It’s becoming a mantra of mine to complain about how little time I have these days and how far behind I’ve fallen with each season’s anime, but it’s true! And the going got even tougher when there were so many shows from the winter that I couldn’t help but follow–and plenty more that ended up on my backlog. Now that the cold days are mostly behind us, time will likely get even tighter with the warmth outside beckoning. Thankfully, the winter anime did a glorious job of keeping the heart warm despite the chilly weather.
Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha
The first of my winter shows to hit my completed list, Inari, Konkon started out strong and was able to mostly hold my attention throughout the season. There were some hiccups along the way, mainly in the balance of the show between Inari’s godly interactions and powers and her everyday school life. But that difficulty in focus also represented the reality of her situation. Sharing a god’s powers certainly sounds exciting at first, but I think I would be terrified at my lack of knowledge. The anime does a decently believable job of showcasing how a high school girl of sweet temperament like Inari might handle such gifts. I can see why a god like Uka-sama would want to be friends with both her and her big brother, with one displaying a rare amount of good will and the other having been able to see her from birth.
That good will of our main character is actually one of my biggest gripes about Inari, Konkon. While I do believe that there are some people out there that are honestly that kind and selfless–my cousin being one of them–I have a hard time believing how easily she is able to pacify the negative feelings of those around her. From experience alone, I know that sometimes being around someone that positive can actually aggravate me even more!
Special ingredient: I really liked how Inari’s circle of friends included girls of very different temperaments and hobbies. The friendship between Sumizome and Chika in particular is endearing given the amount of misunderstanding they had to conquer.
Happily, there is already a second season on the books for the fall, which is a relief given the cryptic scene in the last episode involving Nureha and Shiroe. There is still so much left unanswered about Elder Tale and the Adventurers, namely the real world and the lost memories after each resurrection in game. These were some major issues that I had thought would take greater precedence than any festival, though the focus on politics and quests did make sense given their more immediate consequences. The balance between serious and comedic in Log Horizon was always tenuous, with the serious never feeling quite as natural as the slice-of-life and humor. Perhaps with the shifted focus of exiting the game in the second season, that distribution will be a bit a more even.
One of my favorite arcs in this show was at the start of the Goblin King quests, where Minori and a handful of other mid-level characters form a dungeon party to strengthen themselves and level. I was impressed with how the anime didn’t easily reward their efforts; the party had to lose several battles and discuss why they could not succeed. Forming parties with complete strangers is almost never easy, even with a group of experienced and high-level players, so expecting a novice group with zero understanding of how the others’ classes worked to do well would be silly. I happen to really enjoy joining PUGs (pick-up groups) for the challenge they provide, both for my individual skills and for paying attention to my group members and their actions.
Special ingredient: Not too far into the series, our main characters were given a shock when they ate something with actual flavor for the first time since being trapped in Elder Tale. Until that moment, they had given up on in-game food tasting at all like real food despite it still nourishing them. The secret to the spice was simple: it had to be made by hand by a high level chef. Magically conjuring food or purchasing it from someone else who had conjured it would result in a bland necessity. The whole manipulation of the market in Akihabara afterward was interesting, though some considered it a blatant copy of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, which comes as no surprise given they’re written by the same author.
Mikakunin de Shinkoukei
This season’s sneak attack, Engaged to the Unidentified was a delightful treat to add to my season menu. It took a bit for me to warm up to it, but the combination of Kobeni’s sweet and homebody personality, Hakuya’s silent loyalty, and Mashiro’s direct emotions resulted in an irresistible presentation and meal. I also had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the whole magical creature business, being as how the show stubbornly played around the idea of what exactly the Mitsumine family is. It’s hinted that Hakuya is an inugami, which I find strange given the horrific creation of the inugami and Hakuya’s opposing temperament. Even more strange is when you consider that part of this power has been transferred over to Kobeni–perhaps she has powers in manipulation via food?
I had thought that we would know more information about the Mitsumine family by the end of the season, but we’re just as much in the dark as school newspaper reporter Niko is regarding UMAs (Unidentified Mysterious Animals). Perhaps that means a second season is a possibility? I certainly wouldn’t mind another series showcasing their graduation, marriage, and integration into the Mitsumine family.
Special ingredient: I loved Mashiro’s fascination with UMAs, and her chocolate box collection figures. There’s something amusing about a mythical creature such as herself having an interest in other mythical creatures so much as to purchase boxes upon boxes of them to complete her collection. Having grown up in Alaska, I’m no stranger to cryptozoology. I can’t count the number of jokes that have been made in my home state regarding the Abominable Snowman and the Sasquatch.
Wake up, Girls!
