Summer 2014 Set Menu (really, mid-season thoughts)

Summer is in full swing, and I’ve got the ridiculous shoe tan to prove it (thanks, TOMS). Along with the insistent sunshine and 80-90 degree weather, this summer has proven to be significantly busier than the previous, with friends’ weddings, festivals every weekend–currently it’s SeaFair here in Seattle–hiking, and a whole slew of new anime to watch. I’ve downloaded the VLC app to my iPhone to try and keep up with the shows while on my commutes to and from work. So far, this is what I have pinned down for my Summer Set Menu, and included are some mid-season thoughts:

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Crystal (3/26)
I’m surprisingly a stranger to the Sailor Moon franchise, as I am largely unfamiliar with the characters and story of the original beloved work. I remember seeing snippets of scenes on TV as a child, but I never was able to sit down and watch consecutive episodes. I’m excited to finally get a chance at experiencing Usagi’s story, re-drawn and animated in soft colors and spindly character designs.

What immediately struck me was the similarity to Cardcaptor Sakura, which makes sense as CS followed some years after Sailor Moon. I wonder if CS learned from its predecessor and kept Kinomoto Sakura from whining to the extent that Usagi does to save its viewers from wanting to tear their hair out. Simpleek actually describes this shinier Usagi of Crystal as less whiny than the original, which I find incredibly hard to imagine. I know plenty of viewers find the crying realistic, pointing out that it makes her growth even more incredible, but I’ll continue to disapprove of it :p

Surprise ingredients: I do admit to cracking up when Usagi cried so loudly that the glass shattered and the controlled people all started wincing at the reverberating sound. I’m curious to see what other special skills she may have!

I was also pleased with the second episode largely because it introduced a character I actually liked right from the get-go: Ami. Despite her reputation and high results, she continues to work hard towards her goal of becoming a doctor.

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Persona 4 The Golden Animation (4/12)
The original Animation is dear to me, despite never having played any of the video games, and I am more than excited to see how this re-boot will complement the stage of events. The first episode was nothing like what I had expected, since I thought that the re-telling would be almost exactly like the original, but with one new character added. But watching it, I get this distinct feeling of self-awareness, like I’m the player re-playing the game with full knowledge of the upcoming events and more confidence since I already know the route. Yuu isn’t the quiet, shy guy he was at the beginning of the first season, but makes sly jokes and asserts himself much more readily than before. I don’t dislike the change, but a part of me misses his steady change.

As I’m unfamiliar with the games, I don’t really know how Marie will factor in to the story line. At first, I thought she would remain in the Velvet Room with Igor and Margaret as an additional narrator–instead, she comes out like another transfer student with no memory of who she is nor what her purpose is. I doubt she’ll replace spunky Chie in my heart, not unless she can out-eat her in a gyuudon competition. The second episode’s clothes shopping did highlight a surprising talent of hers to coordinate outfits for others. While I love Chie’s green track coat, I admit that she looked pretty adorable in that flouncy blue dress.

Surprise ingredients: It was a pleasure seeing Kuma in all his glory again, just as initially shy and flustered as before. I wonder if in this re-play any changes will come about in his character, or if he’ll reveal his other appearance any sooner or later.

I’ve also added Marie’s outfit to one I’d like to cosplay someday, if I were to ever, ever cosplay. It’s punky playful, and I could easily get KWoo to wear a simple white button up and glasses for Yuu.

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Zankyou no Terror (2/11)
I forgot that this show was going to air on noitaminA, but after the first episode, I can definitely see why. In a way, I’m reminded of Psycho Pass’s atmosphere of indifference of the main populace sprinkled with a tingling wrongness, best exhibited by a female lead who starts out observing the world around her. Lisa is less verbally inquisitive than Akane, but exudes a similar feeling of discontent. The early bullying scene also made me wonder just how well suited Lisa is to acts of terrorism, whether she would be acting out of a like cause or out of resentment.

It’s not often that you come across shows from the terrorist’s point-of-view, and so far I have yet to feel any kind of sympathy for Nine or Twelve in their current state. The flashbacks to their childhood due raise some questions, but there just isn’t enough information yet for me to feel strongly either way. I’m also not sure how to interpret their recruitment of Lisa, which didn’t really give her much of a choice if she wanted to live. She does seem to have a raw deal both at school and at home, so perhaps her resolve to assist the two young men will harden quicker than expected. Atelier Emily’s recent post on Lisa’s role in the anime makes for an interesting read, especially when considering the 2011 anime Mawaru Penguindrum. I wonder if it’ll really be Nine and Twelve who rescue Lisa, or if it’ll be the other way around.

Surprise ingredient: The dual identities of our two young terrorists is clever and alarming. No one would suspect a couple of students out on a field trip as the ones who set the bombs, and Twelve’s deceptively cheery personality easily glazes over suspicion. I’m interested to see how Lisa will fit into their group, since she appears easy to read and uncollected in her emotions.

