Now that we’re five weeks into the spring season, I’ve finally settled down on which shows I’ll be sticking with, and have enclosed my thoughts on the anime of my choice to date. Favorites so far include Shingeki no Kyojin, Hataraku Maou-sama!, and RDG. As usual, if you don’t see a show here that you think I really should be watching, let me know!
It took me longer than expected to choose since quite a few were impulse additions to what used to be a short list:
- RDG: Red Data Girl
- Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai
- Sparrow’s Hotel
- Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S
- Devil Survivor 2 The Animation
- Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru
- Hataraku Maou-sama!
- Shingeki no Kyojin
- Valvrave the Liberator
- Arata Kangatari
- Suisei no Gargantia
- Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge
- Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko.
- Aku no Hana
RDG: Red Data Girl (Ep. 5)
Since this aired way ahead of the others on Niconico in March and is now at its 8th episode, I’m far behind due to my decision to wait for the higher quality releases that started airing in April. Despite the torture of resisting to catch up, I’m happy that the first time I see each episode, the art style lives up to the quality of story. Not many people are talking about RDG, which is a shame given how well it has moved up past its subpar opening episode.
I’m not sure if the light novel explains the title further of gives some information about how Izumiko was able to communicate with her father through the computer, but the technological aspect seems to jar with the ancient feel to her heritage as a godess vessel. I can understand that her unnatural connection to the supernatural might disrupt manmade technology, but for it to allow her to visually see and speak with someone through a computer just doesn’t seem consistent. Regardless, the rest of the show has a slow, yet steady, progression to Izumiko realizing who she is–which is important for her to heed Himegami’s warning so that the present day world isn’t wiped out and reset by the old order of nature. I prefer the setting of Izumiko’s hometown since it removes us from the standard school environment, but the high school where she and Sagara transfer is able to keep a bit originality with its unofficial purpose being to nurture unnatural powers in its students. I look forward to watching her grow from her hesitant self into a strong-willed young woman capable of holding her own against the gods.
Special Ingredient: The destined relationship between Sagara and Izumiko started out forced–forced meaning that his “duties” as a yamabushi, protector of the Himegami’s vessel, was one he did not choose nor wanted. I appreciated RDG having the sensibility to show the youth as resistent and still weak. Watching he and Izumiko grow closer through their shared secret and ordeal moving from Tamakura to Houjou High School in Tokyo has been a pleasurable experience in large part due to their believable character traits.
Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai. (Ep. 5)
I honestly considered not even giving this second season a chance, since I held such disappointment and even disdain for the main characters. There were some side cast members, though, who I did find interesting and even likable. I also couldn’t stop my curiosity from seeing if Kirino could actually become a decent person and sibling in this next installment. The strange thing about this premier, however, is that it seems unaffected by the possible endings from the first season–Kirino acts much the same as she did before she left, and there isn’t much progress for Kuroneko, either. It’s almost like we’ve slid backward in time (only this time, we’re handed the scenario of Shironeko).
There are a few improvements that I’ve noticed already that have lightened my dislike for the show, namely the fact that Kirino is marginally more civil towards Kyousuke and that there’s been more focus on far more interesting side characters like Saori. I found her back story far more intriguing than the whole sibling aspect of the show, although her complications stem from a sister as well. Unfortunately for OreImo2, there really aren’t many other cast members who I want to learn about that will make Kirino’s lack of character development worth watching this show.
Surprise ingredient: The revelation behind Saori’s glasses was a nice touch to her character and growth as an otaku. I’ve always seen those overly large, round glasses as a signature for old school otaku, so wasn’t too surprised that the ojou-sama would go to that extreme for donning the personality we all enjoy.
Sparrow’s Hotel (Ep. 4)
Another one of the anime shorts that seem popular lately, Sparrow’s Hotel has the look and feel of an older show I might easily overlook, yet charms with its capable and cutesy hotel service agent. There’s nothing supernatural about Sayuri’s great strength–it’s attributed vaguely as the product of her training and experience as an assassin. She’s a great little package of physical strength and femininity, and she’s sure to attract a lot of fans with her ample assets and perky personality. The show comes off as a comedic, but grown-up, slice-of-life about employees who work for a business hotel in the city.
Surprise ingredient: I’m not sure what it is about them, but I’ve always found throwing daggers incredibly cool. That Sayuri has them wrapped around her upper thigh gives that image an even sexier appeal!
