Summer 2014 Season Wrap

This is probably the closest in a while to the end of a season ending that I’ve been able to finish on a timely basis and blog my final thoughts. Nineteen of the shows I’m watching finished up for the summer, with only four continuing on into the fall. The summer was full of its fair share of surprises, from Aldnoah.Zero’s and Zankyou no Terror’s endings to Nozaki-kun’s and Sabagebu!’s brilliant comedy.

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Aldnoah.Zero
Aldnoah.Zero started with a literal bang, and ended with the fulfillment of another bang. It’s almost sad, really, seeing how all the struggle of these episodes to stop the war not only failed, but charged an exorbitant fee that I don’t believe a single viewer anticipated. What smacks even more is the teetering moment where just one character defied all expectations. Slaine was a sympathetic character for much of the season–as a Terran turned servant to the Vers, he seems completely unable to balance his love for Earth’s natural beauty, his loyalty to Asseylum, and his servitude to the Vers Empire. But every time he steps into a ship or wields a gun, I doubt his sanity. Despite his care for the princess, his every action against Inaho and in defense of a man he is fully aware wants to kill Seylum goes against everything Slaine has said to date.

Kudos to this show for handing me the biggest surprise of the season and for flipping off all its viewers amidst glorious head shots. They did take mercy on us, however, by promising a second season. The sequel may not look, smell, or taste anything like the first, but I think there isn’t a single viewer out there who isn’t curious to see just exactly how the opening episode will pan out. Will the focus be on Slaine and his identity struggle? Or will we be treated to a Lazarus story? I’m leaning towards the latter given that killing off the main protagonist is rare in almost any medium, much less one who has received zero backstory–Inaho possessed a mental fortitude and intelligence that even the most experienced of adults lack. I would love to receive some insight into how he became mature so quickly at his young age.

Special ingredient: Part of my concern for the second season is the possible lack of Inaho’s character, the one who entertained me the most in this show for his unbelievable confidence, logic, and maturity. It cracked me up seeing full grown adults, military leaders at that, hanging off his every word and taking orders. While for the most part I thought the idea of someone like him at his age impossible without any signs of guidance or traumatic experience, I still couldn’t help but admire him. That moment while resuscitating Seylum where it’s noted that most others his age would be too immature and careless during CPR training, he instead took it to heart as a necessary life and death skill.

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Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus
I spoke at length about Circus in the previous blog post, focusing on the setting and Noah’s Ark’s central figures. My fears/desire at the end regarding the direction of Ciel’s investigation came true, with not an ounce of mercy being given to Joker and his friends. True to this franchise’s style, death and humor ran hand-in-hand, with a lovely appearance by Reaper Grell Sutcliffe–an oddity that fans will enjoy but whom newcomers might find confusing. Other slightly out-of-place appearances include Elizabeth, Soma, and Agni.

The blend of horror, mystery, and comedy shines once again, and I hope this will not be the last we see in the series. As popular as this show seems to be among American fans, I haven’t actually seen  too many reviews about it via blogs or tweets. I’m not sure why it isn’t discussed given its popularity and quality. Regardless, I will continue hoping for further installments and decadent displays of British foods.

Special ingredient: The deaths of the troupe at the Phantomhive mansion were beautifully brought to life on the screen. I particularly liked the lack of Sebastian–we were treated instead to each of the servant’s specialties. And true to my nature, I loved the kitchen scene between Beast and Bardroy.

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Sabagebu!
This show was in the top tier of comedy this season, and included the funniest character of the summer, period. Sonokawa Momoka didn’t seem like much to me at the start, what with her attitude towards the new school. But she quickly became my favorite with her cruel honesty and survival-of-the-fittest mentality. I could always count on her to look after herself first. No friend was exempt from use as a shield in the line of fire, not even her own mother!

And while the narrator was at times overly present, the repeated reminder that the realistically violent scenes were all imagination still cracked me up. Unlike Stella Jogakuin, Sabagebu! embraced the crazies full on and made no excuses for its demented characters. Along with Momoka, I couldn’t get enough of Platy and the late arrival of the crab. I know if I had been in that hot spring, I would have hands down eaten him. So, thank you, Sabagebu!, for airing this season and gracing us with your insanity.

