels usually willingly compete in gift games for both honor and gifts geared towards bettering a community. I loved how the set up for these gift games brought individuals of each group together and gave them incentive to work towards improving themselves. But despite the game-like, fun image of the overall world, there is an underlying fear that a community may lose so much as to actually have its name stripped away like our “No Name” group. Betting is an integral part of each gift game, and sometimes communities are forced to bet everything they have–land, wealth, even friends and family members–to try and survive.

The show ended on my favorite arc, one that featured an old folktale I remember enjoying as a child: The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Previous games only briefly touched on mythical creatures like water dragons, vampires, even the Greek demi-god, Perseus. While I appreciated them well enough for their snapshots of cultural legends, they still felt shallow on the story end. The character-building in the episodes overtly took over the beginning to middle episodes, showcasing our cast’s unique abilities and the quick formation of their loyalties and friendships. I still have a difficult time believing Izayoi’s involvement with the No Names, even more so because of his anonymity. It’s made clear from the very beginning that his power is almost bottomless, but no back story or any explanation is given for why that is. A sequel could easily follow since we were never given a true ending to our characters’ journey to Little Garden.

Secret Ingredient: Kasukabe’s connection to living creatures through her father’s pendant reminded me a bit of Avatar and the Na’vi’s ability to communicate and form bonds with beasts. What made her gift even cooler was how she would share an ability of the befriended creature, like super strength, or flight.

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Psycho-Pass
Thank goodness I picked up this show when I did, because it turned into one of my more anticipated shows from week to week. I originally had it backlogged for the fall, but was compelled to start following somewhere in the teen episodes due to the praise given it by quite a number of bloggers. One gripe I have is that I kind of wish I had held off watching it until just before the last few episodes, because marathoning the fall section caught me up much too soon; it was agonizing suddenly halting for the many spring cliff hangers.

Psycho-Pass melds cyberpunk ideologies and culture with a more mature approach to concerns of authority, national security, stratification, and fundamental human desires and actions. The portrayal of these areas of conflicts was by no means perfect, but was always presented in an interesting manner brimming over with provocative thoughts for discussion. If I were the type to blog weekly by episode, this show is one I would have considered.

A large part of what drove this story forward was the cast. They weren’t the most complicated of characters, as most of them represented a particular sect of society, but they executed their individual roles well. The main trio of Akane-Kougami-Makishima played off each other nicely in large part because of the disturbing similarities they shared with one another. Small twists in one way of thinking from a common source of emotion created fascinating differences that made them worthwhile as separate and opposing characters.

Secret ingredient: As much as I hate open endings, I kind of like how P-P ended–not giving us a glorified end to the Sibyl System, nor redeeming Kougami and Ginoza. There’s a hint that a change may come, but no time frame is given, and Akane ends up training the next recruit in the exact same pattern as the first episode, with minor attitude changes that seem too small to be truly effective at the moment. I don’t know whether to be hopeful, or resigned–but I’m not in a rush to feel either way.

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Tamako Market
It’s really too bad this show had to end because of Dera’s demise. Then again, after eating all that mochi, he was asking for it.

Tamako Market ended almost exactly as I predicted it would, though I was pleasantly surprised at Tamako’s flustered response to the prince’s arrival, as well as her reaction to the unnaturally silent streets of Bunny Shopping District. All we’ve seen from her for the most part is one face of love and joy for her home and mochi–no anger, grief, or even minor annoyance and jealousy. For the first time, the final episodes revealed a human girl, with conflicting emotions and a very real passion for her place of birth. I wish I could have seen more of that girl, but I guess I can be somewhat satisfied with the awesome quirkiness of Kanna and her appetizing suggestions for cooking chicken-like birds.

As pleasurable as I found this anime, I have a bit of a hard time talking about it in detail due to its simplistic nature. If you’ve seen TARI TARI, you might have an idea of the rambling style of TM. Aside from Dera’s involvement and the mystery bride-search, there isn’t much preventing this anime from comprising of standalone episodes. I didn’t mind so much since that was pretty much what I expected from the start. I just wish many more types of mochi were featured instead of just the mame mochi (which I admit is one of my favorite kinds).

Secret ingredient: Kanna’s personality made up for a large part for Tamako’s one-dimensional cheer and Dera’s fade into the background. She’s mischievous, strange, and set on doing whatever it is that pops into her head. I can easily see myself befriending this daughter of carpenters with her deadpan face. Seiyuu Nagatsuma Juri also did a fantastic job voicing Kanna.

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Love Live!
For all the idol love among anime fans, I’m truly surprised at the lack of discussion on Love Live!, a show I find to be decently uplifting and enjoyable. Or maybe those are just the bloggers I tend to read, ones who turn their noses up to shows like this? Whatever the case, they missed out. Well, kind of. At least up until the last couple of episodes.

I think when I talked about this anime during my winter menu, I compared it to The iDOLM@STER and commended it for tackling the idol idea in a “safer” environment. Instead of all the public demands and media, these high school girls mostly motivate themselves to be the best they can be. That hard work reaps great benefits is a normal theme in high school dramas like these, but I have yet to get tired of them. I do, however, get tired of overly energetic, one-dimensional characters like Honoka, but I’d rather take that than her very bipolar turnaround at the end. For the majority of the show, Honoka is the picture of motivation, though there were plenty of hints that she wasn’t the most selfless of friends. She not only forced her two closest friends to form a club they weren’t even interested in doing, but she intruded on the privacy of most of the other girls to get what she wanted. But that was her character, and I had a modicum of respect for that determination. Yet suddenly at the end, all that drive and stubbornness vanished, and we were supposed to believe her friendships were the main fuel to her fire. For the first time in the show, I wanted to applaud Nico for her spot on reprimand of Honoka. And the whole retrieval of Kotori was certainly touching, but also ridiculously selfish.