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (Ep. 4)
Here we have the second anime sequel of the season, and one of a franchise for which I have mixed feelings. The main story line, I believe, is carried by Toaru Majutsu no Index and its sequel–two series I found mediocre overall, and often boring. Then there’s the first season of the side story Toaru Kagaku no Railgun, which was a significant improvement from Index. Because of my preference for its characters and plot arcs, I tend to view Railgun as the main and Index as the accompaniment. However, Railgun still suffers from some of Index’s issues of pacing and focus.
With only a few episodes of the second season to go off of, I’m relieved to say that reuniting with the whole crew was actually heartwarming, particularly that scene where Saten comes out of the alley sniffing for envelopes. And while I usually find Kuroko’s personality annoying, hearing her voice and watching her zip through the air towing Misaka along with her was surprisingly comforting. Misaka hasn’t changed much either, as she still runs head first into trouble against all advice and instruction. The beginning also gives us a clear direction–follow through on the initial mystery about the clones and what it is to be a level 5 esper.
Surprise ingredient: I’ve never been drawn to a particular character in Railgun since the majority are insufferably good. It’s the villains who really make this show interesting, and I’m likewise intrigued by the other Misaki, “The Queen” Shokuhou. Her ability for mind control isn’t the most creative, but can be just as intimidating.
Devil Survivor 2 The Animation (Ep. 4)
Reminiscent of Persona 4 The Animation, another game original, Devil Survivor 2 The Animation brings together human users and demon avatars summoned through a cell phone app. This show instead takes place in a world ender scenario and pits contracted demons against supernatural forces intent on destroying humanity. I’m intrigued by the whole app idea since I’ve just this past year started using a smart phone and discovered the versatility and addiction of apps. Sometimes I wonder how I could even live without them, so it’s not too far of a stretch to imagine them having much more power and influence in the future.
I do wonder about Japan’s fascination with young heroes who somehow always have the power necessary for disasters like this. Adults usually come off as either incredibly discriminatory and/or useless, or ready to leave the fate of the world in others’ youthful hands. That once again seems to be case here, with the summonses mostly being teens to young adults.
Surprise ingredient: I do applaud the show for not being afraid to kill off characters to show us the severity of the situation. It lacks the humor that Persona 4 did so well at, and I’m curious if it can pull it off to the end.
Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru (Ep. 4)
Although I’m getting vibes of the recently ended OreShura, I have hopes that LoveCom will stay true to the path of our protagonist’s negative attitude towards human nature and society. He does make some astute observations of his schoolmates that ring true but also make it almost possible for him to find exceptions. So of course enters the stereotypical club setting that has the support of a very nosy and pushy teacher. Another warning flag is that our male lead is already surrounded by a couple females, but thankfully there are other male side characters. For now they may only be comic reliefs, but at least they provide some distraction from those awkward male versus harem scenarios.
I don’t actually know what the direction of this show is at the moment. It appears to be a high school comedy poking fun at youthful fantasies of popularity and romance, and I do have fun with the people the club assists. There’s also something refreshingly frank about Hikigaya’s way of thinking and speaking–he voices the negative that viewers most likely have in mind (never mind that it’s probably unlikely for a boy of his age to already have the frame of mind that he does).
Surprise ingredient: Yukinon’s aloof yet kind nature makes for a very likable combination and I can’t help compare Haganai’s Yozora to her. While both have sharp tongues and avoid large groups of people, Yozora lacks Yukinon’s sensibility and maturity. She also usually bullies for no reason, even sometimes for pleasure, while Yukinon simply speaks her mind, and often to the benefit of the other.
Hataraku Maou-sama! (Ep. 5)
I’ve always enjoyed cross-world stories, like characters who are thrust from a world much like ours into one that is full of magic. And that’s the scenario we usually see, from non-magic to magic. But here we have the reverse with the most extreme of fantastical characters–Demon King Satan, himself. Instead of the fear of beasts that can breathe fire or knights who want to fight to the death, Maou learns the fear of making this week’s paycheck stretch for a month’s rent and food. While it seems like a simple enough reversal, the anime is able to pull off stunts like these with irony and well-timed comedy.
Another interesting aspect of this show is its use of titles along with names. We saw the extreme of this in the previous season with Mayouu Maou Yuusha. I never quite got the feel in that show, however, that the titles worked for the audience in the short span of the anime series. It probably would have benefited from using both names and titles like Maou-sama, since the combination relays both status and a memorable face.
Surprise ingredient: Probably my favorite human world activity that Maou has to undertake is struggling as a part-timer at McDonald’s to become a full-time employee–a necessity that he claims is only his first step to taking control of all of Earth. It’s charming really, seeing this supposedly evil entity giving some of the best service I’ve ever seen in the food industry. He is able to be both perceptive and seemingly caring, and earns in return people’s trust and liking. If only this could work on Heroine Emilia!
