Spring is in full swing, the sakura have long since bloomed, and I’ve got a bustle of new shows to fill my spare time. Happy Spring, everyone! New shows include:
- Baby Steps
- Black Bullet
- Blade & Soul
- Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
- Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?
- Hitsugi no Chaika
- Kamigami no Asobi
- Kiniro no Corda: Blue Sky
- Love Live! School Idol Project 2nd Season
- Mushishi Zoku Shou
- Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin
- Selector Infected WIXOSS
- Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii
- Soul Eater NOT!
Mushishi Zoku Shou
Mushishi’s original season, which aired eight to nine years ago, is still to this day one of my favorite anime and one that has stood the test of time visually and story-wise. I did not expect a sequel, but I am more than happy to see more of Ginko all these years later. The episodic nature of the show makes it so that a viewing of the original is not required to appreciate and understand the sequel, but older fans can rejoice in the fact that Zoku Shou follows the same style and tone as its predecessor.
One of the prevailing elements to Mushishi is how the characters and the viewers see the mushi and everything that surrounds them. Instead of immediately attributing “bad” or “good” to different mushi, we approach them with a sense of discovery. We are there to observe, not judge. Another common theme I’ve noticed in this second installment is the commonality of loss in different forms. In the first episode, the father has his one chance to taste kouki (“river of life”) to remember and spends the rest of his life chasing that flavor in his brewing of sake. In the second episode, a family by the sea is without a wife and mother, and later on the little girl loses her ability to speak. In the third, a brother loses both his sister and his ability to retain or withstand warmth. It has been fascinating seeing the different takes on loss over the weeks, and the ways the characters cope with it.
Surprise ingredient: I first viewed episode three during Sakura-Con on the big screen with only Japanese audio and no subtitles. I had fun trying to understand what all was going on without any idea of what was being said. Re-watching it later with English subtitles, I found most of what I had previously understood to be correct. A big part of what helped convey meaning was the powerful imagery, particularly that of the snow and Touki’s lack of color and expression. Having grown up in Alaska, I know all too well the danger of coldness and frozen bodies of water.
Love Live! School Idol Project Second Season
We’re back with μ’s for a second try at Love Live!, this time featuring original new music! Yes, every one of those exclamation marks indicates just how excited I am to see these girls succeed and take home the win. The first season was a surprising joy to watch, as until that point, The iDOLM@STER was the only idol show I had actually enjoyed. Now we’re back to the beginning, only this time with a full club and a group seasoned in deadlines and competition. I’m looking forward to seeing what their experiences thus far will do in supporting their growth in this sequel.
As it currently stands, I thought it odd that Honoka felt reservation towards participating once again in Love Live! now that their school was saved from closing. I had understood her passion for the group to be stronger than just as a means to an end, so felt her actions here inconsistent with the rest of her attitude in the series. I’m glad that she finally came around after considering that this would be a few of the members’ last chance before graduating high school.
Surprise ingredient: The second episode showed their creative process as they struggled to come up with an original piece in time for the competition. While I am no composer myself, I do remember having to compose some short songs back when I was a music major in college and taking Music Theory as as sophomore. It’s like once a deadline has been set and the pressure is on, that’s when all creativity dries up. I liked seeing Maki, Umi, and Kotori struggle past that block.
Tennis has never been a sport of choice for me since it’s not exactly popular where I grew up. I can’t even recall where I would have seen a tennis court! But I have learned that even though I may dislike watching sports on television, watching it in ANIME-FORM is a completely different experience :p Baby Steps reminds me a bit of the storytelling in Cross Game, one of my all-time favorite sports anime. Main character Eiichirou is diligent in everything he does, from studying to exercising to his overall way of life. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that he was born to the wrong era and should’ve followed the way of the sword. He has a persistence that I would attribute to years and years of mental and physical training. That persistence shows itself best in his class notes, which later make their way to tennis notes. Every single detail, every step, in a math problem, in a page of history, or in a swing of the tennis racket, is recorded in minute detail on lined paper for his perusal and absorption. Like a baby, every single line of notes, every page, is a huge step towards running.