I know I’m railing on the show, but that’s actually me taking out my frustration with the end on an otherwise solidly fun anime. The songs and visual sequences were catchy and I found myself wanting to dance along with them (maybe another AX dance workshop…), which I think speaks well for this show’s success as an idol series.

Secret ingredient: it was nice seeing how hard Honoka and her group would work for the sake of not only saving their school, but also for themselves and their enjoyment for dancing and singing. Waking up early and exercising may not seem like much, but I dare you to try to squeeze it into your schedule! I tried recently and was only able to make myself run a few times before I slid back to my normal dog walk.

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Kotoura-san
With what seemed like one of the most discussed premier episodes of the winter season, KS struggled in identity and tone throughout its short run. As many have pointed out in the past, the first episode and the rest of the series may well have been two completely different television series. The attempt at the very end to slap a bandaid on the wounds caused at the beginning as well as place an end cap to a shallow, though enjoyable, series was predictable and about as deep as a kiddy pool.

One major problem I had with KS was its lack of consequence for most of the cast. A character would do something horrendous worthy of immediate punishment, but get off with next to nothing at all. For Kotoura’s mother, Moritani, and even the President, their supposed justice comes after a too late review of their past actions and some subsequent waterworks. We can perhaps argue that her mother lived through her own punishment not seeing her daughter grow up and knowing that she was a failure as a mother and utterly without friends, but it’s not until the very end that that bone is thrown to us. I wish that the show had sprinkled a bit more of Kotoura’s familial ties throughout the other episodes for cohesion.

Secret ingredient: There’s a certain softness to the art style of the anime that I particularly liked, one that went well with the fluffier side to the show. I still miss that dark filter from the very start, but I guess we can’t have everything!

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My favorite character, both as a child and as an adult

Shin Sekai Yori
I feel lucky to have been able to see this show, because it’s so much more in terms of story, atmosphere, music, and artistic aesthetics than any of the other shows in recent memory. Like with Psycho-Pass, this was a show I had originally backlogged, but again I found myself unable to resist all the positive reviews I kept seeing for it from each week. SSY at first seemed like some kind of fantastical horror, amplified even more due to the child protagonist, but it quickly became apparent that the anime would be going many more places than the sheltered school, and meeting many more people than just Saki’s classmates. The kiddy horror turned into a post-apocalyptic tale of human definition and survival.

The setting of a post-apocalyptic future for a world supposedly our own isn’t so original, but the story and characters more than make up for it. Since we are able to watch these children grow up into adults, there’s this large sense of a space and time–kind of like how I felt when watching Kemono no Souja Erin. And even though we follow mainly one protagonist, we are able to trek across many different types of landscapes and encounter other beings of intelligent thought with ideas often foreign to that of Saki’s upbringing. Constantly throughout the episodes she, and us as well, are forced to question what is right and what is human. Though the revelation near the end is a long time coming and something I had guessed at several episodes prior, actually hearing it aloud still disturbed me greatly.

That discomfort reared its head repeatedly through the season with the clever use of atmosphere, music, and art. Even though the art style was nothing too unique, it was still characteristic enough to visually set this show apart from the others also airing in the winter. I particularly enjoyed the splashes of dark, yet vibrant, color during *SPOILER* Shun’s final moments. */SPOILER*

Secret ingredient: Komori Shigeo’s compositions also blended beautifully with Dvorak’s famous Symphony No. 9 in E minor, a.k.a. New World Symphony/From The New World. The soundtrack was haunting and filled with grief, though tinged with just the right amount of hope for new beginnings.

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Girls und Panzer
Many, many thanks to Inushinde for giving me the final push I needed to give this show a second chance. I had actually watched the first episode back when it started before promptly dropping it, but was shocked to hear continuous praise for the show throughout the winter months. It wasn’t that I hated the pilot; I just felt swamped with all the shows and moving, and so decided it wasn’t unique enough for me to keep around. It turns out, however, that Girls und Panzer was exactly the kind of light-hearted, tactical brilliance I needed to help make it through my long hours every day!

This show turned into my slice of laughter for each of my two, thirty-minute breaks I get every day at my full-time job. It’s not that I dislike my job at all, but a lot of the paperwork I handle deals with either some very boring cases or, on the opposite extreme, completely messed up people. I knew I could look forward to a couple episodes each work shift where I could just sit back and cheer on the girls of Ooarai. As a fan of Band of Brothers, numerous other war-time films, as well as the anime Valkyria Chronicles, I appreciated the techniques and strategies displayed for the various tanks presented in each episode. It did take a bit of suspension of disbelief to overlook the way the girls handled their tanks like sports cars, but that wasn’t much after being required to believe a world where countries actually encouraged the use of war machines by high school students.

I also commend GuP for the characters used in each tank group, as well as their individual motivations for taking up Tankery. The volley ball team, student council, and particularly the automotive and tank MMO groups, were so bizarre to watch but written in such a way that I absolutely believed their dedication to Tankery and winning.

Secret ingredient: Thank goodness that pink tank had a paint change, because I wouldn’t be able to stand looking at it for an entire season! I much preferred the use of animal logos for the various tank teams, such as the hippo, goosefish, and bunny teams. I actually believed goosefish were cute until I looked up the creepy swimmers *shudder*

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Bakuman 3
Three seasons in and we’ve finally reached the “end”! I only quote “end” because while this may be it for the anime, the closing does a great job of reminding us that Ashirogi’s success and Mashiro’s dream-come-true are really only the beginning to the rest of their lives. They are young and extraordinarily ahead in life and only have higher mountains to climb.

The resounding finish has been a long time coming, and one I wasn’t even sure we were really going to ever get. With a very slow first season, I think a lot of people dropped the franchise in preference for quicker-paced anime with more assured conclusions. When the second season aired, I noticed the marked improvement in pacing and direction, but was still disappointed that the two-cour show wouldn’t be the last of it. But now that I’ve seen the third and can look back on the entire journey as a whole, I take back all of my grumblings about slow plot development; Bakuman took just the right number of steps to insure the best possible climax. Much in line with the topic of the very last arc where Ashirogi fights for ending their manga as scheduled after a mere year, dragging the anime out any longer or cutting it off a season or two earlier would have vastly changed the positive feelings I hold for the show now.