Shingeki no Kyojin (Ep. 5)
The first of my more serious picks of the spring season, Shingeki no Kyojin is a fantastical post-apocalyptic telling of the lives of two children, Eren and Mikasa. Instead of the ever popular zombie epidemic, we have a somewhat similar idea of a race of giants, called Titans, who eat humans for pleasure–at least that’s how I interpret it with their permanent grins as they tear people to pieces like ripping wings off a rotisserie chicken. It’s apparent right from the start that hell is about to break loose, as the residents of the highly walled city are apathetic toward the mythical beings outside their seemingly impenetrable security. It isn’t until the return of a fragment of the Recon Corps that inhabitants start to acknowledge their very dangerous feelings of safety. But by then it’s too late, and strange mutated Titans wreak havoc on the first layer of the three-tier city. Eren and Mikasa lose their home and Eren’s mother in a scarring scene that guarantees his hatred and hunger for revenge on the Titans.
Kyojin also entertains disputes over social stratification during wartime, as clearly shown when refugees stream into the second tier of the city seeking food and shelter. Even children like our protagonists suffer ridicule by the original occupants and so-called guards of the Rose Wall. The natural tendency for self-preservation comes out in the ugliest ways, muddying the line between biding one’s time until a better opportunity and cowering away from conflict. The current setting with Eren, Mikasa, and their friend Armin–aged approximately five years from the start–takes place after completing military training camp and undermines all the class prejudices and differences in motivation with another Titan attack. This most recent episode reaffirms how I can expect absolutely none of my predictions to be true, since it yanks me by an arm an leg with its cruel treatment of Eren in his first real battle.
Surprise ingredients: So far I’m really liking the darker tone of atmosphere that pervades the episodes, and the glossy art style makes this show a pleasure to view. As repelled as I am by the more primitive Titans, who stumble around heedless of their own nakedness and gorge themselves beyond satisfaction, I do find a strange kind of beauty to the more evolved versions, like the taller Titan with exposed muscles and tendons and the armored Titan. There’s even a long, lean one that jumps with extraordinary swiftness and accuracy onto its human prey.
Valvrave the Liberator (Ep. 4)
I admit that I have a bit of a weakness for space settings, particularly if they involve huge spheres able to house cities and all the pleasures of a fertile planet. A utopia of sorts, the nation of Jior is actually a neutral party between the two factions that have formed for the rest of humanity. This is where our characters enter in, as students living and attending school on Jior. Predictably, it takes just a single episode to ruin the peace that their sphere has worked to attain. It takes even shorter for lead Haruko to become the sole pilot to the experimental Valvrave unit just by being in the right (or wrong?) place at the right time. And maybe it’s because I’m relatively new to the world of mecha, but the catch to becoming a pilot of Valvrave caught me off guard. I even had expectations from the ending of the first episode that completely changed with further information in the second. A vampire-creating mecha? No! A mecha that, through injection, gives its user abilities for regeneration and soul transference. He just has to bite someone else on the flesh to temporarily take over his or her body. Weird. Really weird. But also, kind of cool.
Once again we have a life and death situation whose end falls coincidentally into the hands of another juvenile male, and I was a bit amused at his self acknowledgment of his tendency to never try. This is displayed in a silly manner right from the start when he pretty much lets his childhood friend/crush beat him in an eating contest. I’m hoping with the shock he received from thinking her dead and his later horror at his own alienness will prevent his past dispassion from reoccurring.
Surprise ingredient: L-Elf as a villain is infinitely more interesting than Haruto. I’m hoping they give us plenty of backstory for why he is so dispassionate in the act of killing, yet so passionate in loyalty for Dorssia. His skills as a soldier are legendary and I’m assuming culled through ruthless and traumatizing means, particularly given his still young age.
Arata Kangatari (Ep. 4)
The blurb for Arata certainly did little to entice me into watching this anime, making it sound like a fetishist display of high fantasy and swapped genders. Thankfully, the show is more than that, and actually reminds me of some older fantasy/adventure shows, like Juuni Kokuki or Amatsuki. Now don’t be too excited with me comparing Arata to Juuni Kokuki, as the former is still far from reaching Juuni’s waist when it comes to depth in story and character. For now, it still resides around Amatsuki’s level of entertainment–clever, but not profound.