One of the main things I like about this anime is its pacing and that Eiichirou is a completely beginner to the sport. He isn’t even very active, as an attempt to warming up with the other club members results in him passing out. All too often, sports anime feature characters who are either already advanced, or amazingly gifted and capable of unrealistic feats after just a couple of tries. It takes Eiichirou several attempts to even hit the ball, much less return a serve like A-player Takuma.
Surprise ingredient: Did I mention that I have zero experience playing tennis? Another appeal to this show is how foreign it is to me. The closest thing I can attribute to this sport in my experience is badminton, which I haven’t played since high school gym.
Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
Is anyone else reminded of Sakurasou? Kawaisou also takes a group of young adults, some students, some high school, some college, some employed, and groups them all together in one semi-cheap housing complex, where they all eat and spend much of their free time together. The ecchi jokes go a bit smoother here with the older crowd, though I find the main girls and guys fairly similar temperament-wise to those of Sakurasou–the girl is usually silent and singularly absorbed in one task, while the guy is seemingly average in every way possible.
Unlike the compared anime, I find Kawaisou tame and on the blander side. While I can relate to Ritsu Kawai’s reading obsession and lack of desire to socialize with some people, I also disapprove of her quick harshness towards Usa whenever there’s even the slightest misunderstanding. The show does look great though, and the character design shines with a sparkle that their actual character development lacks.
Surprise ingredient: I do love Mayumi’s choice comfort food–donburi–every time she experiences heartbreak. I find it much more appealing than stereotypical ice cream!
Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?
I’ll admit it, this is probably my other favorite show (besides Mushishi) of the spring season. It has so many things I adore: coffee, latte art, coffee cups, a classy bar and bartender, and a memorable mascot. I also am happy to see that the majority of the time is spent in Rabbit House cafe, and not in a generic school setting. The girl group slice-of-life formula is pretty standard here, but there’s just enough of a personal touch in the setting, characters, and humor to polish this gem of a show. The setting also reminds me of a bit of a mix of Polar Bear Cafe and Bartender–minus the cocktail how-to.
And may I just say, the girls are RIDICULOUSLY cute. Yes, it’s cute girls doing cute things, but they’re doing them in colorful skirt uniforms and running strong on caffeine! And like another fun show, Dog Days, the characters in Usagi are all named after various drinks: Cocoa (cocoa), Cino (cappuccino), Rize (thé des alizés – a Chinese green tea), Chiya Ujimatsu (uji matcha green tea), Kirima Sharo (Kilimanjaro tea), and more. I am already imagining a couple of posts to go along with this theme. I’ll control myself from gushing here to prompt me to blog more later ^^
Surprise ingredient: This is already encroaching on future blog post territory, but I love latte art. Among the many miscellaneous jobs that I have had over the years, I was once both a restaurant server and barista at a cottage-like establishment that specialized in lunch and dinner. Here’s a fact: latte art is HARD to do. I scoffed when I saw how easily Cocoa was able to create designs after the one example she was shown and a couple of tries. The first thing she would even have to do is how to correctly pull an appropriate espresso shot, then how to pour and texture depending on the requested drink. Microfoam or velvet can take a while to master, much less turning it into art. Or perhaps Cocoa is a latte art genius?
We have no shortage of sports anime this season, and once again, spring gives us a less than common sport: volleyball. Even more unique is the focus on a male volleyball team; while males are not uncommon in beach volleyball, it’s not too often you see a high school team for boys. I’m not sure why, as it’s a sport that can be enjoyed by both sexes and that is just as physically demanding for both.
The set up for the high school team is a predicable one after the introductory episode pitted our two main characters against one another in junior high. Of course they would end up going to the same high school, and of course they would be the perfect combination for setter and spiker! Despite the predictability, I can’t help but like the idea of another “little giant” jumping high for the ball, and that orange hair really catches the eye. I’m excited to see their first match as a combination and what their opponents will be like.