Of my limited exposure to idol shows and just idols in general, I found WUG to be a refreshing attempt at showing the realities of the idol industry. Still optimistic and luck-infused, the anime at least acknowledged the sometimes distasteful tasks idols must endure if they are to become successful. I can’t help but compare WUG to one of my favorite idol shows: The iDOLM@STER. WUG had the unfortunate restriction of a single season: 12 episodes and was unable to really develop the individual girls of the group. I felt like I barely knew who they were and what each of their motivations were for undertaking the grueling dream of idols. As a result, I had less interest in seeing the girls succeed; my only basis for comparison were the I-1 girls.
My desire for them to lose was solely because of the cutthroat attitude of the President. I actually admired the I-1 girls who were willing to devote themselves for love of their fans and for performance. Their desperation to succeed actually came through more clearly than that of WUG, whose motivations were shaky at best. Perhaps with 12 more episodes, I would’ve been able to understand the characters a bit more.
Special ingredient: Minami was one of the few characters who received more screen time and who I found myself really enjoying. Her passion for food is an obvious in on my books, and I thought her interactions with the elderly both endearing and telling of the promise she has as an idol.
Silver Spoon 2
If the first season was introductory, than this second season was exploratory. Everything felt more personal and consequential, from Hachiken’s deeper understanding of horses to Komaba’s farm to Mikage’s future school plans and to Hachiken’s ongoing familial issues. The first several episodes really emphasized the similarities between Hachiken and horses, highlighting their empathy, strength, and vulnerabilities. The mini arc of Hachiken learning to jump with Marron sort of set the stage for the events that were to follow. There’s a prevailing lesson of acceptance–acceptance of one’s own limitations (actual or self-imposed), acceptance of consequences no matter how harsh, and even acceptance of dreams as far-fetched as they may seem.
Once again, this second season finished open ended–I wouldn’t be surprised if it got slotted for a third season in the near future. There are hints of a romantic future with Mikage, as well as a truce of sorts with his parents (or perhaps only his mother?). As empathetic as Hachiken is, and how much pleasure he takes out of studying as well as tutoring, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to somehow make a career out of agricultural education in some shape, way, or form. Don’t spoil me, manga-readers, please!
Special ingredient: The heavy horse theme this season was a happy pairing with the new year, the Year of the Horse. I’ve been dilly-dallying on a blog post concerning this phenomenon, but wanted to note here the absolute perfect timing of them both. Hopefully, I’ll fill you in soon on my childhood with horses.
Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta
Back at the start of the winter season, I had made my set menu and thought I was pretty set in stone on the shows I was going to drop. That was true until wanderindreamr left a little comment on my post and suggested I try Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta. All it took was one episode for me to be hooked on the romantic aerial adventure. I’m almost reminded of the overly romanticized Pearl Harbor that came out several years ago featuring actors Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale–young hopefuls end up in a seeming paradise, fall in love, and are then thrown into war that robs them off friends and innocence. I can’t go too much further on parallels, but there’s something undeniably alluring about war and love–think of the Trojan War, Guinevere and Sir Lancelot, or Cleopatra and both Caesar and Mark Antony. They have all inspired several written stories, plays, and movies, and somehow still find an audience to this day.
Another prevailing theme in this show is the powerlessness of youth. We see Kal-el suffer as a child with the overthrowing of the monarchy, and we also see Nina Viento act for the sake of the only people who have showed her any appreciation. When La Isla encounters the Sky People, it’s the students who make up the frontline of the assault and are the first ones to suffer. It’s a harsh, yet undeniable, reality. Even at the end of the series, there isn’t much hope for the youth of this world with the promise of another war.
Special ingredient: I really loved how how Ari’s feelings for Kal-el were handled. Just like the other characters’ in the show, the audience doesn’t know that the two aren’t really related until later on, and then even after that, I wasn’t completely sure about her feelings. There are a couple of key scenes where her love is made clear and all the more heartbreaking.
“It is our fate to be slain by disregard.” -Rabo, God of Calamity
Of all the shows this season, no show made me laugh as much as Noragami, where the so-called god is one who has no shrine, no worshipers, and a bad history with his Shinki. At first I thought he was just some slacker wannabe god with his jersey suit and 5-yen wishes. He certainly is that, but so much more! Some of my favorite scenes were ones where he just communicated with other characters, particularly Hiyori and Yukine. His tone started as disrespectful, looking at humans as mere sources of money and worship. But through his continued interactions with Hiyori, the human girl who sacrificed a portion of herself to “save” him, and with Yukine, an innocent and impressionable spirit-turned-weapon, he gradually warms to his more humane side.
This show reminded me a lot of xxxHOLiC with the human and spirit worlds intertwined the way they are, with humans being easily influenced by their darker tendencies at a whisper or suggestion. What I found even more fascinating was how even pure spirits could be corrupted and become phantoms. Yukine’s slow acceptance of his early death and new place as a Shinki is the perfect example of how contagious and damning our black emotions can be. With his cleansing and the banishment of Rabo, I’m wondering if a sequel would result at all in Yato finding worshipers in a new form and becoming a god of something other than calamity.