Also for the naysayers to Miho and Mashiro’s relationship: their love story went exactly in line with who there were as characters and the dreams they shared for their careers and futures. As far-fetched as it may have been for two young people to make as little contact as these two did, I definitely do not think it impossible. If anything, I wish I could find a someone with whom I could share such a trusting bond, where neither one of us would even feel an inclination to look elsewhere. Though they may be fictional characters, I view Miho and Mashiro as a very real possibility, the type of which I shouldn’t expect anything less than for myself. Saying is a lot easier than doing, but if it took these two ten years to come together, than I really shouldn’t be that worried, should I?

Secret ingredient: Niizuma and Ashirogi Muto’s rivalry is really what drove this show forward and helped force the pace up several notches. I first heard the phrase “unconventional battle manga” in this anime, and that’s exactly what Bakuman is. We have the two opponents, mangaka, racing towards a goal that keeps resetting itself as the two continually trade leads. Their fervor for their art infects the viewer and I find myself cheering them both on instead of just supporting one.

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The only character who matters

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT
Third season, anyone? Not that I want it myself; that’s just how the ending decided to leave us, with an obvious expectation for a follow up.

I watched the first season and thought I knew what to expect with the second, but I found myself shocked once again at the amount of vulgar humor and fan service. Maybe I just couldn’t remember the first season well enough, because other viewers assured me that the sexual blatancy was nothing new. Back then, I distinctly remembered taking a guilty pleasure in the atrocities brought up by Sena and the other girls, but this time around I found myself enjoying the jokes less. A good majority of the dialogue that entertained me the most came from the very, very few scenes featuring Rika and her constantly changing hair styles. In comparison, I quickly became bored with the never-ending triangle of angst of Kodaka-Yozora-Sena, even more so with the ridiculous ending of Kodaka’s douche-baggeryness.

Secret ingredient: Shiguma Rika may have got the short end of the stick this season, but what scenes she featured in she stole right away from the leads. On top of her smart mouth and clever ideas that we became accustomed to the first time around, this second season gave us the added pleasure of her many visual changes with hair styles, accessories, and clothing. I always looked forward to what new look she’d give us with each scene and episode change. The ending’s attempt into turning her into the “bad guy” who gives the mean, but necessary speech, just wasn’t enough to satisfy my desire for more Rika-ness.

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Her expression 99.99999999% of the time

Amnesia
Why oh why did I let myself be convinced to even give this a second chance? I even watched the first episode on my own, and had firmly decided to drop it into the never-to-be-opened-again bin of reverse harems, but SOMEONE, the exact identity alludes me, wrote a review interesting enough to make me want to give this anime a chance. I’m currently on a witch hunt through Anime Nano to figure out what evil person used his or her honey words to trick innocent me.

Anyways, yes, back to the monstrosity of blandness that is Amnesia. Time and time again I let myself get tricked into trying a reverse harem in the vain hopes that I’ll get a decent one reminiscent of La Corda d’Oro or even not so obvious Yumeiro Pâtissière. Instead, I keep getting served with atrocities like UtaPri, Amnesia, and blah-blah ones like Arcana Famiglia. Amnesia suffers from maaaaaany problems, namely with the female lead, her harem, and the show’s use of parallel dimensions. I can understand that someone suffering from amnesia will probably act very different from a person fully in possession of his or her memories, but Heroine (stupid decision to keep her nameless) has next to no emotions regardless of the circumstances. She also seems utterly devoid of speech, since the majority of her noises are one-word sounds of insecurity, or sentence fragments. As for her bevy of male choices, they really aren’t pulled from the cream of the crop. I’d really only pick one, Kent, who has intelligence, common sense, maturity, and a calm reaction to the truth that Heroine reveals only to him. Unfortunately for the viewer and for Heroine, he only gets one damn episode, while creeps like Toma and Ikki get multiple.

Then there’s the whole confusion with the reversals of time and changes in circumstance, which we later discover are really the Heroine being transferred between worlds to repeat the same dates until a certain requirement is met. Each arc also ends with her swift and untimely death. I may have found the mystery more intriguing if I felt an ounce of sympathy for the characters; the only one who managed to snag my brief attention was Kent.

Time to go killer, Yuno-style

Secret ingredient: This isn’t positive, but I had an empty laugh at Heroine’s confession of love even after all of Toma’s insane measure to keep her “safe.” I mean, really? You comfort someone who caged you and repeatedly tells you that he can barely control himself around you?

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Zetsuen no Tempest
Oh Tempest, my lovely, BL, Shakespeare wannabe. You rode in hard, assaulted us with pages upon pages of poetic dialogue, and kicked up a fuss at the end all in the hopes of seeming profound and memorable. While I was certainly entertained by your efforts from week to week, I was nonetheless underwhelmed by the overall package, particularly with giants like SSY and P-P blocking your path. It didn’t help that I also kept comparing you to No.6, another semi-eloquent staging of two male protagonists all too soft on one another.

The story for this mythical natural disaster scenario was drawn together from some very interesting sources, including Shakespeare’s works, namely The Tempest and Hamlet, variations on world tree mythologies, the Norse serpent Jörmungandr, and even more modern alien conspiracies. I think any storywriter would struggle to somehow incorporate all of these ideas and weave them together in a manner discernable to the viewers, and for the most part, ZnT succeeds. While some people might find the heavy dialogue and long soliloquies tiresome, I instead used language as a crutch for making sense out of the jumble of information thrown at us at the end of every episode. ZnT was desperate to impress and struggled with overreaching–a misconduct I much rather prefer to not trying at all (i.e. Amnesia).