Surprise ingredient: The team captain, Daichi, really fits my perfect image of a captain: he’s calm, collected, understanding, but no pushover. I loved that he prevented both Hinata and Kageyama from joining the team because of their lack of teamwork.
Hitsugi no Chaika
I couldn’t resist picking up this show after seeing the promotional artwork with little Chaika lugging around a huge coffin on her back. The artwork is true to form, as throughout the three episodes that I have seen so far, she has been nigh inseparable with the unwieldy object. In her search to fill the coffin with the various body parts of her father, it is also finding dual usage as a weapon’s crate. The several pieces carefully placed in the coffin can be joined into a gigantic gun-looking object that is fueled by magic and Chaika’s wizardly skills. Coupling the size of the weapon with her inability for movement is a common sense move that I didn’t expect the show to take. The partnership with Toru is necessary for her to have any hope in retrieving the rest of the body artifacts.
The other two characters, siblings Toru and Akari, are a pair of saboteurs–employed by war and homeless without it. Protecting Chaika makes for good employment and purpose, and I certainly can’t complain about the fight scenes, as they’ve been among the most entertaining out of the season so far. The Iron Blood Transformations of both brother and sister are fascinating enough to make me curious about how they became saboteurs; were they born to it, or did they gain the skills through other means?
Surprise ingredient: How brilliant is it that the stereotypical unicorn has been turned into a ravenous carnivore almost unstoppable on the hunt? Dark kirin are nothing new to me, and the unicorn here did look heavily influenced by kirin art–the flowing hair reminiscent of fire, the almost dragon-like look. The fight between the unicorn and Toru was a pretty great way to start the show.
Kamigami no Asobi
Spare me the groans and just realize already that Marina is a sad sop for reverse harems. GIMME MOAR PECS. Kamigami is on the verge of staying on or dropping off my list; what keeps it around so far is the curiosity I have for the mix of religions. There are Greek gods, Japanese gods, Hindu gods, and so on. They are all fairly one-dimensional so far, three episodes in, which isn’t too surprising given the genre. I’m always a sucker for the nice, friend-zoned guy–I’m guessing this time around that Apollo is the forever friend.
The premise of the show is an interesting one: Zeus has gathered many gods from across the Heavens together in one removed space to regain some humanity. Somehow, this is supposed to happen through attendance at a thrown-together school with materialized students and interaction with the lone human hostage: Kusanagi Yui. I’d have greater faith in their chances if Yui had a bit more substance to her personality. I get the every woman structure by making her as empty as possible for the viewer to insert herself, but the emptiness makes it difficult to imagine what these young gods could possibly find interesting in her.
Surprise ingredient: One of the encounters I’m looking forward to the most might not be what you would expect–I want to see how in the world Yui is going to soften up Hades’ staunch refusal to be close to anyone. His quick move for space is comically played out and I myself would have a hard time resisting jumping out at him from behind corners.
Kiniro no Corda: Blue Sky
Ta-da! Reverse harem no. 2! There are three good reasons I can offer up for why I’m watching another one: 1) I was a fan of the first season, 2) I’m a musician who jumps at every music anime, and 3) I try every reverse harem once. Fans of the first season be aware that this sequel almost nothing like the original. There is no Lili; none of the original characters are present. Just going off of a first viewing of the first three episodes, I think there maaay have been a cameo of Ren.
Besides the lack of the fairy, an important difference in this show is the main character’s actual skill in her instrument. Unlike Hino, Kohinata does not need magic to play; she is a gifted violinist through her own abilities. I found that message left for her, “Have you reached your limit?” a profound reminder of my own experiences in music and really want to see her succeed in the ensemble competition.
Surprise ingredient: I don’t have any favorite male leads yet, perhaps because of the semi-slow buildup that this show has compared to others of it genre. I find the harem set up almost secondary to the music aspect in this series, which I am pleased has continued in Blue Sky.