Special ingredient: Growing up in Alaska meant I experienced the great outdoors more readily than most others I have met outside. Wildlife and wilderness were mere steps away, and usually entailed more than the Ten Essentials. A common 11th essential was a form of defense–usually a gun–against predators like bears and wolves. I can still remember hiking trails behind my dad and seeing the gun strapped to his hip. I think I was eight or nine when I held my first gun, a pellet gun that I thought looked as intimidating as a rifle. Never point it at someone, even if it’s unloaded. Never shoot while someone is walking down the range. Hold it like so, with this grip, at this height. Until I demonstrated confidence in one particular gun, my dad was always at my side ready to take control. I wish people were more comfortable about gun safety and education, starting with ones appropriate to the size and age of the shooter. Next time I meet my blogger/Twitter friends, we should each bring an airsoft gun and duke it out.

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Love Stage!!
My smutty, slight-BL interest found partial satisfaction in Love Stage!!, a mediocre romance and subpar comedy featuring the feminine Izumi and the impatient Ryouma. Probably my biggest complaint about this show is the lack of any attractive personality trait in its main character, Sena Izumi. Yes, he’s pretty and delicate enough to be mistaken for a beautiful young girl, but that’s where the attraction ends. He’s a terrible drawer who won’t face the reality of his skills, exceedingly lazy in the household and everywhere else we see him, ungrateful for the family who continues to provide for him, and an overall brat. BRAT. Granted, Ryouma’s personality isn’t the greatest, but he has repeatedly displayed his graciousness and patience. There’s nothing beyond physical chemistry here.

Special ingredient: Meager praise can be given to this show for not meeting my expectation regarding side character and friend, Kuroi. I expected that he’d become a rival for Izumi’s love and reveal his long-time feelings fairly early on. This didn’t happen, and he proved himself an invaluable friend who again I don’t believe would actually like the annoying Izumi.

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Baby Steps
Who knew I would became a tennis fan these past two seasons? Maruo’s growth from novice to a player looking to go pro took much larger steps than those of a baby, but I still found the progress believable given his personality. He also had the fortune of the reputable STC being nearby and employing a wonderful coach like Miura. Talent and self-discipline are important, but access to good teachers and competition are invaluable to improvement. I also really like that this sports anime doesn’t center on a school club or team, but instead takes it outside to the community and the bigger stages of the various levels of tournaments. The wide range of ages and the setting made it much easier to focus on the main character and the sport he is trying so hard to master.

There better be a second season to this show, given how this show really pushed towards the various competitions, with Maruo deciding fairly late in the season what he wanted his future path to be. I’d also like to see him seriously head-to-head with Takuma. I don’t know how far along the manga is, if it’s finished or not, but I’m hoping it won’t be too long until a sequel is announced.

Special ingredient: You can probably tell that I really liked the characterization in this show, particularly that of Maruo. I find his drive and attention to detail attractive (don’t worry, KWoo–I love those aspects in you, too!) and am not surprised in the slightest that one of the prettiest girls in the school, not to mention a talented tennis player, likes him. In a way, Maruo and Natsu remind me of the couple from Bakuman. They encourage one another in some of the best ways possible. They comfort when necessary, then push at just the right moment. Natsu’s directness and determination are also attractive, so I was happy to see their friendship strengthen over the season.

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Haikyuu!!
The other two-cours sports anime that finished this summer, Haikyuu!! made me enjoy another sport I don’t really have an interest in in my daily life. Even more strange to me was the male team, since all the volleyball games I remember from junior high and high school consisted of all-girl teams. I don’t know if volleyball is legitimately popular among boys in Japan, but it was cool seeing their power and aggression in play in this show. I imagine it’s much like my interest in soccer growing up–guy games were typically faster-paced and more impressive to watch. That isn’t to say that I don’t respect and enjoy girl teams, however! I actually am wishing for a special few episodes to feature the Karasuno girl’s team since their time in the season was so short. I’m glad that they didn’t feature more in these 25 episodes because it probably would have broken up the flow of the arcs too much.

Haikyuu!! is a very different animal than Baby Steps, and boasts prettier visuals. Unlike the note-addicted Maruo, the main character here has a one-track mind bent on flying high on the court. And even though the show portrays various players as intellectual and strategic, I never felt an equal amount of mind as in Baby Steps. Haikyuu!! is almost all body, albeit a fantastic looking one that smells good, too. Again, I anticipate a sequel where Karasuno makes it to the finals and seizes the victory.