Another drive besides the story and dialogue for this show is its characters, who take to the stage as eagerly as newcomers. It’s not like the voice acting is bad or the personalities ill-constructed, but I have a hard time pairing the ages and backgrounds of the leads with world-ending events like the Trees of Genesis and Exodus. High school students with absolutely zero hardships and experience, excepting the death of Aika, would most likely never survive through all the situations that they do. They are keen to have their vengeance, and come to decisions far more maturely and thought out than the majority of the people their age would make.

Secret ingredient: I quite liked Aika’s “terrible” personality and the chemistry she shared between Yoshino and Mahiro. I also really appreciated that last recording she made for them, one that perfectly displayed her all too mannish resolution to end her life and set in motion the events that would entangle the two young men. I only wish that Yoshino could have stayed true to his feelings for her a bit longer, since the wrap up of his reunion with Hakaze at the end felt out of place and too early.

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Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo
It’s been a bit of a roller coaster of emotions with this show, for both the characters and the viewers. At first, I viewed this as just another high school comedy, with Sorata’s struggle to escape the weird tenants of Sakurasou. Then with triangle of Sorata-Mashiro-Nanami, and the couples of Jin and Misaki and Ryuunosuke and Rita, I tagged romance along with the comedy. But midway through, the comedy turned to full blown drama. I was reminded of the tumult of feelings in AnoHana, which some people loved and others found too over the top. Lucky for Sakurasou, I love well done drama, and the anime did well enough to earn my respect for its attempt.

While I could care less about the high school aspect and romance, I was very much interested in the worries the characters shared as they transitioned into adulthood. Yet as serious as they all were about making in the adult world and in competitive industries like gaming, voice acting, anime, and manga, they were also extremely accomplished for their young ages. It was inspiring to see such dedication and passion, especially before too many set backs, disappointments, and age set in against them like they do for so many people. I have a reasonable amount of confidence in the characters after the time spent with them over these two cour to believe that they’ll continue to push past each difficulty and pursue their dreams. In that vein of thought, I kind of wish the show had thrown us more of a curve ball with Nanami’s situation as an aspiring voice actress. At heart, I of course didn’t want her to give up and go home; thinking about it though, her resignation would have been a more realistic representation of one of the choices many of us have to make. Predictably, Sakurasou couldn’t stick with the harsher ending and ended up softening the punch of Nanami’s failure by bringing her back in the end.

Secret ingredients: I already spoiled my favorite aspect of this show, which was Nanami. But, another character I had a lot of fun with was Misaki and her seemingly bottomless energy. Although I found her inspirational graduation speech over-the-top and an obvious move for saving the day, I still can’t help but smile along with her almost every time. Plus, her anime creations are just as spirited as she is.

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Magi
If you haven’t read Riyoga’s post about why this overlooked show is worth a look, then go read it now!

Magi was one of my few shounen shows of the season, with the other being the always impeccable Hunter x Hunter (2011), and while it was no where near the top of my list for episodes to immediately watch, I still enjoyed it for what it had to offer and will most likely try out the announced second season whenever it airs. Probably the biggest obstacle this anime had to face was overcoming the well known tales involving Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Sinbad, with their varied cultural influences and adaptations. This rendition that pits them all together may be geographically larger than Ali Baba’s original tale and involve more fantastical details than Aladdin’s story, but the unfinished status and rushed second half leaves Magi very much behind in story.

A lot of familiar names come into the fray that is Magi, though many of them have taken different roles than their source materials. Cassim may not be Ali Baba’s blood brother like in The Forty Thieves, but he still fills that older brother role. And Ja’far is still at a high position near the king, though he shed the popularized, evil sorcerer skin for a more true-to-original supporter. Aladdin did not impress as I thought he would, as he was an odd mixture of childish body and mentality, but acted like a rutting male at the sight of a woman’s breasts. I did like that instead of relying on his djinn throughout the entires series, he started to work on his own skills as a magi. Even Morgiana is familiar face, though she was formerly a slave to Cassim’s household. I’m not usually one to support longer-running anime, but I think in this case that Magi needed to continue running like other big name shounen to support its cast and setting. There were just too many characters and events to pack into the twenty-five episodes, and the second half showed a marked increase in pacing. I’m wondering why they even had to rush at all with a second season confirmed, but I guess closure on the big baddie of this first season was some kind of necessity.

Secret ingredient: Morgiana as a character was a fabulous addition to the cast and it was great watching her progress over the episodes as a fighter. I’m hoping she can learn from Masrur and become even more powerful so that if she eventually ever does go home, she can accomplish whatever it is that will help her get over her past.

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Maoyuu Maou Yuusha
I wanted to like this. I really, really did. And there were moments where I thought that I might start to get into the story and the characters–but I never fully made it to actually wanting to watch the episodes each week. I’m going to refrain from harping on what anime I wish this show had been like, but suffice it to say, MMY couldn’t decide on what it wanted to do, where it wanted to go, and who it wanted us to care about.

Probably one of the most contested aspects about this anime/manga is its lack of names, or put more accurately, its use of archetypes as names. The hero and protagonist is “Hero”, the anti-hero (is that right?) is the “Demon King”, the hero’s right-hand man is actually a woman called “Female Knight”, and so on and so forth. I find the idea of their names inspired, but also lacking effectiveness in this anime adaptation. For these characters to carry such titles, I feel like they would have had to be extremely detailed every where else to carry the audience’s attachment. It also didn’t help that there were quite a few characters to try and follow, and since the anime spent so much time flitting between them all I felt like I barely knew any of them, much less cared about any of them.

One area of the anime that I did very much enjoy and wish that there was more time spent on was the economic struggle between the various nations, including the Demon Realm. That was a large part of my initial draw to the show in the first place, and there wasn’t nearly enough to really satisfy my desires. But that’s probably a tough call to make, since I don’t think the majority of viewers would find it very interesting. Another area that fascinated me was the interaction between demon and human, both in Maou’s household and in the human-demon city at the entrance to the Demon Realm. Big Sister Maid’s famous speech touched on the topic greatly since I could easily see the cry for equality for the serfs a mere step away from an insistence for equality for demons as well. As there was hardly any closure to the multitude of story lines that this show started, I obviously didn’t get much gratification here either.