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Free! Eternal Summer (4/13)
During my visit to Japan, I visited KyoAni’s studio store in Uji and found a ton of Free! goods on prominent display. I hadn’t really been paying attention to the upcoming anime of the season, so didn’t put two and two together that the sequel would be coming out this summer. But, happily, we’re back with more swimsuits and rock-hard abs, and hopefully this time around Iwatobi will make a name for itself for more than just demoralizing school antics. As comical as the culture festival was for their running relay, the race affirmed their need for serious publicity for both new members and funds.

While the previous year’s conflict centered on the formation of the Iwatobi Swim Club and on Rin, this year’s dilemma appears to be set more on the future and what the third years plan to do after high school. Rin’s forseeable dream to swim professionally doesn’t surprise, but Haruka and Makoto’s indecision is alarming. I can understand Haruka’s lack of concern given his “free” personality, but would have expected Makoto to have at least some idea for his future.

Surprise ingredient: Gou’s delight in male musculature always cracks me up, and I love how she has zero shame in proclaiming a guy’s best points. I’m curious to see how she will rate the new childhood friend, Sousuke, who has been lurking around her brother.

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Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? (3/12)
What better way to form your harem show than to include all manners of supernatural archetypes? I picked this show up on a whim for KWoo but ended up enjoying it myself and feeling sorry for the ever-overlooked “magical girl,” Yurika. At the moment, I’m preferring ghost girl Sanae solely for her seeming honesty with the main character, but Kiriha’s masterful cooking and under-Earth origins are intriguing as well. Forget the logic that Koutarou is the sole person paying for the room, or the fact that many of these girls could easily remove him and his landlady–we’re all about awkward roommates and transfer students!

The gaming stage of conquering the room may have been short, but I loved the sheer ridiculousness of it. Staking a home on a game of trump cards is about as silly as each one of the girl’s claims on the property–particularly when you suck at games.

Surprise ingredient: The running gag featuring Yurika still makes me laugh as much now as it did at the beginning, and I kept begging her to show some proof of her magic to get the others to respect her. It doesn’t help at all that she’s a dojikko at heart with absolutely zero book smarts and the backbone of taffy. Or maybe she’ll suddenly reveal a dark side in line with recent shows like Madoka and WIXOSS–but probably not! I loved seeing her finally transform during the race, and she earned my respect for using her powers for the good of others instead of only for herself.  Magical girl of love and courage, indeed🙂

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Barakamon (5/12)
Calligraphy has always been something I’ve taken a small amount of interest in due to my appreciation for penmanship. This interest is even more piqued with the increasingly scarcity of cursive writing in the younger generation–many schools have chopped teaching cursive entirely from the curriculum in favor of typing lessons. While I can understand the appeal of typing which is convenient and fast, there have been plenty of studies on how the action of writing increases retention of learned material. If students stop writing in script, how can they be expected to read it? If people cannot read certain types of writing, I have very low hopes in the survival of arts like calligraphy.

The main character of Barakmon is a pro calligraphist. His style is hailed as traditionalist, but boring. I have always been a supporter of learning and mastering the fundamentals in both music and English composition, and so can understand his love for the basics in calligraphy. But I also agree with his peers in that very little character can be found in a reflection. I’m hoping that his daily encounters with the inhabitants of the village will slowly transform his style into something more individualistic.

Surprise ingredient: There’s a surprising humor in Handa’s interactions with Naru. Yes, her interruptions are frequent and initially annoying, but also heartwarming. It doesn’t take long for her to understand him in ways that he doesn’t seem to even understand himself. I’m wondering if his style will become playful in a way as a response to his time spent with Naru. He already has learned quite a bit through having to paint a name on a boat with one broad paint brush on a curved surface, and I think teaching the young people who come to his home how to paint, he’ll realize that he wants to be more individualistic.

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Glasslip (5/13)
When I was in my junior year of high school, my choir traveled to Europe. One of our stops was Venice, and it was there that I first encountered glass blowing. I was astounded at the colors and shapes, and to this day have a fondness for glass jewelry. After ARIA, this is maybe only the second anime I’ve seen that has featured glass blowing, this time with an unexpected supernatural turn. The beginning wasn’t direct about it, and I instead thought that Touko was in some sort of dream state while at the festival. It isn’t until later when she is confronted by Kakeru that we learn the reflections and images are glimpses of the future. What makes it even more intriguing is that she only sees; she cannot hear. But when she’s in Kakeru’s presence, the volume suddenly turns up. Neither method seems conclusive as of yet, but perhaps with practice and a better bond with Kakeru, the visions will make more sense.

The glass seeing is only a small portion of the show so far, with much of the focus being instead on the relationships within the group of friends. It’s pretty predictable and realistic that a co-ed group would eventually form romantic attachments to one another, although I do find Yanagi’s feelings for her step brother annoyingly conventional from an anime point of view.