Special ingredient: I always appreciate shows where the rivals are given plenty of backstory and become more understandable and relatable through the process. Such is the case here, with most of the rivals stemming from Kageyama’s past and the third-years’ past games. I would love to see Kageyama go head-to-head again with Oikawa, as well as see Hinata go up against Kenma in a tournament game.

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Ao Haru Ride
I actually didn’t recognize this title at first when I picked up the anime, but later realized that I had read almost halfway through the currently read manga a long, long time ago. I caught up to chapter 44 of the manga shortly after finishing this anime, so am hoping that the second season will air fairly soon. The last couple of episodes already pointed us in the correct direction with the barely-there introduction of Touma. I’m one of those shoujo fans who almost always prefers the “other” guy, the nice guy who often is the best friend of the main male lead. The case rings true here, as well, and I’m excited to see Touma take his place on the screen.

Ao Haru Ride was arguably the romance of the season, where time and time again viewers are left to clench their fists and sigh in annoyance at the lack of progress between Futaba and Kou. Kou’s hot and cold attitude are typical of these types of shows, but his distance has much more credibility in the face of his parents’ divorce and mother’s death. And while some might argue that the drama was played up much more than would be realistic, I argue that children are apt to blame themselves for the bad things that happen around them. I could also believe the shame he felt towards his brother and father. Now that he’s leaped the hurdle of his guilt with Futaba’s help, I can’t wait to see him fess up to his feelings for her.

Special ingredient: While the formation of their circle of friends was easy to see from a mile away (you just had to sit through the credits), I still enjoyed their honest interactions with one another. Their genuine care and concern for one another was a refreshing change from some of my other liked romances where the jealousy between girlfriends gets to ridiculous levels of pettiness. Yuuri and Futaba are bigger people than that, and I only wish I had a girlfriend as close as they are to one another despite their short time together.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
While AHR was the traditional shoujo romance of the summer, Nozaki-kun probably surprised most of us with its spin on the genre. This show tied in romance and comedy this season, delighting with each episode from beginning to end. I’m a sucker for troll characters like Sabagebu!’s Momoka, Nichijou’s Mai, and Nozaki-kun‘s many members. The beauty of this anime is that Seo, Kashima, Nozaki-kun, and Maeno are all unintentional trolls–so I guess in that sense they aren’t true trolls, but just utterly oblivious of the havoc they wreck on those around them. That final scene between Nozaki and Sakura beneath the fireworks was a perfect way to end the season.

Along with its characters, Nozaki-kun also excelled in analyzing the shoujo romance in all its wonderful silliness. I’m a sucker for the genre, and still couldn’t help but laugh at all of Nozaki’s assistants’ views regarding the characters, art, and scenarios. I wish I was as devoted as they are in gathering reference material on a daily basis at school and elsewhere. I almost view Nozaki’s obsession with photo taking and notes as a type of genius that gives proof for how he’s so successful at his young age.

Special ingredient: Gender reversal, hooray! There’s a lot of play in this anime with gender roles and expectations, with Seo, Kashima, and Mikorin being the star cast. Seo is mannish in her mannerisms, stomping around like a jungle beast. I absolutely love her bluntness. Then there’s Kashima, who is the perfect portrait of a bro. She just needs to work on that reliability! And Mikorin, oh Mikorin. You will forever be Mamiko in my heart. Keep on blushing over your ridiculous pick-up lines!

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Hanayamata
Axe the idols; bring on the yosakoi! Hanayamata was a refreshing change from what seems to have become a bit of a seasonal norm of high school idol anime. Instead of girls prancing around in modern dress to pop music, we now have those same kind of girls in a modern take on traditional wear with naruko and a rendition of the original song. I love the history behind this dance and the blend of past and present. The costume, music, and people involved all portray old reborn as something new and exciting. I’m glad I could see high school teams performing alongside community groups, college clubs, and others.

This bridging isn’t just generational, but also cultural with the inclusion of Hana’s character. And though her nationality didn’t direct the show, it did set into motion events that could easily never have occurred. If not for her outsider’s passion for the art, I could easily see the Japanese high school students overlooking and even being embarrassed by the very idea of the club.

