This spring was a crazy one for me, having just moved from another state and landed a big girl job. Juggling a full-time position with a personal life is no joke, then I just had to insert a full season of anime along with gameplay for the still new Guild Wars 2. I also have an hour of commute each way to and from work, which I now fill with reading up on other blogs and commenting. Now that I’ve finally settled into a semblance of a routine, I hope to be a bit more consistent on blogging. Despite all the chaos, I was still able to finish up my shows in a reasonable time frame, and landed favorites with RDG and Chihayafuru 2.
Shows covered in this season’s wrap include:
- RDG: Red Data Girl
- Chihayafuru 2
- Ore no Imouto 2
- Saki: Achiga-hen ~ Episode of Side-A
- Suisei no Gargantia
- Arata Kangatari
- Otona Joshi no Anime Time
- Sparrow’s Hotel
- Hataraku Maou-sama
- Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge
- Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru
- Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko
- Kakumeiki Valvrave
- Devil Survivor 2
RDG: Red Data Girl
The first show I finished this past season and likely my favorite, RDG fascinated and disappointed–enchanting me with its play on Japanese lore but rushing to fit its grander source material into a single cours. At least that’s what readers have told me. As someone completely new to the tale, I only noticed the pacing issues near the end. I was too busy admiring everything this show was doing right, and how each week was an improvement on the last.
If you’re not one for village myths and a slow start-up, then RDG probably isn’t for you. It’s easy for a lot of the details to zoom right over your head if you’re none too familiar with the culture and close connection to the otherworldly. Like Izumiko’s character, the story is a slight incline in information. It isn’t until her school trip that the tension starts building. The way the show effectively handles her fear won her character over to me, and I began investing in her growth as a young girl battling high school normalcy and godhood.
Secret ingredient: Wamiya as a spirit-turned-human, then later turned crow, worked great as a bridge between Izumiko’s fate and her desire to live like any other girl. His tempestuous “love” for her then quick decision to move on at the end with her seemingly a lost cause captured the fleeting fancies of those like immortals who live beyond the short lives of humans.
It looks like there’s a third season bound to follow, considering how this one ended, and I have absolutely no problem with that! My second favorite of the spring, Chihayafuru knew how to hold me in suspension during a match without driving me into insanity Saki Achiga-hen style. And while much of the pacing and storytelling felt similar to the first season, this sequel improved greatly with its increased attention paid to to its side characters and the often elusive Arata.
Fans of the love triangle should also be pleased to note the several doki-doki moments for each of the male hopefuls, as well as Chihaya’s increased awareness of her growing feelings. Despite the series ending without success of the expected kind for both the individual karuta matches and the love story, the character growth and promise of more episodes to come leaves me plenty satisfied.
Secret ingredient: Did I mention that I ship Taichi x Chihaya? I’ve always fallen for the friend, the side character with the sweet gestures who invariably loses to “true love”–usually the jerk who abuses the lead girl, either verbally, emotionally, or sometimes even physically. I know Arata is none of the above horrible attributes, but I want to see the underdog win for once. Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part due to my own experiences with taking the opposite route and usually choosing the overconfident jerk.
Ore no Imouto 2
I hate little dogs with their rate-like faces, overly yappy barks, and constant need for attention . Too much energy fils those deceptively tiny bodies, and I always wonder how anyone can put up with owning one, much less love it. Now imagine all those yippy, groomed chihuahuas and miniature dachshunds as the girl characters of a high school comedy and you’ve got OreImo, with Kyousuke as the unfortunate and likely mentally-challenged owner.
A continuation of the strangely popular first season, Ore no Imouto 2 started out decently and I thought it would be an improvement upon the first. The back story provided for the most interesting and likable member of the cast, and some actual progress was made in romance for the other decent member of the offline otaku group. But with the increased focus on Kirino came the end to what had barely begun and a slew of fantasy harem fulfillment. I don’t know how true the anime was to the light novel, but I watched whatever semblance of meaningful character development that had emerged burst into flame. The final episode looked back on the mess that had been wrought and attempted too little, too late to engage us in Kirino’s motive for bullying Kyousuke. I guess there are supposed to be some follow up specials in the future to wrap up OreImo, but I fear they’ll just be further fluff to a forgettable series.
Secret ingredient: There was a hint of what-could-have-been with the history of Kirino and Kyousuke’s childhood friendship and I wish they could have started the very beginning of season one with it. Then we might have gotten more feeling of depth for the sibling bond and the obligations and frustrations that accompany it.