Secret ingredient: The Big Sister Maid was one of the more interesting characters in the show, and the only one I responded to on an emotional level. I didn’t care much for her little sister lolicon-magnet, though. The older sister had more purpose to her words and actions–unlike the other hero-like characters whose successes were told to the viewer at the very beginning with hardly any to show for it, Big Sister Maid gave us visible progress.

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Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru
I tried quite a few times to blog about this show while it was airing, but felt every time I was forcing one minor thing that I liked about the show in the face of all the bad. Ignoring all the warning signs and promotional art, I took hope from the first couple of episodes and decided to stick with this anime for the season. And even when I realized all too soon what I had gotten myself into, I stuck with it in an insane hope that the show would somehow prove me wrong. It didn’t.

Let’s start out with the good, shall we? I was intrigued by the two main characters, Eita and Masuzu, whose views on love were surprisingly bitter considering their young age and inexperience. Maybe it was because of my place in life at the time and sour feelings on the subject, but I really wanted to see that stance against empty-headed passion through to the end. I predicted, however, that the show would cave and ruin it by having them fall in love, but crossed my fingers that I would be wrong. I even admired Masuzu for holding out as long as she did, as if her refusal to feel attachment somehow validated my own reasons for keeping aloof until whatever moment I deemed as right. I also loved the idea of Eita and Hime’s previous lives and wish they could have developed that a bit further. I was going to open my post on OreShura with a whole blurb about my own past life, which I’m still not sure after re-reading whether it sounded brilliant or godawful.

Eita quickly fizzled into generic and oblivious male lead A since his supposed pose on romance turned out a lot more hollow than the more admirable reason for focusing on Chiwa’s health. The anime kept jabbing at his ineffectiveness as a harem’s male throughout the middle to end, and it became tiring fast. The last episode, in particular, had me kicking myself for starting this anime up in the first place. THAT BAD ENDING.

Secret ingredient: I think it was at Sakura-Con where I chatted with some of the guys about Hime’s very strange hair style. While the front does look like a traditional hime cut with the blunt bangs across the forehead framed by equally blunt side bangs, the long hair that normally flows free was tied in the back. I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be some shrine maiden imitation or what, but it seriously looked more like those hideous rat tail dos that were semi-popular int he early 90s. I couldn’t help but stare at her hair every time she came on the screen.

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Minami-ke Tadaima
Another glorious season with the Minami sisters ends, and thankfully no closure gives the hope that someday down the line we may have yet another! Minami-ke Tadaima delivered almost every week on the comedy front, and more variety of character sketches built up my list of favorite members. As usual, some of the best jokes included the sisters, Hosaka-senpai, the other Minami family, and the addition of Kana’s forever unfortunate classmate, Fujioka. I’m tempted to even say that I laughed more in this fourth edition than I did in any of the previous ones, even the acclaimed first season. The gags just seemed smoother transitioning from one to the next, and punched harder so that I couldn’t help but laugh loudly (to the confusion of my roommate).

While a good number of the classic jokes that started in the previous seasons reappeared here again, they were mostly presented in a fresh manner and resulted in a nice mixture of nostalgia and newness. One of my favorites circles on the sisters and swimming, like Chiaki’s inability to swim and Haruka’s inability to wear anything but a one-piece. Somehow they are both able to overcome those impossibilities to certain extents, despite their continuing discomfort. Another great gag features poor Fujioka and his failed romance with Kana-chan. Perhaps he really is just meant to end up with the younger Chiaki when they’re both older (blasphemy!), since I can’t imagine Kana accepting a relationship anytime soon…even before her mid-20s!

Secret ingredient: I don’t think anyone who watched this show will be able to forget the vegetable episode, complete with the promo veggie commercial, the resulting veggie-hypnosis, and Chiaki and Hosaka’s musical debut.  I don’t quite remember this curry god business that Chiaki referenced, but the image of them belting out their love for vegetables on stage had me gasping for breath from laughing so hard.  Now THAT’s a scene worth re-enacting that would kill me if I saw in live action or through some crazy group on YouTube.

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Shirokuma Cafe
And so my winter season ends with the gem that is Shirokuma Cafe, an event I kept pushing off for as long as possible due to my own wish for the show to continue forever.  I didn’t want to pull what I did with Eureka Seven, however, where I ended up not watching the last episode for almost half a year! And just as I expected, this final installment was goofy, bittersweet, and remarkable in every way.

To tell the truth, I wasn’t even going to watch this anime when it first aired since the promo art was vastly different than what I usually notice when glancing at the next season charts.  The art is also a turn-off for some people I know, who can’t get past the softer shades and designs that seem so unlike most mainstream anime.  But I finally found the light when a fellow blogger, I believe it may have been Riyoga, asked me how I–the blogger of Anime B&B–could not watch it.  How, indeed!? It took just the OP for me to realize that this was going to be a fabulous series for me.  I don’t even consider myself much of a gag comedy type of person; I don’t even like most stand-up comedy.  But there’s something magical that comes about with the combination of animals who live out their lives like human beings, the family-like cafe with its staff and frequent customers, and the puns…oh god, the puns.

One of my favorite aspects of this show is its attention to its characters and all the little habits and idiosyncrasies of which they’re made.  Almost every cast member has had great detail put into his or her personality where we’ve been able to get to know them through their daily rituals or mannerisms when communicating with others.  It’s close to impossible to even choose a favorite, but some of my more anticipated sketches involve Polar Bear, Grizzly, Masaki and his coffee beans, Handa and Sasako’s encounters with one another, and the easily overlooked Llama.  I really just want to locate this town and befriend all of them as well as include a daily coffee run to Shirokuma Cafe and night cap at Bar the Grizzly.