Special ingredient: Naru’s logo for the Yosakoi Club was elegantly drawn, and I loved how she drew in the fifth flower with the inclusion of Machi to the team. Each of the five flowers represents the five club members. They also correspond with the hair ornaments, outfit colors, and naruko. I like to imagine that this club survives even after all the members graduate and keeps the original logo.

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Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei!
I never thought I’d get as drawn in as I did to this franchise, which I originally only viewed as a spoof of the main story line. But the more I watched it, particularly Rin and Luvia’s characters, I started to prefer this loli magical girl rendition to the 2006 anime. This is the second season, but hey, they’ve already set it up for more! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the girls and the announcement of the mysterious eighth card (not of the standard Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Caster, Berserker, and Assassin). Fans of the franchise probably have an idea of what this irregular class might be, but I’m not familiar enough to have a guess.

Unlike the first season which focused more on the gathering of the cards and the bond between Illya and Miyu, this sequel introduces Kuro–an Illya look-a-like with obvious Archer characteristics. I’m still a bit puzzled by her existence and would greatly appreciate any experts in the franchise to elaborate upon Kuro’s manifestation and appearance. At first, I just saw her as a materialization of Illya’s continual use of the cards, but then Irisviel’s explanation threw that notion to the wind. Whatever the case, I didn’t warm up to her character  until after all the drama about her desires and reason for living. She just chewed up valuable screen time that could’ve been focused on the greatness that is the Rin-Luvia pairing.

Special ingredient: Kudos to Morzas for his like adoration for Rin and Luvia, who are hands down the best characters of this series. Their bickering and lordly laughter were guaranteed to have me giggling and mimicking the ojou-sama laugh and hand motions. It’s a shame that the Kaleidosticks chose to escape to Miyu and Illya, though completely understandable, but I would love to see these two donning the magical girl outfits regularly and demonstrating their very un-magical girl attitudes.

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Glasslip
Oh, P.A. Works, why must you fail me? I’ve gotten so relaxed recently with the list of shows they have put out over the past years, that I forgot about True Tears. The majority of their works haven’t been masterpieces, but I can always count on them to present excellent visual quality, lovable characters, and memorable scenery. Unfortunately, the story did not choose to present itself this season with Glasslip, reminding me why I had dropped True Tears. I kept holding on and hoping that answers would be given regarding Touko and Kakeru’s strange abilities, but we were instead inundated with relationship drama, hallucinations, and chickens.

If this show was strictly about teenage relationships and the tenuous stance between friendship and more-than-friendship, or chose to go with the supernatural and Touko and Kakeru’s destined pairing, I would’ve been somewhat placated. Instead, Glasslip attempts to tackle both with mediocre results. The step-sibling love card is thrown down, along with best girlfriends love and fated love. Way. Too. Much. Drama. And then, randomly, we have bland Kakeru and his imaginary replications of himself to give him advice. What was the point of this show, again? Go ahead and read Highway’s post!

Special ingredient: Like I mentioned before, P.A. Works never balks when it comes to the visuals. Again, we are presented with gorgeous art and animation, with attention paid to the littlest details of table shapes and dead grass (thanks, Highway). I wish we could’ve spent more time on the glass art and piano playing, but it is what it is.

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Free!: Eternal Summer
Eternal Summer went beyond its title to give us a season much more dramatic than the first, and I don’t expect any future series other than specials to be aired in the future. My applause goes to the progress that the characters were able to make in terms of their future goals. Haru always worried me with his echoing cry of, “Free, free,” so seeing the others confront her was intensely satisfying. As much as I can sympathize with his lack of direction at his age, I still found it maddening how adamant he was about avoiding addressing his future. Scouts and scholarships only come around so often, and Haruka could have easily blown his only chances.

Not just Haruka received drama time, but also each of the other Iwatobi members, as well as Rin’s team and friends. As obvious as the arcs were, I appreciated the time spent on each person. Probably my favorite development was seeing Makoto discover his love for teaching. He has always had the mothering hen personality of the group, and instructing children in swimming feels like the natural course. I remember when I learned how to swim; the backstrock was my favorite by far for the very same reasons as Makoto and Hayato. Your face wasn’t submerged in water and you could imagine yourself flying as you gazed at the sky.