Surprise ingredient: Sachi’s character fascinates me with her steadfast loyalty to Touko, passion for reading, weak constitution, and seeming obliviousness about any romantic feelings directed at herself. I find it hard to believe that a girl as perceptive as she would be unaware of Hiro’s affections. In a way, Hiro reminds me a bit of Touko, and I’m hoping that Sachi will realize his intentions before she wounds him too deeply.

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Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus (4/10)
This makes the third, I think, series that I’ve seen in this franchise, and I’m more than happy to add it to my Kuroshitsuji library. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two seasons, and I’m well on my way to rating Circus up there with them. Timeline-wise, Circus takes place before the events of the second season–I feel lucky that we’ve stepped back to a full cours of Sebastian and Ciel instead of just a handful of OVA. Additionally, the main setting is not the mansion nor London, but a dark but enchanting circus full of curiosities and terrors. Much more than snakes slither through the tents, and I’m looking forward to discovering exactly what sorts of secrets the troupe holds and where the abducted children really go.

It’s not too surprising that our master-butler pair actually joined the circus instead of just investigated or even befriended its members, but I do wonder at the soundness of the decision given Ciel’s impatience. I have a hard time imagining him keeping up his act for too long. Despite his devilish skill, Sebastian can only do so much to fool the main circus cast–we supposedly haven’t even seen the head of the group. And then there’s the Reaper to consider, whose honest exclamations of devilry are currently seen as acting.

Surprise ingredient: I want to see more of Sebastian and Beast and her tiger. The scene where Sebastian lovingly strokes the wildcat’s ears and cheeks reminded me of a former episode where he instead beat up a hell hound, only to encourage the animal’s adoration. Perhaps he will yet earn the tiger’s affections and loyalty, and in turn that of its master😉

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Ao Haru Ride (4/12)
The love story of the season, AoHa takes what could’ve been a sugary sweet mutual romance and transforms it into the ever popular tough guy, nice girl combination. I say “tough” instead of “bad” in this case in consideration of Kou’s shaky resolve whenever he’s around Futaba. It’s clear that he still has feelings for her, despite his claim that it’s all in the past, but I can also understand family issues trumping any romantic inclinations. Like Futaba says, Kou has been through a lot more in their years apart than she has, and she cannot even imagine the pain that he has endured at his young age. I’m glad that there are still glimmers of his kind soul shining through for her to see when it matters.

This being the type of romance that it is, however, I am in full anticipation of a rival or rivals appearing to confuse the two leads. I haven’t read the manga, so could be completely wrong, but I don’t foresee serious competition coming from any of the new circle that has been formed with Futaba, Kou, Yuri, Shuuko, and Aya. I can definitely feel vibes between Shuuko and Tanaka-sensei, and there’ll probably be some spurning of affections between Kou and Yuri who seems so much like the younger Futaba, but I’m holding my breath to see what new guy character will be introduced to tempt Futaba with nice-guy gestures. I’ve always been a sucker for the friend in these shoujo anime!

Surprise ingredient: I couldn’t help but wince a bit at Futaba’s “unattractive” girl act, which consisted of excessive eating and blunt proclamations–largely because I sometimes act like that around people with whom I’m comfortable. If I really enjoy a certain food, I make noises that advertise it, and I usually find blunt statements to be much more effective than roundabout prods.

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Tokyo ESP (2/12)
I’m a bit behind on watching this one, but I couldn’t help but think of both X-Men and Toaru Kagaku no Railgun throughout the entire first episode. From the start, the show was action-packed, and I’m wondering how much longer it can keep up with the fast pace in each subsequent episode. As of now, I’ve only seen a few episodes, so it may be too early to voice these concerns about pacing. I did find the backstory on “White Girl” a nice reprieve from the darker beginning, and couldn’t stop laughing at her father’s earnest rampage to aid his daughter.

Too much is a still a mystery about the espers and where exactly the goldfish that trigger their powers come from, but I’m intrigued enough to keep going. There isn’t much of a distinction made between who should or shouldn’t get powers, as we’ve seen them used with arguably good and bad intentions. It all just looks to be happenstance, with any sex, age, and personality being equal in likelihood of accidentally encountering the floating goldfish.

Surprise ingredient: I have thought repeatedly over the years about what ability I would want to have, and still don’t have a solid answer. Flight sounds like a lot of fun, until I consider all the weather that I’d have to deal with and the fact that I honestly cannot stand insects; can you imagine the amount of bugs you’d smack on a fast flight to the nearby grocery store? And I think about psychokinesis, but then wonder about the act of pushing and pulling and whether influencing an object of much greater mass than me would result in me or it flying straight into one another with a glorious splat. The answer to my esper ability is still unknown.