Secret ingredient: Shirokuma and Grizzly’s friendship is one of the strongest relationships in this show, and reminds me of some other great friendships, like Hunter x Hunter’s Killua and Gon.  The two are a volatile combination, particularly with Shirokuma’s naughty streak, but are also extremely comforting to each other.  There was a memorable episode where they seriously looked like the seemingly ill-matched duo from Sakagami no Apollon.  No matter how much time passes and how many hibernations are ruined, I have complete faith that these two will always be there for one another.

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18 shows.  EIGHTEEN.  It’s a wonder I was able to finish these despite my big move, new job, playing through Guild Wars 2‘s new living story installment, watching other anime and both TV series Once Upon a Time Season 2 and The Vampire Diaries Season 4, and the start-up of Game of Throne’s third season.  I promise you, I do get out.  And eat! I’m contemplating some future food blogs if I can get the ingredients and equipment.  Look forward to my Spring 2013 Set Menu and more🙂

23 thoughts on “Winter 2013 Season Wrap

  1. Okay I’m a bit overwhelmed with this since I know nothing of any of these. Per usual a random thought pops in my head while reading and I’ll comment on that in a second.

    I’ll start on topic by saying that I’ve got so many anime in my plan to watch list that I always say I’m adding nothing until I manage to dent it. The way you talked about Shin Sekai Yori I’m gonna break that rule and add it.

    I read your exercise comment and couldn’t agree more about how hard it is to find time/motivation to exercise. I did stumble on an app the other day I’m thinking of buying when my knee heals that is a run trainer that sounds like an interactive story and a game involving zombies. I’m hoping it makes motivating easier and mauve even makes me look forward to running for my life.

    You know that I for one am a huge fan of your cooking posts. So I’ll be routing for them lol.

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    • Well I’m impressed you can read my long, rambling seasonal posts when you’re not familiar with any of the shows. I can’t really do that myself for other bloggers! That probably makes you a better commenter than me🙂

      Shinsekai Yori is definitely a great choice if you can only pick one from all the shows I discuss here. It’s a one-of-a-kind series that excels in story, art, music, and particularly character development.

      My own exercise routine has fallen to the wayside in my struggle to get used to my new work schedule. If I didn’t have my dog to walk every morning before work I’d probably hardly ever exercise like I should! I wish you are able to enjoy your zombie game, which is something I’ve never heard about before in terms of an exercise tool.

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      • I just would feel guilty if I didn’t read and comment. I can tell that you put a lot of thought into these. They are well written and even though I don’t plan on adding anime I’d be stupid to turn a blind eye to possibly great anime.

        It really did seem like such a complete package and I just couldn’t resist.

        Well from what I read it sounds like an interactive story while you’re running including sudden zombie attacks where you are supposed to run faster to escape them. I guess it uses GPS to track your run and reward you with stuff to protect your home base after your run. I’m hoping the sorry will engage me.

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  2. ShinSekai Yori: the soundtrack really created setting, the music from Dvorak was so strong and fitting fot the show. It is a very underappreciated show as it really depicted complex morals in society and human nature.
    Tamako Market: I think a lot of its appeal is in the fact that it is predictable. In combination with the cute visuals, it is a good overall product.
    Bakuman 3: this last season rushed it too much. It was too sweet at times, that it lost a lot of credibility in my opinion.
    Psycho-Pass: it used cliché elements and made it into something enjoyable. Which is worth praising.
    Sakurasou: was really good at the beginning, but lost some of its charm in the second. Animation was actually pretty good for J.C. Staff standards.
    Zetsuen no Tempest: It did a brave attempt by implementing Shakespeare, but I didn’t see the direct relation with the story and setting. It was probably added for more so called profoundness, as you already mentioned.
    Ore no Kanojo: this became as cliched and annoying as can be at some point. The only thing that was epic, was the scene where Ai jumped like crazy in her room with the marriage form(if I remember correctly). That was beautifully animated:p
    Merci beaucoup for sharing your thoughts on the past season.

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    • I certainly didn’t find a shortage of discussion for SSY; perhaps we just mingle in different circles? I think the majority of bloggers I follow watched and appreciated the show, but again, perhaps I just tend to follow the same types of writers🙂

      Bakuman 3 felt so right for me since I found the romance sorely lacking throughout the others. Their love was the main motivator, if I’m remembering correctly, for Ashirogi Muto to get started on their frantic path to success. But after their decision to pursue that career, the love story fell to the wayside and the show became more of a twisted battle manga.

      We could make the argument that Zetsuen no Tempest more closely followed or was inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The furious play of the battle against the Tree of Genesis, the confusion of a good majority of governments and their quickness to deploy their military, and the colorful and showy magic were a good display of the famous storm in Shakespeare’s work. But maybe I’m stretching too much?

      And as disappointed as I was with OreShura, I agree that the art was usually well done. I particularly liked the scenes where he would enact his “previous life.”

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  3. I have no idea what you’re talking about, AMNESIA was the greatest comedy of the year. I’m pretty sure that cage scene had me laughing for an entire day, especially when they tried to rationalize it. “His desire to protect you is just that strong!” It was so amazing, I couldn’t even breathe.

    I almost didn’t finish Polar Bear Cafe. Not because I didn’t like it, but because fifty episodes made my attention span cranky. But anyways, Polar Bear was easily the best character. I liked others, but Polar Bear’s casual trolling and total bro moments were the best. He was almost like a polar bear version of myself, except he was better at both. I have a lot to learn from the master.

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    • You’re absolutely right; I was looking at AMNESIA in completely the wrong way! Maybe I should rewatch it to better appreciate it….on second thought, screw that. :p

      Finish Shirokuma Cafe! I promise you won’t regret it. Then come back to agree with me about how awesome it is.

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      • What? No, that’s not what I meant. I DID finish Polar Bear Cafe, and it is awesome. If anything I’m complimenting it for managing to break my short attention span.