Blade & Soul
If there’s any show that has really surprised me, it’s Blade and Soul. This is definitely going to be a love it or hate it show for most people, I feel, due to its character art and design and set up, but I am overall pleased with the smooth lines and animation. I am willing to overlook the overflowing amount of scantily-clad warrior boobies in appreciation of the battle scenes. The main character might also disinterest viewers with her blank personality and seeming lack of humanity. But if you let yourself watch long enough, you’ll see hints of a kindness here and there through her interactions with others and through her memories of her master.
Right now there’s a lot of mystery that surrounds Alka and her tattoo–why exactly is the Palam Empire framing her for the death of her master and hunting her down, and why is she able to withstand the Impurity? The fight between her and Jin Valel was a pretty exhilarating climax that had been building up for the first three episodes, and I was pretty pissed when it was interrupted by Hazuki, who I find to be an utterly worthless character.
Surprise ingredient: This anime actually follows after the Korean MMO that was created back in 2012. I didn’t know this until I looked up the anime description and found a series of gameplay videos instead. I haven’t had time to game lately, but I found the visuals gorgeous and was reminded a bit of GW2.
Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin
This controversial noitaminA show was one I had initially passed on after viewing its promotional art, but after sitting in on the noitaminA panel at Sakura-Con 2014 and checking out the first episode myself, I found myself addicted to the hunt for Nanana’s treasures! The turnoff that had me almost missing out was the picture of Nanana along with the tag of “ghost”. I’m not typically a fan of ghost girls in general, my limited experience being with Tasogare Otome x Amnesia, but the focus on treasure hunting in this case tosses most of my reservation out the window.
I view this show similar in a ways to Phi Brain due to the clues and puzzles that are placed around each treasure chest. We even have a genius in our midst with the inclusion of Tensai’s character–a detective-wannabe who all-too-easily solves the questions surrounding every problem. I like her direct approach, but find that her quick solutions too easily diffuse a scene’s tension. I’m hoping that these first few episodes are the simpler of the puzzles and that as the show progresses we’ll see some actual challenges.
Surprise ingredient: One of these days I’ll have to try some legit pudding–perhaps when I’m in Japan this summer. I find it incredible that Nanana is able to differentiate between different qualities of pudding, from the dirt cheap ones to the specialty expensive ones.
Selector Infected WIXOSS
WIXOSS, or “Wish Across”, is a card game popular with the young people of this anime. Most of the card anime that I have watched have been fairly light in nature, while this one has a much darker tone that hinges upon the deepest desires of a group of little girls called “Selectors”. Again, I’m reminded of another anime, this time Madoka Magica–the battles between Selectors can range anywhere from an enjoyable compatibility to a hostile stage that can completely break one’s spirit. The simultaneous battles of Ruuko/Hitoe and Yuzuki/Akira are the perfect examples of the extremes that WIXOSS stages can witness.
So far, Ruuko’s LRIG, Tama, has seemed almost harmless–her white theme and almost nonexistent capacity for speech make it easy to overlook her as a combatant. But hints of a troubling ferocity crop up in her cries for battle and in the look of joy on her face when on the board. I’m curious to see just how much Tama will change through her battles, particularly if she continues leveling up like she did in the fight with Hitoe.
Surprise ingredient: Something I find interesting about the whole wish and battle set up is Ruuko’s lack of a wish. A young girl with no desire at all is highly unlikely, but I can understand her playing despite not knowing what she wants. Maybe like Madoka of MSMM, Ruuko will later find purpose in the desires of her friends and other Selectors.
Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii
Once upon a time when Marina read manga, she stumbled across Otoyomegatari at the suggestion of FoxyLadyAyame. Similar to SoreSeka, a young woman, already an adult, is married off to a boy much younger than her. How this anime differs is in both its fantastical elements and the boy’s status as ruler, some might even say tyrant, over much of the land. In exchange for her hand in marriage, her land, the Principality of Rain will be allowed to keep its autonomy–on the condition that Nike calls down rain in the Sun Kingdom whenever requested.