Saki: Achiga-hen ~ Episode of Side-A
Achiga-hen barely made the cut for this wrap post since its short run and poor quality almost warranted an independent post. That post would have contemplated why exactly it is that I still care to keep up with this story and its characters despite the constant baiting, blue balls, and terrible, terrible pacing.
I can think of no other show that warps time like this, where a single mahjong match can span five or more episodes. There’s always one more ace up the sleeve and another character’s back story to share. There are always plenty of opportunities for shocking the audience with the next crazy ability and accompanying imagery. Simply put, the directors are insane, which makes me cray-cray for watching and even finishing whatever Saki spawn they push out. And you can bet that with another sequel, I’ll be there demonstrating my masochism once again.
Secret ingredient: There’s a rival character whose ability allows her to see ahead a move in the match. With each subsequent half-episode to full episode that number seems to increase so she can see two, then three moves into the future. That’s already a ridiculous premise, but to go even more absurd she somehow transfers that power to her senpai through…get this…her thighs. Simply by allowing her role model to rest her head on her lap for long periods of time, the absorbing, pillowy thighs (they look more like sticks as tiny as she is) bestow their gifts upon the sleeper.
Suisei no Gargantia
Gargantia is one of those shows I can’t help but enjoy despite all the difficulties it has with direction and execution. In a way, I almost see the anime as two stories, one pairing the beginning and end and the other focusing on the slower daily life that encompassed much of the middle. The show attempted to tie it all together with Ledo’s emotional growth and self-discovery, which was successful for the most part. My tug to the show circled around Ledo and Chamber more so than on the crew of Gargantia or on the revelation made about the Hideauze’s origin. After a similar theme of human definition in Shin Sekai Yori, I could see Gargantia’s intent much earlier than the first appearance of the infant Hideauze.
Visually, this show looks fantastic–with the exception of a couple of episodes near the end–and it pleases aurally, too. The glossy finish on the senses made this one of the best-looking shows of the season. Another large addition were the settings. From a distance, the individual spaces of Earth’s water world, space’s battle between the Alliance and the Hideauze, and the utopian Avalon look fascinating and could probably warrant their own anime each. Unfortunately we only had the single cours to work with, and as such, all spaces felt distinctly abandoned, their potential wasted. I really wish we could have spent a proper amount of time at the beginning to lear about Ledo’s Alliance and even get a glimpse of Avalon…although I guess we got that horrific glimpse with the attempt at re-making Avalon on Earth.
Secret ingredient: Chamber was hands down the best character of the show, despite supposedly have no independent thought of its own that wasn’t already programmed into its capabilities as a machine made to aid humans. Like Chamber stated near the end, a large part of his success as a unit could be attributed to the mental stability of his pilot, who never took what he saw for granted and always tried to reason out both sides of conflict. It was refreshing to see an A.I. not go rogue on us for once and fulfill its duties so magnificently.
There were a couple of shows this season that had an old-school feel and style, and Arata Kangatari was one of them. Born from the creator of Fushigi Yuugi and reminiscent of Juuni Kokuki, this anime follows the pattern of protagonists crossing worlds into those of high fantasy. This show had a lot going for it with its large cast and complicated setting, but like it seems with many other anime this season, one cours just wasn’t enough to fully explain the story and explore. The ending pointed at more to come, but after the way the final couple of episodes and battles were rushed for a climactic finish, I’m worried that a full sequel may be too much to ask for. Luckily, the manga is both licensed and online–the downside to that is it, too, is still publishing and I’m not sure where the anime and manga line up, but it does appear the U.S. publication is behind just one volume.
My main problem with the show is that it parallels battle anime more than I had expected. I thought AK would take the move through Amawakuni slowly, with Hinohara spending more time in each area getting to know the people and developing himself before confronting the corresponding shinsho. Instead, the encounters came quickly and I never truly felt attached to anyone. Another major fault was the lack of coverage of the Arata moved to Japan, particularly after Kadowaki’s swap. I’m so used to seeing anime where characters go to magical realms that I’m currently more curious about the reverse situation, like in Hataraku Maou-sama.
Secret ingredient: The image of the body swap between worlds was actually very cool in its execution, though I’m not exactly sure how in theory it works. What is the trigger, and can it be done anytime by anyone? Obviously the two to be switched need to be of like mind and heart, like the pairings of Arata/Hinohara and Harunawa/Kadowaki. Another neat twist to the phenomenon is the ability of anyone else to see their true faces; to Kotoha, Hinohara looks exactly like the Arata with whom she grew up. This not only makes it convenient for the characters to meld into the new worlds, but also fixes most issues of character and setting misalignment.