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      • Yeah, sorry about that; I totally just misread your comment. I’ve been trying to use my long bus commute to and from work for replying to comments and working on post drafts, but typing on a phone is a bit tricky for me ^^

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  4. I finished 23 shows in Winter, including 6 carryovers, and I thought it was a really good season, of course mostly because of those Fall carryover shows. SSY, Girls und Panzer, Sakurasou, Zetsuen no Tempest, I loved all of them. Girls und Panzer might be my favorite anime I’ve seen, it was just so well done, imo.

    I really enjoyed a few others. Haganai Next is one that I’m a lot higher on than just about everyone else. I thought it was a great tone shift from the first season, and a significant change in how the humor was generated. Gone was the outright bullying, In was realizations by Yozora and Rika that they shouldn’t pick on Sena nearly as much. Did they bust on each other? Sure. But friends do that. There was quite the shift from Yozora in the beginning of the season to Sena in ascendancy towards the end (which I wasn’t a fan of, being a big Yozora fan). And Rika, although she realizes she’ll never really catch Kodaka’s eye as girlfriend material (despite being exactly what he thinks his type is…) is now happy to have him admit that they are friends and should rely on each other. I hope for a 3rd season eventually, but from what I hear there’s not really any more story written in that plot line at the moment.

    I truly loved every part of Sakurasou, and think it might have overtaken Toradora for high school romances in my book. It did everything better, but for the single missing element of that absolutely heart-soaring moment. Toradora has it, but was overall weaker, imo. I’d love to see that story continue.

    Like you, I think Kotoura never matched the epicness of its opening episode, and even though it was fun throughout, it had some serious missteps like the second to last episode wrapping up that story arc. That was really a terrible episode, any way you look at it, and just didn’t fit the series at all. Other than that, it was fun, if typical, and enjoyable to watch.

    Maoyuu I have about the same opinion as well. I wanted more loveydovey romance, but in the 3 year timeline of the show, we had what, 2 nights that Yuusha and Maou spent with each other, and one of them was with Lady Knight in the same bed. The overall show wasn’t bad, but was kind of all over the place. Interesting with the world development, but blasted through so quickly that there was almost no time to think about it.

    A show I definitely loved, and you didn’t mention, was GJ-bu. It was the essence of Slice-of-Life, and was about ‘nothing’ but a wonderful look at the interactions of some teenagers in a setting where they can just be teenagers. Featuring things like hair brushing (which I found better than the (in)famous Nisemonogatari toothbrush scene), recurring gags, trolling the main character, and touching closeness between all of the characters, it really was a great show to watch.

    Mondaiji was a lot of fun, and the perfect length. Love Live! I cannot stop listening to the music from, and really liked, even with Honoka’s week of teeny angst, because it had realistic goals and did well to make it about the girls, not about something else. Tamako was fun too, but I think didn’t quite live up to the promise it had. And a bunch of other shows that were just shows.

    But I definitely think it was a really good season of anime.

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    • I’ve found that I quite enjoy and respect your opinions on various anime through the comments you’ve made here, as well as through your few but recent posts over at Metanorn🙂 Therefore, it comes as no surprise that you were able to appreciate Girls und Panzer, a show that I can say through experience is very, very easy to overlook and misunderstand. I was seriously shocked after I gave it another try and realized just how great it was.

      And now that I think about it, I have to agree that there was a significant improvement in Yozora’s attitude toward Sena in the second season. It really bothered me how she bullied her mercilessly and that the audience was supposed to find it funny. I really liked that moment where Rika’s dedication to the film and the club opens Kodaka’s eyes to how they’ve all already become friends. I would be surprised if there wasn’t another season in the making, even if it’s anime-original. It seems like there’s enough support of this franchise to warrant it.

      Comparing Sakurasou to Toradora! isn’t too surprising, though I’d have to disagree with you finding the former’s romance preferable. If we’re looking at main characters, I was extremely frustrated with that whole love triangle; Nanami seemed to be the only one with a head on her shoulders for realizing her feelings and being perceptive of those around her. Now if you were perhaps talking about Jin and Misaki, I would be able to understand, though still disagree. As much as the show tried to explain Jin’s reasons for not being with Misaki, I thought it a whole lot of bull for explaining away his own cowardice. Being with her sister was understandable, though off-putting; having a reputation for bedding a bevy of women, mostly older women: inexcusable. Ryuuji and Taiga’s relationship as whole had more honest feelings and actions on both sides.

      GJ-bu…for some reason I don’t recall whether or not I actually tried that one. I adore a good number of slice-of-life, so perhaps I’d like it. I also can’t really recall much about it from my blog or Twitter feeds. Another reason for why I may not have picked this is up because of the lack of decent fansubbers.

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  5. Well, thank you for the compliment! Girls und Panzer was a show that I blogged (at Sushigokart.net) and had picked up on a lark cause it looked ludicrous. And reading back through my early posts on it, when I wasn’t a huge believer in it like I am now, I thought it was something great right from the beginning… or if not the beginning, the second segment. Honestly, the very first segment, with the tank movement that was from the St. Gloriana match, I didn’t like much because of the motion and textures. But that got oh so much better. I was completely hooked with that Sensha-do propaganda film they watched in the gym, and was ready to believe anything the show wanted me to by the end of the first episode. “Just go with it.” And it just kept ratcheting the greatness up every episode after that. I was truly never disappointed in that show.

    The issue with Haganai that I’ve heard is that the LN author is kind of stuck, they’ve animated all the way through that story, and it’s been a while and he still hasn’t advanced that story (doing some side stories instead). I’d love to see it continue, but would be leery of another author taking it over.