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Akame ga Kill! (4/24)
Promotional art, you have fooled me yet again! When I first glanced at this anime on the charts, I gave it barely a thought. I picked it up along with a handful of other shows that day and didn’t have much hopes for it grabbing my interest. Well, I should really be used to surprises by now. The first episode was nothing like I expected, and I praise the writers for tricking me with the goofy situations and kind personalities so that I thoroughly trusted Aria’s family and Tatsumi’s place in her household. While I guessed that his joining of the Night Raid was inevitable, I didn’t think that it’d be at the revelation of the corruption and gore in Aria’s home. No more happy reunion for Tatusmi😦

His swift ascension in Night Raid suits the anime’s purposes, but I do find it rushed when considering the gap in skill between him and the main crew. Even without everyone else’s Imperial Arms, he doesn’t stand on their level as a fighter. I commend him for staying alive for the few episodes that he has! A part of me was wondering whether he’d inherit Zank the Executioner’s “weapon”–but I doubt that now after finding out the nature of Zank’s Imperial Arm. Sorry, Tatsumi, but I just don’t find you mentally stable enough to handle it! I’m sure he will eventually get one of his own, and am thinking it’ll either end up being a sword like Akame, or a beast transformation belt like Leone.

Surprise ingredient: While watching the third episode, “Kill Your Cares,” KWoo pinned the young king as a “Joffrey,” and I’m wondering if that is indeed the case. Perhaps poor upbringing coupled with responsibility have made him just as twisted as the Game of Thrones heir. I could see no remorse in his eyes at the ordering of a man’s execution, nor did he chafe at the commands of the Minister. While overthrowing a king is certainly a daunting task, relegating a functioning system in its place is perhaps even more tricky. I am curious as to how the rebellion aims to handle the king and his likely replacement.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (4/12)
Love confessions are a daily occurrence if romance anime is to teach us anything, and Nozaki-kun is no exception to that rule. Sakura’s breathless anticipation and following outburst probably felt just as painful as it was to watch, but Nozaki’s reaction is well worth the scene. Instead of realizing her romantic intentions, he instead mistakes her confession to be a fan’s appreciation for his manga–which is more than understandable given Sakura’s choice phrase. And she does this not only once, but twice. The densest guy and the awkwardest girl join together to create a mangaka and assistant pair, gathering the occasional extra assistant from time to time. I don’t know if Sakura will ever be able to clearly state her feelings, or if in the process of working for him she’ll become disenchanted, but in the meanwhile, I’ll sit back and enjoy the double act.

There is a regular third character who has a pretty hilarious influence on Nozaki’s works. Mikorin’s contrasting characteristics make for a perfect model for Nozaki’s heroine, Mamiko. Unfortunately for that pairing, Mikorin is actually a guy named Mikoshiba, while Mamiko is the fluffiest, female shoujo manga lead. But the inspiration for her character is a good one, as Mikorin displays daily with his outbursts and cries for attention. If it weren’t for Sakura’s crush on Nozaki, I would say she and Mikorin would make a good pairing given her ability to handle him at his most dramatic moments.

Surprise ingredient: I love that Nozaki-kun isn’t afraid to play around with gender roles in its humor with characters like Mikoshiba and Kashima. Mikoshiba initially comes off as a player with his smooth lines and smile, but he’s easily embarrassed and could easily play a high school girl in a drama. Kashima, in turn, clearly dresses and looks like a girl, but acts more confident and suave than any young guy could hope to do at such a young age.

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Hanayamata (4/12)
Hanayamata is a delightful step away from the idol anime that have been prevalent in recent seasons, and instead focuses on yosakoi, a dance that incorporates a traditional dance with modern stylings. I’m still reminded of idol shows like Love Live!, but attitude of the students towards yosakoi feels completely different. Initially, Hana’s excitement to start a club for the dance is deemed weird and over-the-top, and it’s only because of her random meeting with main character Naru that they’re able to get any footing. But with Naru’s best friend Yaya, her model Tami, and the ice cold Machi, the cast looks ready to come together.

What excites me about this show is its emphasis on dance and music as opposed to the girls themselves and their costumes. Yes, the outfits of yosakoi are important and eye catching, but my eyes are mostly drawn to the movements and sounds. I can understand why Naru is drawn to the activity–I’d totally jump in on a group if there were one I knew about nearby! I did see something similar to it at the recent Bon Odori festival here in Seattle, but most of the members looked high school age or younger.

Surprise ingredient: On top of the cute story and characters, I also really enjoy the art of the show, with its soft lines and bright colors. I’m excited to see how the girls look when they’re all dressed up and ready to perform–even more so than I have been in the past for idol anime. I’m wondering if they’ll take a modern flair on yukata, or if they’ll try to be more traditional in the cut and colors.