The first few episodes so far have focused more on Arata Hinohara and his leap from his bullied days in high school to a different world full of savagery and the supernatural. Oddly enough, he manifests powers of his own that the original Arata did not possess. He also couldn’t have jumped in at a worst time: “Arata” is wanted for murder of the highest degree and his defiance would mean annihilation of an innocent clan. It doesn’t take long for our young hero to get caught and brought before a judging party disinterested in justice. By the third episode we’ve already been introduced to a third setting, the ill-rumored prisoner island, Gatoya. I almost find this new environment more intriguing than the other’s Arata’s still unrevealed move to Japan.
Surprise ingredient: Prisoner islands are nothing new, existing both in our world and in several forms of media. Take the currently airing Hunter x Hunter for example: in it, Greed Island may be a means of money, training, and entertainment for some, but it also is a jail for convicts. Gatoya interests me because of its warden, an abominably huge creature wrapped around the entire institution called Tsutsuga-sama that devours its inmates on a daily basis. The revealed backstory on Tsutsuga and how he became the dark creature that he is also made for a nice pairing with Arata’s character.
Suisei no Gargantia (Ep. 4)
One of the prettier shows of the spring season, Gargantia is a mixture of Battlestar Galactica and Waterworld (one of my favorite series and the other a fun movie). We start the series with Ledo in a space battle fighting an alien species bent on exterminating humanity. It’s immediately apparent that his society has advance greatly in technology, but has also reverted to a very Spartan way of culling its members. Ledo is a child soldier of sorts, whose impassive face shows neither fear at possible death or joy at his upcoming relief from duty. He isn’t sure how to feel about leaving the military and becoming a regular citizen.
Call it convenient timing or not, but it’s right after the news of his ‘freedom’ that Ledo is tossed across space–he wakes up several months later from hibernation on the planet Earth, a planet thought uninhabitable and lost forever. Although the humans who still thrive are several hundreds of years behind in technology, and the lack of land on a now all-water planet, this Earth has started to enchant me much as it has puzzled Ledo. The people are able to find joy and purpose in their lives on board seemingly cramped tankers and carriers–remnants of a society long past. They follow the currents and dodge attacks from pirates; we’ve been locked into one setting for the past few episodes, yet I feel like I’ve already traveled far on an adventure.
Surprise ingredient: Salvage ship Gargantia’s members are rightfully wary of Ledo and his coldly efficient way of thinking. The culture clash is one that questions if progress is always a good thing, particularly if it weeds out bright minds like Bevel’s. Ledo’s Galactic Alliance of Humanity is without weakness, but also is empty of music, childhood innocence, and family.
Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge (Ep. 4)
I picked up this show on a whim, not too thrilled with its initial impression as an anime about a guy who gets off cutting hair–particularly with the promo image of a tiny girl with hair sprouting down to around her feet. After the famous toothbrush and drool scenes from the previous year, I thought this, too, would be overly sexualized. It is portrayed erotically with quickened breath, flushed cheeks, closer body stances–but understandably so. Crime Edge sets up a convenient explanation with its Author/Instead system for why some Killing Goods’ owners keep in check while others go on a murdering rampage. Kiri is the inheritor of an ancient pair of scissors, ones with an unnaturally clean and sharp edge. He also harbors immensely strong urges for cutting hair. His initial description is unsettling and obsessive. His dreams are then given to him when he stumbles across a girl with Rapunzel-length hair. Her hair resists all attempts at trimming, but strangely can be cut by Kiri’s scissors alone.
Known as the “Hair Queen”, she is both Kiri’s Instead and a target for murder. Owners of Killing Goods, called Authors, can have any wish granted if they kill the Hair Queen. Where Devil Survivor seems like a shounen Pokemon, I feel a big similarity between Crime Edge and C³ – Cube×Cursed×Curious–cursed tools or emotions are given magical form and those possessing them are bound to face pain and persecution. And like C³, Crime Edge shares a strange color scheme that makes what would only be an “okay” show into one visually interesting to watch. I do find Killing Goods to be more explicable of the two, and really enjoy the nod to crimes throughout history.
Surprise ingredient:There’s a scene where the daughter of a hair stylist, a girl who is also a hair model, remarks upon Iwai’s unusually “alive” hair. Unlike the normal human, whose visible hair nothing more than a dead layer, Iwai’s has the luminescence and texture of a newborn’s. Anyone who has held a baby can probably understand–the hair is feathery soft and has a characteristic smell of newness. Think chick feathers, or puppy dog ears!
Karneval (Ep. 4)
I may not have gotten on board with UtaPri2 or any other reverse harem this season, but Karneval is close enough! On the surface, this isn’t a reverse harem; we lack a female lead clad in her high school uniform who is suddenly surrounded by a delightful variety of male specimens. Instead, our main characters are a couple of young men, boys really, who immediately give off a BL vibe. The character design is pretty and sharply angled, while the colors pop with vibrant hues across the entire color spectrum. Did I mention we have a bit of furry action going on?