Special ingredient: Ignoring Yato’s jersey suit, I thought him to be a pretty cute guy, particularly those light blue eyes of his. I can see why Rabo had such a hard-on for his fellow calamity god :p With the lessons learned in this anime, I have a hard time believing any possibility of a successful love between Hiyori and Yato.
NoOOooooooo! And yet again, Saki has rewarded us with a cliffhanger and the finals of the Nationals for another sequel. How much longer will this anime continue to torture its viewers!? Despite the continual carrot, I don’t actually find any of the episodes needlessly prolonged, as all the back stories of side characters are an established style of story telling from the very first series onward. If we didn’t get every single little detail of how the different teams and their players were formed and become friends, this wouldn’t be Saki. And of course each move has to be tied to some crazy power and over-the-top body motion for us to be entertained. Zenkoku-han certainly didn’t disappoint in both of these aspects; we received some glorious racy miko possessions, as well as Nodoka’s familiar flushed face and boobies-plattered penguin.
My biggest complaint that I would have about this installment is the lack of play between the favorite Kiyosumi team and the newly familiarized Achiga girls. We were finally granted a scene between Nodoka and her old classmates in the very last episodes, but I thought it too little, too late. They had better make it worth my while with whatever sequel they make that pits the two against each other in the finals!
Special ingredient: I loved how Saki’s match showed how much of a demon she has become, despite not even taking off her socks! With Nodoka’s secret support of the penguin having made its appearance here, I would’ve thought that Saki would follow suit and let loose her maximum power. But I guess that would be revealing the cards too early in the Nationals when there’s still the final matches ahead.
Magi: The Kingdom of Magic
I feel like I’ve really gotten myself entrenched in too many shows with possible sequels. I have no problem with sequels when there’s plenty of material to cover, but I’m feeling the strain of too many shows with each subsequent season! And there’s no doubt that another season of Magi is a possibility, with the birth of a new magi, Alibaba’s unrealized kinghood, and Hakuryu’s mysterious actions and purpose.
The Kingdom of Magic actually fulfilled a lot of the gaps I felt from the first series; the humor was watered down with much more plot, and we bounced around from character to character due to the separation of Aladdin, Alibaba, and Morgiana. That break of the main trio was exactly what this show needed for each of them to independently gain the strength needed for an even more powerful group at the end. Unfortunately, not enough screen time was paid to Alibaba or Morgiana, as we spent the majority of our time with Aladdin. I didn’t mind at all seeing Aladdin go through schooling to improve his woefully incompetent magi skills, but I wanted to see an equal amount of learning for the other two.
Special ingredient: Going back to Aladdin’s arc in Magnostadt, I absolutely loved the magic school setting that reminded me of the first time I read Harry Potter: the magic lessons, the Rukh-powered tools of the city, and the prejudice magicians hold for magic-less humans. Aladdin’s lecherousness actually paid off in helping him pass his classes!
Nagi no Asukara
“Things can change, but they don’t have to change.” -Hikari, Episode 26
Love and the sea are no strangers to comparison, and they take full force in Nagi no Asukara. But let’s first talk about the visuals. I don’t think a single show this season or the past could compare to the art displayed here, not even Nisekoi. The colors and depth perfectly suited the marine environment and were instrumental in displaying the warring emotions of the characters. Just like how our feelings and the everyday events in life are never just black and white, no object in this anime was a flat color. The blues had splatters of green and gold; the Ena shimmered with pinks and teals. The human desires that at one point felt strong and sure, often morphed into something completely different.
In addition to the visuals, characterization was also a favorite aspect of mine, particularly that of Akari and Miuna. The family that Akari created with Itaru and Miuna was one born out of friendship, mutual grief, and possibilities. I really respect Akari and Itaru for their honesty and bravery in starting a new family despite the circumstances. Out of all the relationships displayed throughout these past two seasons, I found theirs to be the most amazing in its creation of life from death. Miuna, too, experienced many facets of love, starting with the loss of her mother and the looming possibility of a future with Akari. I remember when I was seven, my mother went through a divorce, and a year later, she remarried. The confusion and denial weren’t on the same wavelength as Miuna’s, but I think I can understand a small part of her inner conflict. Then when she later confronted her feelings about Hikari, as well as for Manaka, I couldn’t help but admire the largeness of her heart and how she had learned so much at such a young age about the impermanence of life, as well as its constants.