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Love Stage!! (4/10)
Hmmmmm, I can’t help but think of Sekaiichi Hatsukoi here with the main characters and the continual animal plush inserts. Love Stage!! is a yaoi work, and has shown little hesitancy in the displays of attraction between actor Ryouma and anti-entertainment business Izumi. I’m not a fan of any romance anime that uses force as its main means of getting one character to “fall” for another, and the start of Love Stage!! had me worried with Ryouma’s very ugly outburst at finding out Izumi’s sex. Then his attack had me all but wanting to call the cops! There’s no excuse for his attack of Izumi, and claiming that he wanted to banish his desires by physically looking upon a naked man just doesn’t cut it. What had me even more shocked was how Rei, the family “manager”, handled the situation. I think it’s good that Izumi left his room and held his head up high, but I don’t like how Rei skirted the seriousness of Ryouma’s assault.

I’m more in line with Izumi’s older brother’s method of thinking that consequences must be felt, but of course, the anime again softened the blow by allowing Shougo to feel pity for the depressed actor. I would’ve been happier to see Shougo take sweet vengeance on television for the world to see. Instead, we were treated to an apology scene and a shaky friendship. I can’t help but be curious just how hands-off Ryouma will be able to stay, and how quickly or slowly Izumi’s complete disinterest will change.

Surprise ingredient: There’s a definite vibe of rivalry coming off of Izumi’s good looking friend in the manga club, and I wonder when that relationship will rear its head. I would much prefer a budding love between those two than with the brash Ryouma.

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Sabagebu! (4/?)
Ahhh, welcome back, cute girls playing war games! I never would have thought I’d be into this set up, but then came along Girls und Panzer, followed by Stella Jogakuin Koutouka C3-bu.., and now we have Sabagebu! There’s an undeniable pleasure I’ve felt with picking up a weapon and feeling competent at using it. I grew up in an environment where handling guns like rifles was normal; I was given a pellet gun at a young age to practice my aim, and took a certification for rifles in late grade school. Watching Moko-chan running through the woods playing war made me wish I had a similar type of club growing up. I may be able to shoot well stationary, but I have zero experience actively moving with a gun.

Another perk to this show that differentiates it from the others is its spot-on humor. Instead of circling on some common goal to win competitions or become better at survival, the anime chooses gags and skits that don’t really need a particular order of arrangement. It perfectly fills my comedy needs for the summer.

Surprise ingredient: Momoka’s harsh attitude towards survival and sportsmanship cracks me up. Usually, we’d be treated to fair conduct and feelings of camaraderie, but she tosses that aside for a brutal winner takes all approach. She repeatedly steps on the bodies of her club members to take the final shot and win, and has no qualms about prioritizing her own survival, even when facing off against her own mother!

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Sword Art Online II (4/24)
Against all my reservations, I gave SAO II a try in hopes that the new setting and characters would take a better approach than the first season. And thankfully, that does seem to be the case here. I really enjoy running along with Sinon in GoG, and was sad when they finally brought in Kirito and Asuna. I would’ve been happy, really, if the couple was completely absent from this sequel, as Sinon already has a deeper personality than all the previous characters combined.

But, there’s no changing the inclusion of Kirito, and in true form, he converts into GoG with staggers stats and an adorably feminine character. I’m hoping the anime will avoid any romantic vibes between him and Sinon out of respect for Asuna, who loves him, and Sinon, who is too cool to become a harem side character. I did enjoy his discomfort at her immediate evaluation of him as a female player, however. It’d be more fun, really, if she thought of him as that for the entire season.

Surprise ingredient: I’m going to have to stick with Sinon to satisfy my interest in the guns of this game, as Kirito stubbornly stuck with another sword-type weapon. His weapon is pretty cool, however, as it’s essentially a lightsaber. I expect that it will also deflect gunshots right back at the shooters and be more effective than everyone else in the game thinks.

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Aldnoah.Zero (4/12)
Aldnoah.Zero started out stuffy full of dialogue and technobabble, but I think by it has smoothed out into a more manageable storyline. I’m still on the fence about it, but I’m excited to see how the princess–Asseylum–and native Terran–Slaine–will fight against the Martians and their lunar technology. They obviously should set aside their differences to face bigger baddies, which I’m sure they’ll do at a later point, but for now we have ourselves a senseless war between humans.

One of my biggest concerns at the moment are the characters, specifically lead Inaho and daughter of the undercover Martians, Rayet. Inaho is only in high school, yet possesses the composure of a seasoned veteran and scholar. Hardly any emotions reveal themselves on his face, and his voice holds steady no matter the pressure. Even after a close friend’s death and his sister’s perilous battle position, he calmly analyzed each situation and acted accordingly. I have a hard time believing that such a young, inexperienced young man would be able to outsmart all the Terran and Martian adults combined. This isn’t to say that I don’t think he’s cool, because I most definitely do. I just want a bit more of his humanity to show itself. Then there’s Rayet, the only remaining member of the Martians who assisted in instigating another war. I’m not sure yet what to think of her given her involvement in the attempt on the princess’ life. I can understand that she acted as she did due to her family’s alignment, but I still can’t bring myself to trust someone who grew up among people who are absolutely no different from her and went along with a plan that would slaughter everyone on Earth. No matter her current resolution to take revenge on the Martians who betrayed her family or assistance to the Terrans, I am hoping that Inaho will continue to watch her carefully.