    With Sakurasou and Toradora, really it’s about the total package for Sakurasou: Jin and Misaki, Rita and Ryuunosuke, and Nanami, Sorata, and Mashiro (and even Miyahara). Plus, the way they formatted it, every arc-ending episode was better than just about every anime’s finale. At the 4th episode, I said “If they had made this as a 4-episode OVA and said ‘That’s it! Enjoy!’ it would have been pretty much an instant classic.” And it just did the same thing with all the arc finales. And while I like couples, and want every show to end up in a couple, I liked the open continuation ending it had (maybe because I’m Captain of H.R.S. Aoyama Nanami, even when it looked like we were sailing into iceberg laden, shark infested waters being pack-hunted by U-boats). The Taiga-Ryuuji romance was great in Toradora, but even that could have been better overall (that one scene couldn’t be any better, tho…).

    If you like Slice-of-Life, you’ll probably love GJ-bu. It’s so hard to describe (when I asked someone else about it after the first episode, they said “When I figure out what it’s about, I’ll let you know.”), but really imbues the characters with personality. The fansub group I watched was Anime-Koi (who I like for anything they do), and it’s also on Crunchyroll with fine subtitles. It manages to develop a few running gags, and just treats everyone on the show well. A great representation of slightly odd teenagers.

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  6. Good lord the anime winter line-up was terrible. While Psycho-Pass and a couple of other decent titles continued on into the winter, the only anime that actually started that season which I ended up watching all the way through was Amnesia – and that was definitely more of a hilariously guilty pleasure than anything else. Never again.

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    • That is a good point. Most if the shows I ended up really finding worthwhile were all continuations from the fall, it in Shirokuma Cafe’s case, from the previous spring.

      To be honest, I don’t even think Amnesia was worth the twisted humor factor. I should seriously learn to wait on reverse harems and read reviews before wasting time on them.

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      • There’s another big reverse harem title coming out this summer season – Brothers Conflict. Sounds like it could potentially be a lot of fun, although admittedly it wouldn’t be difficult to beat Amnesia. I agree, really good reverse harems are few and far between, with the only one I’d put in my top 20 anime list being Ouran High School Host Club.

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      • I’ve never heard of Brothers Conflict, but I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it now! Although it’s not technically a reverse harem, the spring show Karneval is full of bishounen, and the story isn’t too bad so far either. I also liked Ouran High School Host Club (the first episode of the live action scared me, though), but my favorite is probably La Corda.

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  7. Haggling is quite common in Japan. I was surprised to see my Japanese friend haggling at a local PC shop, but after a while it became clear to me that local (non-chain) stores approve of this.

    I can’t speak for other people but for me Mondaijitachi came at a terrible time. I was burned from watching the terrible Sword Art Online and decided to take a break from fantasy-type shows altogether for a season. Perhaps others bloggers felt the same way – hence the low blogging rate about Mondaitachi.

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    • I have a really hard time feeling comfortable haggling even when it’s acceptable in a given culture. I’m always awed by how well my mother is able to do it no matter what country she’s in.

      I guess it makes sense that Mondaijitachi would be overlooked because of the previous season of fantasy. I even mentioned, I think, in my set menu at the start of the winter season that I was reminded of SAO. This next spring season also looks heavy on fantasy and sci-fi, so I hope you’re ready to start up again!🙂

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    • Mondaiji-tachi was more a tough series to try to blog, at least for someone like me. I liked the show a lot, and thought it did really well with the action and breaking out of the shounen fighting mold I thought it started out in. But it still didn’t develop too much that was deep throughout. So blogging it would have been pretty much just trying to recap what they did. For someone who was more into the mythology and legends they built the other characters on, there was probably a hook there, but I got the impression that they were morphing the mythology enough that it would make it difficult to relate directly.

      If some people related it to SAO, that’s a shame, because they really didn’t feel anything the same to me. And I liked SAO on balance, but Mondaiji was quite a bit better overall.

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  8. Sakurasou is definitely a pleasant surprise. At first glance, it sounds like a typical harem with a simple plot of the main character wanting to leave the clutches of the odd school dorms. Over the course of the story, the romances get stronger and a little while later, I’m even surprised to see themes like Bakuman in it. Dreams, talents, hard work and the constant switches between happiness in reaching newer heights and disappointment in failing. The latter had pretty much became the highlight of the show for me – Sakurasou for me is more about seeing the character’s bumpy up-and-down struggles to achieve their dreams, and to catch up with their close friends whose talents are far more then them even with their diligence.

    Bakuman 3 created a great conclusion. *spoilers* Mashiro’s childish dreams was finally acheived but I’m disappointed that they didn’t show his marriage, and was only mentioned. Perhaps they might have an additional OVA or a bonus episode featuring that soon, I don’t know. The last manga they made especially, Reversi, is something I would had hope to see as a real life anime. With such a badass manga as their final work (at least final in terms of the seasons), it create quite a flashy, spectacular end.

    Psyscho-Pass and Shinsekai Yori are both great anime too, and sparks off intrigue with it’s thematic explorations of society, criminology and so on. Both has their ups and downs during the course of the series however, as there are some episodes which isn’t as of better quality as the rest. Both also ended in an anti-climatic, but slightly conclusive fashion. *spoilers* It’s nice to see the Saki and Satoru settling down and indeed, the relevation at the end of the episode was frightening. In Psycho-Pass, Akane’s choice is logical, but slightly frustrating, however, the end shows that they are still fighting, to somehow bested the system in the upcoming future.

    Aside from these noteworthy anime which are all continued from Fall however, the Winter one in contrast, not as noteworthy sadly. I also didn’t watch much too, only Haganai Next and Minami-ke Tadaima.

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    • Sakurasou turned around almost immediately for me into a show I looked forward to each week. The side characters and the overall struggle to succeed and make it out in the real world really connected with me (I could care less about most of the romance, except for Misaki and Jin). I also find it very interesting how the show essentially can be split into two, with the first larger arc ending after the school festival and the success of their game. I’m glad that they didn’t do this, however, since by themselves as 1-cour seasons, the emptiness in the character relationships with one another would be more apparent.

      I would definitely be on board for a Bakuman special or two, one focusing on perhaps on Akito and Kaya just as a married couple, then another on Mashiro and Azuki’s wedding/honeymoon.

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