Otona Joshi no Anime Time
Note: FoxyLadyAyame wrote a telling article on this short series and its treatment of women.
While I applaud Otona Joshi for its aim to call to older women, I found its execution sadly dated. Comprised of four stand-alone short stories, the women suffer from dependence on men and responsibility for their children. I’m all about family bonds and respect between parent and child, but Otona Joshi takes us to a frame of mind far in the past where the woman lives her life for others rather than for herself. Granted, I know some women who truly take pleasure in serving others, but that every instance in this series circles on the ramifications of love (specifically heterosexual) completely ignores the many other directions life can take. I would have been fine with one or two of the episodes being that way since I could relate a bit with “Kawamo wo Suberu Kaze” and “Jinsei Best 10,” but that all four followed similar ideology was extremely disappointing.
Secret ingredient: I’ve experienced a couple of relationships whose memories resurfaced with the aforementioned episodes. There’s one I’ll always remember to an extent as “the one that got away,” since we shared a physical chemistry unlike any I’d experienced before. We clashed mentally and emotionally, and would probably never have made it as a couple had we pursued that path, but I sometimes regret not at least giving us a chance. I have a feeling that should we meet again, all those tumultuous feelings will resurface.
My only short this season, these three-minute episodes revolve around Sparrow’s Hotel and its front desk employee, Satou Sayuri. The jokes are simple and repetitive, and mostly feature Sayuri’s assassination skills as her massive boobs bounce about and entrance every male in eyesight. None of this really sounds like what I’m normally interest in, does it? For some inexplicable reason, I kept watching this show, laughing at some of the shared experiences from my own time years ago working in a hotel. If only I had had Sayuri’s people skills!
Secret ingredient: Manager Shiokawa is actually a somewhat realistic character, with her cynicism towards people and hunger for profit. I also liked her character design, as dated as the art style was.
Everyone seemed to be talking about this show at the start of the season, and the positive reviews never really stopped with each new week. As I mentioned earlier, the reverse of anime border crossing is what made these characters and their experiences so interesting. Instead of Joe Shmo getting thrown into a magical realm where anything can happen and logic doesn’t have to apply, Satan finds himself stranded in the opposite situation. Survival must be mastered not among terrifying beasts with sword in hand, but in the workforce for the necessities easily taken for granted. Heaven and hell, angels and demons–the show could have easily gone dark, but instead we were given a comedy where the jokes were witty and quick to punch in the gut (poor Ashiya!) and the realities of everyday living and working became missions of conquest.
Regardless of all the well written humor, there were still moments of self doubt and moral dilemma like with Emilia’s hesitant trust in Satan, the lord who slaughtered her family, and Satan’s strange compassion for humans in his new world. None of the questions were really answered, but the open ending gives me hope that there will be more to come. Like the paced humor, the story took its time warming us up to the MgRonald’s shift supervisor and his underlings; I much prefer this, along with the non-resolution, to an anime where the significant events and some semblance of an ending are jammed into a too-small container.
Secret ingredient: Like the title displays, this anime often features the workplace, both for Satan and the Hero. Having worked myself in both the food service industry and in a sterile cubicle, I can attest to the realities this anime presented. Infinite patience and endurance are necessary for both kinds of positions, and considering Satan and Emilia’s work ethics, I would hire them without question!
Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge
The brunt of much ridicule for the color palette, oli characters, and excessive violence and sexuality, Crime Edge is a show you either hate or love. In the latter camp, I even considered blogging this show weekly. The episodes offered so much discussion material time and time agin, and the ending provided my preferred openness for anticipation of either speculation or sequels. And judging from the still unmet Authors–natural and manufactured–there are plenty of routes a second season could take.
I’m not going to deny the obsessive display of erotic violence this show put on, but would argue that it usually served a purpose. The prime example of this is Kiri, whose beginning was mild enough–he merely desired to cut hair. The act between haircutter and customer is certainly a unique one, as you’re essentially allowing a complete stranger intimate contact with both skin and and tool that could easily be a weapon. Just the act of getting my hair washed and scalp massaged is supremely satisfying, and I’m not embarrassed to say that I always seek out male hairdresser first since I feel more comfortable with close proximity with the opposite sex.