Surprise ingredient: The robots of this series are unlike most others that I have seen in other anime. I admittedly have little exposure to mecha anime, with my interest being very recent and limited to barely one a season, sometimes only every other season. The Martian machines in this anime, whose technology was pulled from the alien ruins found on the moon, look extremely top heavy to me. I’m reminded of bulky body builders, instead of many other mecha who look almost like marathon runners with their leaner builds. I like the change of design, and am hoping that Inaho will get a chance to pilot a machine that can equal those of the Knights of the Vers Empire.

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Tokyo Ghoul (4/12)
I’m happy to see an anime that satisfies a little bit of my horror craving without going overboard into gore. The first episode was probably the most bloody of the episodes so far, but I thought that violent introduction befitting for setting the atmosphere of the overall series. Ghouls aren’t that prevalent in anime that I know, with vampires and zombies being the more popular choice of monster. I actually wasn’t that familiar the supernatural being and thought they were dumb puppets to a more intelligent master, kind of like zombies. The ghouls of Tokyo Ghoul, however, are far from stupid and range from gourmands to binge eaters. Some try to live “human” lives and attend school or maintain business that cater to humans and ghouls alike; others hide in the shadows or attack entire buildings of people.

Kaneki’s unfortunate involvement in the ghoul’s world is helped by his lucky placing with Anteiku’s crew in the 20th ward of Tokyo. He is an anomaly to both worlds, as half-ghouls born from the union of a human and ghoul are already rare enough, much less one created from the organs of a ghoul being transplanted into a normal man. I’m still trying to make sense of the visions and whispers that he experiences whenever he is hungry. Are they the inescapable result of hosting a ghoul’s organs, or are Rize’s parts unique in some way even among her own kind? I’m also reminded of some thoughts shared among recipients of organs that believe transplants bring the original host’s memories and preferences. I want to to meet others like Kaneki to compare situations and abilities.

Surprise ingredient: “Supper” introduced a ghoul’s gourmand circle and their games with prey. I find it interesting that no matter the food, be it vegetables, meats like pig or cattle, or humans, there will be eaters who seek out unique tastes and experiences. I’m curious just exactly how Kaneki’s smell differs from those of pure humans and pure ghouls. For the sake of the show, I guess it wouldn’t be good to allow a portion of him to be eaten to find out how edible he is, but I can’t help being curious!

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Ongoing (3 of 4 are sports anime!):

  • Baby Steps (17/25)
    Maruo is still going strong on his path to playing tennis, and we’ve finally come to the point of him entertaining the notion of going Pro. Like the audience who watched his matches in the Kanagawa Junior Circuit, I can’t help but be fascinated by his approach to the sport. He is the perfect example for how much thought and practice the game requires. I love seeing a sports anime that emphasizes the mental more than the physical, though being in shape is obviously still necessary to make it past a certain level. Maruo has just the right amount of physical persistence and mental fortitude and analysis to make him stand out from other players.
  • Diamond no Ace (40/52)
    We’re into the semi-finals after several episodes with Seidou’s most challenging opponent thus far, Yakushi, with their powerhouse hitters and ace pitcher. The anime didn’t not go the route that I expected it to, with Eijun’s fast ascent to #1. Thankfully, his improvement has been reasonably slow enough to remind both us and him that there is always someone out there better than you. There’s always something new to learn. Seidou has the providence of four skilled pitchers who can be cycled through in each game, as well as their own line of hard hitters and dependable outfielders. I can’t wait to see what other formidable opponents they will face on their fight to the Nationals.
  • Haikyuu!! (17/25)
    Of all the sports anime I’m watching this season, Haikyuu probably hits the most wow factors with its hand-in-hand serious and comedic moments, consistent art style, and solid pacing. Like with the previously discussed shows, this one isn’t rushing the protagonists into stardom. The characters are forced to face their weaknesses so that they can overcome them and add them to their strengths. Hinata and Kageyama are even more entertaining now that they’ve started adding other combos to their standard super quick. It makes sense that despite the appalling speed of the attack, opponents are bound to become accustomed to the move over the course of a game if it is the only method of spiking.
  • Hunter x Hunter (2011) (128/?)
    I halted my viewing of HxH after Komugi’s introduction feeling burned out from the length of the Chimera Ant arc. But after finally reading some tweets regarding its end, I’m finally back with Gon and their attack on Meruem and his guard. Despite the break of several weeks from this show, I was immediately reminded of my discomfort with the change in Gon’s personality. His attitude towards Komugi almost makes me view him as less human than Meruem. I can’t see a happy ending for the two, but can’t help wanting them to reunite one more time.