Special ingredient: Gou continued to be the perfect comic relief for a show swimming in rippling muscles. Her concern with the team’s diet, while perfectly valid, had me cracking up in lieu of her horrific ingredients and flavors. Strawberry-flavored curry? Check. Chocolate-flavored onigiri? Check. How in the world her brother was able to survive around his sister’s cooking is beyond me, but he has my full respect for making it to adulthood despite Gou’s poisonous onslaught.

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Barakamon
I feel a bit like “sensei” in that I was skeptical about the setting of Gotou Island. I loved the idea of the series revolving around calligraphy and a floundering man in search for his own style, but was initially annoyed at the children, particularly Naru, who repeatedly bombarded the artist in his residence. But, like Handa-sensei, I warmed up to the rambunctious characters and began to look forward to the next encounter and lesson. I agree with Enzo in that the set up became very routine in formula for the most part: random village activity, exasperation, story and lesson, artistic inspiration. I didn’t mind the predictable structure in the slightest given my unfamiliarity with the source material and love for slow-paced shows like this, but I was still happy when events at the end pushed us and Handa towards resolution.

In a way, my experience moving from Alaska to Washington feels almost opposite to Handa’s move from Tokyo to Gotou Island. There’s almost a cultural shock in the scenery and people, and I loved seeing Handa’s immersion in rural life. Times slows down the further away you are from the city, or at least flows slower and quicker with completely different priorities. I’m not sure this makes sense to anyone who hasn’t traveled to such different settings, but the calligraphy artist’s disbelief at the lack of technology and convenience was completely believable.

Special ingredient: I was both surprised and happy to see a work like this brought to life on the screen, since I don’t know many people with an interest in the art of calligraphy here in America. Our instruction and interest in it has faded considerably in comparison to the East, and there are plenty of schools that no longer teach cursive to young students. I think that’s a shame. There’s a precision to penmanship that teaches us beauty and patience in a way that I don’t think print or typing can hope to mimic. Obviously Japanese calligraphy and English calligraphy hail from very different cultures, but I hope that in Japan, at least, the passion for the written word lives strong.

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Tokyo Ghoul
There better be a second season to this gruesome story, because getting the satisfaction of Kaneki’s full transformation in the very last episode was not enough. Tokyo Ghoul played up the agony to the extreme, forcing its viewers and characters to suffer through Kaneki’s indecision and inaction. The penultimate episode, in particular, had me almost hating him for his refusal to just accept the darkness within him. The amount of time devoted to his torture has me wondering if the director has some kind of gore fetish. I’m not usually easily turned away from violence in anime, but the length and description had me wishing to step and away and skip the entire scene.

The very nature of this series and its characters would make the blood and guts obvious; we have ghouls who for the most part look human eating humans. Many of them exhibit extreme vorarephilia, sexual arousal out of eating or being eaten. There are ghouls known as “gourmets” or “binge eaters”–either being particular about what they eat, or gorging themselves on more than is needed to survive. But I found the levels bearable for the majority of the season, and was more pissed at Ryouko’s meaningless death than sympathetic for Hinami’s feelings. That anger surfaced again at the end as Kaneki watched Jason torture and kill the ghouls who had aimed to help him escape. The amount of time and deaths it took for Kaneki to resolve his stance was too much, and his change at the end too sudden and short.

Special ingredient: As much as I despised Tsukiyama’s actions against Nishio, I also appreciated his inclusion in the cast as the “gourmet.” It makes perfect sense to me that while humans have self-proclaimed foodies and professional reviewers, that ghouls, too, would pursue the most unique and delicious of varieties of human. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Tsukiyama even had a blog for his bloody acquisitions!

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Persona 4 The Golden Animation
Well, this certainly wasn’t what I expected. After the first several episodes, even up to the half-way point, I thought that Golden was just going to be a comical re-take on the original events of Persona 4 The Animation, like Fumoffu! was for FMP. And, I would have been happy with that. Instead of remaining true to the lighthearted nature of the first half, Golden dived further into Marie’s memory loss and identity. I felt like I was being dragged through the fog, and that any explanations given were half-assed attempts at mystifying her otherwise shallow character. Visually, Marie is a delight with her newsboy cap and striped leggings. Personality-wise, she’s about as fun to hang out with as sitting at the DMV.