With each subsequent scene of Iwai getting her hair cut by Kiri, the act became more sensual, then blatantly sexual. His cutting of her hair specifically substituted for the act of the original criminal pleasure from cutting people and the accompanying pain. Perhaps that’s why the pleasure kiri displays always borders on sadism. His confrontation with Rulebook and at the end with Emily unleashed the darker desires within that were amplified upon his finally dreaming of his supposedly fictitious ancestor. The man was real, as were his crimes and the joy he took in torturing others. That joy is his sexual high, the exhausting climax all Authors in this series seek.
Secret ingredient: The introduction of Emily first had me doubtful, since I wasn’t sure what purpose she served besides filling a secondary loli role. However, her back story and the creation of her abilities as an Author were horrifically fascinating. That the experiments of promoting crime, then encouraging the sickest of criminals to procreate until the ultimate Author is born is sheer insanity and brilliance.
Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru
What is this world but one big circle jerk of connections and promotions? You are born with specific tools that predetermine your place in this depressing plane of life. You either have charisma or you don’t. You step on or get stepped on.
If this were any other high school romantic comedy, the main character would start out with the above frame of mind and learn through his friendships (usually with females) how fulfilling life really is, that the glass is half full, and that a sparkling future awaits him as long as he tries his best. Such might be the case for some people, but the realities of life are that not everyone can win, and not all people are made for friendships. Hikigaya Hachiman maintains this view throughout the entirety of the show, and any inklings of “improvement” by means of conforming to the positive ideals of other s’lifes always revert. The one change that he undergoes with certainty is finding a group of people, dare say “friends”, who accept him the way his is and with whom he can waste away the final years of high school with until adulthood and all its overbearing weight collapses onto him. *Whew!*
Secret ingredient: Hikigaya’s bitter rants have a way of getting under your skin the longer you listen to him, and I admit that I agree with him from time to time. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people tip-toeing around each other too afraid of confrontation that nothing changes for the better or gets accomplished. Sometimes someone has to be the bad guy to get others to band together for a common purpose, a role Hikigaya plays repeatedly throughout the season.
Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko
This show would have been ten times better had a majority of the characters been cut from the script and most of the focus given to Yokodera Youto’s memory loss and the Tsutsukakushi family. Cutting out the entire middle section with Azuki Azusa and Emi would have streamlined the story so more time could have been spent on the mystery of the cat gods. This anime was like a harem version of my beloved Natsuiro Kiseki, with none of its successful charm.
It wasn’t until the final episodes of the series that I become more invested in the mystery behind Yokodera’s past. Throughout the season, Tsutsukakushi Tsukio repeatedly harped on a promise the two of them shared, and I thought it was some annoying version of the childhood promise that a lot of harem anime seem to share. It never made sense to me how a promise made so many years ago could remain fresh in the memory, where those who took part were expected to actually follow through on words that came out of a little kid’s mouth. I think we all know the gibberish that spouts out of a child. But Henneko was able to take that scenario and make it somewhat significant. It’s not the forgotten promise itself that I cared about, it’s the reason for why Yokodera was never able to remember events and people from his past that intrigued me. It’s a shame that the show took so long to get to the heart of the connection between their families and felt the need to insert so much unnecessary fluff and fan service.
Secret ingredient: While I thought of most of the cast as uninteresting archetypes, I was repeatedly amused by Maimaki Mai’s dialogue. Even as a child, she had a vulgar mind that she wasn’t afraid to share with others. That she twists each interaction around so that the other, usually Yokodera, is the indecent one cracks me up; that she interprets almost all actions and words as sexual reveals just how dirty her own mind is.
My token mecha anime of the season, Valvrave was a hot topic of discussion, usually mocked, among blogs and Twitter. And it warranted a lot of the jokes and ridicule, since it somehow pulled off poor plot and character construction with panache. Unexplained motives and multiple deus ex machina plagued the series, and I fully expect their presence in the promised sequel to air in the fall. Despite all these weaknesses, Valvrave looked great on screen and had some of the more creative-looking units that I’ve seen. As ridiculous as I found the premise of their vampiric activation, the unique abilities and structure of each Valvrave were neat to watch each time a new one was revealed–a couple of my favorite being Akira’s 06 and Thunder’s 03. Conveniently enough, every time a new unit is discovered, it just so happens to have the exact specifications needed to turn the tide of battle.