The first reviews I read about this after the pilot episode made the series sound all over the place and representative of its namesake. But I don’t actually find the story confusing or messy at all. There are certainly some strange cast members and we have jumped around to a few different locations and events, but they all point to a central mystery that follows main character Nai. This shota with his effeminate features acts like a newborn thrown into an older boy’s skin. His ignorance for human emotions and acts of violence makes sense when we later discover that he isn’t really a human–he’s a miraculous blend of human and a cute, fuzzy creature called a niji. It’s been a bit since I’ve seen a shota/animal comparison that I found genuinely well done (not since Inu x Boku SS’ Watanuki), but Nai’s wide eyes and purple-tipped white hair tufts make it hard not to want to cuddle him.
Surprise ingredient: As our main characters are both young boys still in their early to mid teens, I felt slightly relieved when Yogi’s bright, 21-year-old self jumped into the fray. I always feel a bit odd watching reverse harems or casts with bishounen who physically look like adults but in actuality are still in high school, or even middle school. Am I supposed to put myself into the heroine’s shoes and fall in love with one of these guys? Yogi, however, is already an adult with a young and energetic personality; I mean, who wouldn’t love a guy cool with donning a circus suit (like how I adore Sagara Sousuke as Bonta-kun)?
Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko. (Ep. 3)
I’m not sure what it was that compelled me to give this show a chance, since looking back at the anime chart and the promo art, there’s nothing that I feel would have caught my interest. It has one of the long titles that has turned me off ever since Ore no Imouto’s first season with a translation that is equally questionable. A “hentai prince” standing together with a girl with all the appearance of a grade schooler just didn’t appeal. But try it I did, and it turns out that Hentai Ouji really isn’t all that perverted as its title would suggest.
The main drive behind me sticking with this show to the end is seeing whether or not the characters will be able to live with and grow from the wishes that they’ve made, or if they’ll end up retrieving what they’ve lost. The whole notion of a wish coming true because of some magical rock is an odd one, particularly since the rock in this question is a very fat cat whose facial expressions looks more like a feline inclined to self pleasures than the affairs of anyone else. And it seems by the third episode that one of the character has already retrieved what was originally asked to be taken. I’m assuming since we’re so early into the show that there will be some further twist with how these wishes work, especially with each scene featuring the stony cat we see the statue’s mouth getting wider and more up-curled The damn thing is getting happy and fat over something.
Surprise ingredient: I know there’s been some discussion over the change in Tsukiko’s character, that being that her change has been for the worse. I’m not so sure whether or not I agree, since we didn’t really get to see much of how expressive she was before her wish. She may have a soft, almost monotone voice and very little change in facial expressions, but I hardly find her devoid of emotion. She’s actually pretty easy to read and I like the almost deadpan way in which she deals with Youto’s antics.
Aku no Hana (Ep. 4)
Young love and puberty! Really, that’s what this whole show is about, never mind Nakamura’s dark inclinations and Kasuga’s overly dramatic sonnets to a girl he hardly knows. And then there’s the art style, which some viewers find too extreme in its lack of detail and, to put it bluntly, ugliness. I have to agree that the art isn’t what usually catches my eye, but there’s a strange harmony when considering it along with the whole atmosphere of the show.
With the slew of other high school-set anime out there, Aku no Hana comes closer to mimicking the jumbled hormones and emotions that come along with puberty than any other that I’ve seen before. Both guys and girls are obsessed with the opposite sex and create fantasies with people with whom they’ve hardly spoken two words. While some students throw those roller coaster feelings into more productive outlets like clubs and sports, Kasuga takes the introverted approach. He delves into literature and romanticizes his connection to the writers and their works. It’s here that he takes what would otherwise be an ordinary crush on a fellow student and turns it into an unhealthy obsession, labeling her his “muse”. His theft of Saeki’s gym clothes and brief moments smelling them already show the effect that Baudelaire has had on him at his still young age. It’s horrifying and fascinating at the same time, and I can’t stop watching it.
Surprise ingredient: There’s been a lot of discussion, mainly complaints, about the rotoscoping in Aku no Hana, but I actually do not mind it at all. While I don’t exactly like the style, I find it oddly suitable to the show–particularly the characters–at hand. I can’t help but find rotoscoping, Nakamura’s twisted appetite, and Kasuga’s crises to be extremely ugly.
- Chihayafuru 2
- Hunter x Hunter (2011)
- Saki: Achiga-Hen
- Uchuu Kyoudai