Backlogged:

  • Psycho-Pass Extended Edition
  • Space Dandy Season 2

15 thoughts on “Summer 2014 Set Menu (really, mid-season thoughts)

  1. I was also appalled by the assault scene in Love Stage, and very much provoked. I completely understand Izumi’s reaction and behaviour, poor guy. But this sort of thing happens in anime on a regular basis, and it is important that we separate the fiction from the real world. If people start thinking it’s ok to go around forcing people into a relationship, that would be no good.

    Personally, I try not to think too much about it and just enjoy the show for what it is, but it makes me glad to see I wasn’t the only one reaction to that scene.

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    • Well that’s just the thing–it really bothers me that force is so common in rom-com anime and that viewers are supposed to think of it as romantic or passionate. It’s good that both you and I know that such conduct is unacceptable, but people can be so easily influenced by what they watch and it’s scary thinking of viewers being used to violence between two supposed romantic leads.

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  2. Gon’s personality hasn’t changed at all. It just got magnified. He was a selfish, stubborn and irresponsible kid who placed a lot of value on bonds. His treatment of Komugi has to do with the fact that she happened to interfere with having his count-down with Pitou. It’s also a reflection of the scene with Nobunaga where he gets angry at him crying over Uvogin while not sparing some pity for their victims. Keep on watching and prepare the handkerchiefs. The arc might have been a long one, but definitely worth everyone’s admiration.

    The Usagi of Sailor Crystal might be less of a cry baby but she’s also more like a doll with her limited expressions and the reduced reactions😦 The same goes for the other soldiers. They’ve been ‘prettied up’ at the expense of tamperament. And ofc the budget sucks and it shows. Although it’s not like the original anime is without flaws, I would highly suggest you spend time with it instead of this new one.

    I’m glad Barakamon and Nozaki-kun showed up this season. They really made it better. Alongside with Zantero. On a side note, Lisa and Akane couldn’t be more different, especially in their demeanor and worldview.

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    • I won’t deny that Gon has always been selfish and stubborn, but I had greater faith in his compassion for innocent lives like Komugi’s. I’ll make sure to avoid watching the rest of the arc on the bus or anywhere else public in case I need a tissue!

      I’ll go ahead and continue watching Crystal, but will definitely remember to watch the original whenever I’m given the opportunity. I had a friend who would have lent me her copies, but they were all dubs and I passed. Now she lives too far away!

      Barakamon, Nozaki-kun, and Zantero are all excellent additions to my summer. I’ve heard that Barakamon pales significantly in the face of its source material, but I’m glad I’m able to enjoy it (and greatly at that!) for what it presents us. For Zantero, my comparison of Lisa to Akane really was just a surface impression. I’m only a couple episodes in, so I wouldn’t take that statement too seriously just yet. I’m watching way more shows this season than previous ones with my boyfriend, and he isn’t quite as fast of a watcher as I am :p

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      • Just so you know, there’s a lot of difference in thoughts on Barakamon. There are quite a few people who think the anime is significantly better than the manga as well. For me, I find the show ok, it’s not super great, but generally stories of struggling artists don’t resonate with me much.

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      • I find the aspect of the struggling artist is actually marginalized by the s’life arrangement of events–this will probably change in the latter part of the anime for a sense of closure, but I don’t find it to be overt at the moment. With such polarized camps for either the manga or the anime, I’m even more curious now about trying out the manga at some point.

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  3. Lots to like, but I’m glad that Baby Steps is still holding up. I’m sure it is unrealistic, but I was have been interested in what the statistical side of tennis was like, since watching Prince of Tennis, in which a character would make some sort of pronouncement, after looking in his notebook. Making such a player the main character gives this show a unique flavor.

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    • I haven’t seen Prince of Tennis, but from the title, I had assumed it was a fluffy, BL-type of show. Well, after looking it up, I couldn’t be more wrong! I’ll definitely give it a try if I ever get the chance to.

      While I was appalled that Ike Souji was so quick to grab Ei-chan’s notebook, I probably would’ve been just as curious as him to look at his notes. I used to be crazy about my own notes for school, and do have some for writing about blog ideas and my daily diet, but the details in Ei-chan’s are just incredible.

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  4. This may be the most divergent our watch lists have been since I’ve been reading you, Marina.🙂
    I’m not watching Zankyou no Terror, Akame ga Kill, Tokyo Ghoul, Tokyo ESP, P4G, Love Stage, Kuroshitsuji, or any of the sports animes. In fact, of that list, I’ve seen one ep of ESP, and 2 of Tokyo Ghoul and I’m done with Ghoul and not really making time to catch up to ESP.