When the show decided to let loose and crazy with the action and plot twists–who the heck are the Magius, and what’s with 01’s guidance program Pino and her “onii-chan”?–it’s wildly entertaining. There are of course some questionable inclusions, like the now infamous rape scene in episode 10, but Valvrave almost never ran the risk of being boring or predictable. That’s a lot more challenging than you might think, particularly when I’m juggling too many anime each season and some shows just have to be cut.
Secret ingredient: Rukino Saki started out pretty generic, that haughty ojou who secretly just wanted affection, but I paid more attention toward her by the end of this first season. Too much stardom at a young age is something anyone who pays attention to celebrities can say often does not end well; too few are able to push past all the expectations and succeed in the industry as adults. Saki strikes me as someone who has the guts and willpower to not only make it, but to also evolve into someone of more significance, even more than as a Valvrave pilot. Unlike with Shoko’s strength and cheerful front, which is revealed in every emergency and at the face of her father’s death, Saki is able to stand unwavering. She reminds me a lot of both Shoko and L-Elf–and with the fast-forward to the future with a child who looks remarkably a lot like the Dorssian soldier, I’m expecting a lot more screen time from her in the sequel.
Devil Survivor 2
By all rights, this show should have been dropped long ago. I went into it with all the wrong expectations, and somehow neglected to drop it despite all the poor writing. I have no excuses! A distasteful mix of Persona 4 The Animation battles, Evangelion’s world-ending schedule, and Mirai Nikki cell phone activation, Devil Survivor 2 lacks the former’s character development and artistic style, the latter’s bombastic story writing, and the middle’s overall depth. Sometimes being plunged straight into an apocalypse works, but here the sudden switch in environments, coupled with the questionable cell phone app, made absolutely zero sense. Whatever little explanation was given didn’t occur until near the end, and even then I had a hard time caring since had very little attachment to the flat characters.
In vein with my apathy for the cast, DS2 has no qualms with killing them off by the ones, twos, or 100s. With the quickness of deaths came the understanding that I couldn’t form any bonds with characters–if you weren’t lead Hibiki, you were most likely going to die. And since the cast was fairly large and the time between introduction, death clip, and death was so short, I just couldn’t keep up. And then the ending decided to mess with me even more by giving a happy ending. Good-guy Hibiki remade the world to a time just before the destruction so everyone was dandy alive without memories of the true time line. The sharp turn in attitude from despair to a second chance is like a recipe full of bitter and sour ingredients somehow coming together to an overwhelmingly sweet end product.
Secret ingredient: Perhaps I need to play the game for more knowledge on the Septentriones, but I found the big baddies to be the most interesting aspect of the anime series. Their emissary to humankind and the final boss, Alcor was a teaser of a character who didn’t get near enough screen time. Ignoring the fact that he seemed to be wearing white falsies on both his top and bottom lashes, his awareness of his growing affection for human kind and the creator of the DS2 phone app worked in vain to bridge the gap between human nature and the reason for the seven day events to destruction.
Following this season’s trend of open endings, Karneval nevertheless entertained with its colorful visuals and adorable mascots. I think a lot of viewers were turned off of this anime after the confusing opening episode and the male-dominant cast, and there certainly is a lot of BL throughout the show, but I stuck with it and ended up enjoying the series for what it was: a tangled mess of a plot with shallow characters dressed up in circus clothing.
I’m grossly oversimplifying the attempt at a story in this anime, but that’s okay! Because in all honesty, there are just too many unknowns at the beginning and throughout the majority of this show for me to have paid much attention to it. I was more following the cuteness overload that Circus provided each week, like the little robot rabbits and sheep, the warm snowman, Yogi’s Nyanperona, and Nai’s true identity. Sure, I was curious about Gareki’s past and why varuga are so interested in him, as well as Karoku’s true motives; however, the anime flit around so much from varuga to varuga with filler cuteness that I never took the villains seriously. From the way the show let up at the ending, letting the baddie get away and not really answering any of the mysteries, I’m assuming we’ll either get some kind of sequel, or are expected to just read the manga. Hopefully with whatever follows, we’ll see a stronger and more reliable Gareki, fresh out of training.
Secret ingredient: I wasn’t joking when I stated that I was mostly sticking with this show because of its mascot characters and creatures. How can you not see these guys and want to play with them?
Aku no Hana–I started out this show along with everyone else, and was horrified with the ugliness it portrayed–horrified, yet drawn to more. But after four episodes of building discomfort, I just couldn’t make myself watch another one. I felt like I was torturing my senses watching and listening to these youth. I’ve set the rest of the episodes aside for now and may finish it someday, preferably a sunny one where I can go bathe in the warmth afterward.