So let’s rewind and go back to the parts of Golden that I did like. Pretty much all those scenes where the main cast remembers doing activities but can’t remember Marie would have worked just as well if she had not been there. Based off their personalities alone, I can believe that they would go clothes shopping (the hilarious scooter scene didn’t even require Marie at all), play at the beach, take part in a trivia game, play as a band, and spend Christmas Eve together. I even appreciated the elaboration on Adachi’s background and point-of-view, since the original didn’t give any insight into why he acted the way he did.

Special ingredient: The whole Christmas Eve ordeal had me remembering why I loved these characters from the original. The interactions between Chie, Yukiko, and Rise as girls vying for Yuu’s affections were perfectly balanced with Naoto’s paranoia and the guys’ fears of the girls’ cooking. I am more than happy to watch more episodes of their antics and don’t need a bonus characters to reel me in.

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Tokyo ESP
X-Men turned anime, then toss in biblical origins, and you’ve got Tokyo ESP. I was intrigued with this anime with the adrenaline-pumped start, then we were thrown into a flashback and lasted almost the entirety of the season. I kept asking myself when we would catch up with the present, and why everyone was so fixated on Rinka with her not-so-cool phasing skill. I would’ve rather followed Azuma given his connection to Rindou and Rinka. Despite her relatively tame skill, Rinka does play up a somewhat believable fighting level, with the majority of her skills coming from her hand-to-hand combat lessons from her father and his instructor. When she goes up against espers much stronger than her, it doesn’t take much for them to pummel her unconscious.

As the show progressed, my concern grew. The cast list just became longer, along with the plot directions and loose ends. I had a constant feeling that we were about to transition elsewhere, be that back to the present given in the first episode, or on to another complication. And then the reveal at the end regarding the source of the glowing fish had me finally giving up on any hope for sense or resolution in this show. Why is it fish from the ten commandments that give people super powers? It wasn’t until the new testament of the Bible, I believe, that the whole fish symbolism took root, and Peggy’s place in all of this became even more nonsensical. I’m not sure how to feel about the ending with the guarantee that Tokyo will soon become a city of espers, but perhaps a sequel will be on the horizon.

Special ingredient: Murasaki’s character and ability (psychometry) crack me up, and I love that her and Peggy are so close. Who knew that she’d be able to actually get her hands on nunchaku previously used by Bruce Lee? As short-lived as her stamina is, I think having this power would be a ton of fun.

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Majimoji Rurumo
This was a bit of a last minute addition with KWoo’s prompting, and I begrudgingly admit that I laughed my share this season because of it. Rurumo knowingly played up the magical girl fallen from the sky scenario, and I thought it did so fairly well! There’s an old-school feel to the anime with its visuals and ecchi slapstick humor that I can’t help but smile at when executed well. Kouta may be a well known pervert, but at least you can rest assured that you’re in no real danger around him. He reminds me of a dirty old man, and his temporary transformation into a wolf in one of the episodes also fit his personality well. I was even swayed by his decision at the end to save up money for Rurumo’s kimono, which not only made her happy but treated him to some fan service.

I’m not sure if a sequel is in discussion or not, but there’s certainly room for continuation given the open ending and the number of magical tickets remaining. I can see Rurumo’s discovery of the dark result of Kouta using up all the tickets being a major turning point in another season. Despite enjoying her life on Earth as a human, I think she also really enjoys being a witch and wouldn’t truly be satisfied without becoming an official mage. There will likely come a day where Kouta will be in a situation so dire that nothing but the complete use of the remaining tickets will save the day.

Special ingredients: There were a couple of areas of this show I appreciated, namely the magic cat, Chiro, and the Mysterious Discovery Club. Chiro’s snarky personality and not-so-smart observations made her my hands-down favorite character. Even when transformed into a human, she retained her cat-like behavior. The Mysterious Discovery Club’s unknown successes were some of the funniest moments in the anime–I couldn’t tell if I was feeling sorry or wanting to laugh at their repeated attempts to catch mysteries in real life, only to be thwarted by other characters stumbling across them first.