Special ingredient: It took almost to the end for me to really appreciate Tsumugu’s character, whose quiet, serious demeanor didn’t really say much. Of course I liked his admiration for the sea despite the prejudices of those around him, as well as the kind way he treated clumsy Manaka, but I honestly couldn’t see why both Manaka and later Chisaki were so wrapped up in indecision regarding him. With each interaction between the older Tsumugu and Chisaki, their joy together became more apparent. I wasn’t surprised in the least when irritation turned to interest, which became like, to caring, and to love. His frank declaration stirred even my wary heart!
Kuroko no Basket 2
While I still count myself a big fan of Tetsuya and would happily own his figurine, there’s something about this second series that I just don’t enjoy as much as in the first season. I can’t place my finger on it, but I found myself flagging behind from week-to-week in the middle of matches in favor of other, more engaging, shows. I kept taking breaks between arcs, even in the middle of arcs covering single matches, and coming back after four or five episodes had passed. Unlike other sports anime like Diamond no Ace or Cross Game, Kuroko no Basket has begun to feel more like a battle shounen to me, or the basketball version of Saki. Once a character has seemingly perfected a skill or grown stronger, another clash occurs and he suddenly levels up again with a new skill or powered up the old.
This second season also introduced an almost mystical element to the game: The Zone. I’m not sure if this is something that athletes really believe in or have experienced, but the way the anime portrays it makes The Zone seem like a shot of adrenaline mixed with clairvoyance and perfect form. Suddenly, the player is faster, more accurate. The aura exhibited can even be perceived by others. I couldn’t help but view The Zone as a convenient device for clearning certain obstacles, particularly in Kagami’s case when battling the Generation of Miracles. Even with the requirement of “loving the game,” I am skeptical of the all-powerful aura. I also wonder how it will hold up in the future, as we still have the semifinals and finals of the Winter Cup still to be aired in a probable third season.
Special ingredient: I was excited to finally see Kuroko learn how to shoot a basket as that was one of his biggest weaknesses. I figured the anime would link his shooting style with his passes, but it was nice to see Kuroko refine it after lessons with Daiichi.
What’s next? Well, I’ll be attending Sakura-Con this Easter weekend, Friday the 18th through Sunday the 20th. I’m pretty excited to be an official registrant for the first time after testing the waters last year. Staff for Mushishi, Magi, Pyscho-Pass, and SAO will be present, so I’ve got my schedule full of panels! Also following that convention post will be my set menu for the Spring.
- Diamond no Ace – I am relieved that there is currently no end in sight for this series, since we’ve barely started on Sawamura’s progress as the Ace. Not a single episode fails to entertain me, and I fully anticipate episodes through Sawamura’s senior year.
- Hunter x Hunter (2011) – We’re finally closing out the Chimera Ant arc (I think) and I’ve also started rewatching this with KWoo (certifiably the correct spelling!) so he can catch up to where I am and experience the week to week torture of cliff hangers. Please see my recent post!
- JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – I picked this up reluctantly upon draggle’s recommendation and was pretty pissed at the show for the first few episodes of Jojo’s childhood. Really!? Did they reallllllly have to barbecue the dog? And yes, that was the single most traumatizing moment I’ve experience thus far in the show.
- Yowamushi Pedal – I am loving this show just as much as expected given my past history with most sports anime. Both KWoo and I are currently on hold, however, since his lack of time for biking has resulted in a guilt trip every time we watch an episode. So here’s hoping KWoo gets back to biking so I can catch up!
- Buddy Complex – Watching this with KWoo, who is too enamored with Hunter x Hunter (2011) right now to watch any other show. He also doesn’t appreciate my BL jokes…
- Golden Time – Well, this was one show that certainly did not go the way I had expected it to after the first episode two seasons back. I thought Golden Time would go more along the lines of an old favorite, Honey & Clover, only instead of Art School, we had Law School. Romance was present in both, but H&C didn’t allow angst-y feelings of obsession and insecurity to completely take over the unique art aspect of the show. Golden Time, however, decided to abandon its distinctive setting and focus on the less interesting, daresay shallow, story line.
- Hamatora – I was mildly interested in the premise, but fell behind with other shows that I deemed more interesting.
- Nisekoi – Very pretty at the first episode, but I also stalled this when I found a better love story in Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta.
- Nourin – I found the pairing of the agricultural setting and the fan service style interesting and may pick this up on a rainy day (there are lots here!).
- Space Dandy – This is another show I’m watching with KWoo that we have no problem putting on hold given its episodic nature. I actually really enjoy this one, so hopefully I’ll be able to revisit it on this blog in the future.
- Strike the Blood – Yet another show that I had to put on the back burner, Strike the Blood had a energetic start, but then lost me half way through. I’m interested enough in the main character, however, to pick this up when I have time in the future.
- Space Brothers – I didn’t even realize this show had ended until I was scanning through MyAnimeList and saw the final episode count. I’ve got them all ready for a marathon one weekend, but am currently 20 episodes behind.