The pairing of headstrong adult Nike with equally headstrong young Livius is a fun one, and I like that their current chemistry is one more of mutual respect and familial love. Affection for Nike can already be seen in Livius’ all-too-adult eyes, and her handling of his tiring work schedule and prickly personality is on par with the best of any expert office administration! I am curious to see more of her rain-calling singing and to find out if there are any limits to it, particularly in a land as dry as the Sun Kingdom.
Surprise ingredient: I’m always a fan of strong female leads, and Nike is well on her way to being one of my preferred characters this season. Despite having been married off to a king and moving to a foreign land, she continues on with admirable spunk and refuses to let anyone push her around. The scene at her opening party where she descends in full queen regalia and sings down the rain sent chills up my spine!
Soul Eater Not!
I have another confession to make: I watched ALL of the original Soul Eater. I was not forced to by a friend, nor was I really in want of quality anime that season. I think my main reasons for watching the show were because I had too much time on my hands and I was curious why it seemed so popular. While the setting is certainly a unique one and I like the premise of meisters and weapons, the execution was a bit overly bright and juvenile for my tastes. This follow up, which shares some of the same setting and character set up, is a different beast entirely. I get more of a feeling of magical school slice-of-life than I do of a battle anime, and the almost entire female cast emphasizes that generic high school category.
Unlike the first anime, Soul Eater Not! is right up my alley with its characters and setting, which takes place more in school than out in random battle environments. I also enjoyed the peek at the town surrounding the academy, where Anya sells her family broach and picks up the tanuki statue. I also like seeing students right at the very start of their abilities, like Tsugumi who couldn’t even intentionally transform into a weapon. Her later success with the pressure of confrontation and the encouragement of a nearby teacher makes her and her friends’ growth look promising.
Surprise ingredient: The choice of weapon for Tsugumi is a bit strange: a halberd with a dull edge. I do tend to prefer stave-like weapons, like bo staffs, spears (, and halberds, and the shape of Tsugumi’s looks extremely versatile in battle. I wonder if through her studies and successive fights whether or not the edge will sharpen up.
Big thanks to KWoo for convincing me to try this one, as it’s turned into one of my more anticipated new shows this spring. I’m a big fan of the Gunslinger Girl series, particularly the first season, where handlers and their little girl counterparts undertake missions that more than often turn into assassinations. The girls in question are “saved” from near-death experiences and outfitted with cybernetic body parts that theoretically make them more proficient in their duties in counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism. Likewise here, Civil Security agents and Initiators are paired to take down Gastrea organisms. The initiators are actually children called “Cursed Children” born with the Gastrea virus who are able to fight the parasitic-ridden beings without fear of contamination; unfortunately, the public majority fears and loathes these boys and girls, seeing them not as human, but as monsters.
Pair Rentarou and Enju are exceptional in that they are more a family than any master/servant type of relationship. They trust one another and look out for each other, with the audience at the expense of the occasional ecchi joke. It’s easy to forget that Enju is more than just a little girl; she is an orphan with no one but Rentarou who cares for her as she is. The scene where the two of them come face-to-face with another Cursed Child from Enju’s past is a chilling one; the surrounding adults treat the little girl like a wild dog. The scene that follows after Rentarou follows the cops who take the girl didn’t necessarily surprise me, but I was pretty pissed off on her behalf.
Surprise ingredient: “Bad guy” Kagetane Hiruko may go about his business in a violent way, but I can’t say that I disagree with his view of mankind in its current state. An interesting thing to note is something that I don’t think was brought up yet in the anime but that I glimpsed in my content search online from the manga. There is a character who goes by the name of Ayn Rand–I remember reading both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead when I was in high school, so I’ll be looking out for references to the works and her philosophy in the anime
So there you have it, a list of fifteen new shows for the spring! I still have quite a number of ongoing anime from the previous seasons, but I gave myself a pat on the back for the larger than expected number of shows I forced myself to drop due to my so-so attitude towards them.
- Diamond no Ace
- Hunter x Hunter (2011)
- Yowamushi Pedal