    The shows I’m loving are Glasslip, Rokujouma, and Hanayamata. I’ve been blogging (more like just fawning all over) Glasslip, and to this point, it’s my favorite PA Works show, which says a lot considering how much I love PA Works shows. The director has brought that same unsettled feeling from True Tears, and mixed it with a great ‘show, don’t tell’ style that takes its time and conserves its words. Such long stretches of quiet while people do things, seeing how these kids are dealing with the changes in their lives. I too am worried about Sachi leading Hiro on, because I think that Sachi is pretty much a “Touko or Bust” love interest. I don’t think she’s oblivious to Hiro’s intentions, she’s just being nice to him, and I think he’s going to be in for a harsh reality when she says she’s not interested in him like that.

    Rokujouma is just so much fun. Usually a show that introduces the whole crew (the whole harem, even) in the first episode is just piling everything on, but that first episode worked really well, and each one afterward has worked. I love the way (Rainbow) Yurika, the butt of all the jokes at the beginning, is coming into her own self, with help from Sakuraba-senpai. My other favorite characters in the show are Karama and Koroma, Kiriha’s two Haniwa. I just imagine Ayana Taketatsu and Yuuki Aoi, two VA’s that I think do ok, but I’m not particularly enamored with most of the time, are having tons of fun with those characters, and they’re just comedy gold.

    Hanayamata is also just so lovely to watch. They’re getting all the characters just spot on, although I find too much of Hana is very tiring. I’m most impressed with the addition of Tami to the group, because she’s just fit in where everyone needed her to, instead of being the sheltered hime type that I thought she’d be. She’s the solid support that Naru needs, the moderator for Hana’s hyperactivity, and the quiet force that’s cajoling Yaya closer and closer to the group. Plus, the OP is one of the best in quite a few seasons, the way the animation works so well for the show, and the music is infectious.

    Two shows you’re not watching that I’m enjoying more than is probably warranted are Locodol and Rail Wars! Locodol has an authenticity that works, with two (plus) girls in a pretty small potatoes city just trying to help out by being local celebrities. It’s one you might enjoy. And Rail Wars! has a charm to it that keeps it more interesting than it is on face value. It’s certainly not for everyone, and the pedigree of Masahi Suzuki, who did the series composition as well for Kanokon, Yuushibu, R-15, Shuffle, Sacred Blacksmith, and KissxSis really shows through. It’s pretty male-gazey, and fairly by the book unwarranted harem. And on top of that, new studio Passione! has taken a while to get in the swing of producing a full series, with some pretty severe continuity errors and animation problems in especially the first 3 episodes. But there’s just something about it that makes it interesting to watch, even though the words that come to mind when you’re watching it are a lot of eyerolling “of COURSE it is…”

    Enjoy the season!

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    • Oooh, may I ask why you’re not watching those shows you’ve listed (besides ESP and Ghoul)? I’m surprised about a couple of them, particularly Zantero and Kuroshitsuji.

      I’ve always been a quick fan of PA Works shows, and Glasslip is no exception. You really nail the reason on the head with the “show, don’t tell” description, which is how I expect most of the novels I read and movies I watch to unfold, though they all too rarely do. It’s interesting you bring up True Tears as a comparison, a show I enjoyed at the beginning but lagged through midway and never ended up finishing. I will need to re-watch it sometime!

      I laughed sooo much in the first episode of Rokujouma, and I cheered so hard when Yurika showed us her stuff during the race. I’m really glad I set aside my misgivings and picked up the show, as it’s turning out to be one of my favorite comedies of the season, along with Sabagebu! and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun.

      Hanayamata reminds me a lot of some of my liked idol shows, and the girls feel more real to me as an audience member. It also has some of the best visuals of the summer, along with Glasslip. I can’t wait to see the full team dancing a complete performance sans stumbles and falls! I might give Locodol a try, but I already saw a couple episodes of Rail Wars! and just couldn’t bring myself to be interested in the blah characters and unfunny jokes in a setting that could have been so much cooler. Of all those shows of Masahi Suzuki you listed, I don’t think I liked a single one >< I haven't seen R-15, though, and that premise does sound like something I might watch.

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      • Zantero, there just hasn’t been anything I’ve seen about it that has interested me at all. Kuroshitsuji is more because it’s a continuing property, and I haven’t seen that before. Akame ga Kill is just too much blood for me.

        True Tears is a show that ended well. It’s the end you accept, that you know had to happen, but it still hurts. I don’t know if Glasslip will go the same way, but both shows have the same director.

        Sabagebu breaks some of my usual dislikes: I generally don’t like shows about horrible people acting horribly, but Momoka pulls it off so well. Stuff like that extra kick she gave the gamer guy after knocking him out just make it perfect. Nozaki-kun is a fun show as well, I just have to keep telling myself that Chiyo won’t make any progress with Nozaki.

        I also like Ao Haru Ride, which I think is doing really well with shoujo romance. I know that it’ll get frustrating at some point (they all do, and there are manga readers who seem frustrated with it), I just hope the series ends before it gets there.

        Locodol, kind of strangely, reminds me a lot of Maria-sama ga Miteru. There are shades of the same sort of mutually supportive relationship between Yukari and Nanako as between Sachiko and Yumi.

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