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Zankyou no Terror
This season’s noitaminA show started out great, but petered off quickly before tossing in a beautifully scripted final episode for a last hurrah. I applaud the story for what it was trying to convey, but cannot ignore the many details that bogged down the show. There are too many places where the actions of characters don’t make sense, and both females seemed more like unnecessary inserts than anyone meaningful. I wish we could’ve seen more play between Nine and Twelve with Shibazaki. I wish the Americans weren’t so black and white the bad guys. I wish Five’s character didn’t exist (why did she kill herself, again?). I wish Nine and Twelve weren’t so blind to the probable deaths of their supposed “death-less” acts of terrorism. I have all these candles and wishes on the cake, so many that what we end up with is a melted and burned concoction of what could have been something truly unique.

Another odd side-effect to this show was how easily it slipped off the mind. I’d be listing off the shows I still needed to catch up on for the week, and ZnT never topped the list. More often than not, I either forgot it, or felt no desire to watch it. But once I did start watching an episode, I would get wrapped up in the suspense–particularly whenever Shibazaki was on the screen.

Special ingredient: Props to the music used for the soundtrack! The quality and style comes as no surprise since we’re talking about Yoko Kanno. But if I were to recommend anything, I’d say skip the show, but get the soundtrack!

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Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?
D’awwwwwww, aren’t they so cute with their matching scarves? The last show I finished this year, and another one on my list that easily slipped my mind, Rokujouma still delighted with a few key characters–namely magical girl Yurika and Earth clan Kiriha with her clay dolls Korama and Karama. Even the landlady, Shizuka, has her golden moments. Unfortunately, their greatness was watered down by the annoying crybaby Theia and everyone’s forgotten claim on Corona House’s Apartment 106. We were treated to another formulaic structure, centering on the back stories of each of the invaders. I don’t actually mind the predictability of the direction, but I do wish that the invasion wasn’t tossed aside without a mention in favor of their growing love and friendship for each other. There’s plenty of that already in Yurika’s character! I was reminded a bit of Squid Girl and her invasion on land dwellers, but at least in her case she stayed strong to her cause for the majority of both seasons.

Special ingredient: Nothing in this anime had me smiling as widely and completely as Yurika’s final reveal as a colorful magical girl of good. I never doubted from the start her identity. The other characters and the writer continued to bash her abilities, either by mislabeling her as a cosplayer, or overwriting her magic with other explanations for the miracles that took place. Yurika, I believe in you! Stay strong!

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Ongoing:

  • Akame ga Kill!
    This two-cour continues on into the fall, and I’m extremely glad they didn’t chop it short to fit in one season, or drop us on a cliffhanger for an unknown amount of waiting till the next sequel. The fight of the Night Raid continues on, with some new faces and teigu. I’m looking at Lubbock to be the next to go down on the team as he’s being inconsequential thus far.
  • Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Crystal
    I hate to say it, but is this really the show that garnered the adoration of an entire generation? I’m hanging in there hoping for some…complications? Depth? I don’t know what I really expect, but it certainly wasn’t this fast-paced, same-ol’, same-ol’ routine of baddies and triumphing guardians. I never really watched the original show so can’t compare, but I am not impressed. I’m sticking to it for now out of a sense of obligation to understand why it’s a classic, and the bi-monthly episodes does help since I can save it for a slow week without falling behind.
  • Diamond no Ace
    The baseball season continues on and I haven’t even burned out just yet. I find it fascinating that the self-entitled show, Ace of the Diamond, doesn’t actually focus on any one character. Sawamura may be the official protagonist of the show, but the anime feels very much like a team effort. There’s no clear cut ace on Seidou, and the recent arc has demonstrated just how much hard work the current team had to put in to become the competent players that they are today. Azuma’s reflection on the third years when they were freshman gave me quite a bit of hope for Sawamura’s potential over the next couple of years.
  • Sword Art Online II
    SAO II feels like a completely different beast than the first season, and that’s a good thing. It feels like we’ve harkened back to the atmosphere originally built during that memorable first episode from the first season. The fear of a permanent death instigated in-game feels real until Kirito blows the lid off the secrecy behind how Death Gun is able to act out his executions. And I would’ve had no real complaints about the truth if not for the real life connection to Sinon. Jealousy I can understand. Obsession, too. But one of the villains being her only real life friend, Kyouji, just seems too convenient. Regardless, I’m glad to see this arc end and am curious what the second cour will bring us.

Backlogged

  • Space Dandy 2
    I haven’t finished the first season yet!!!
  • Hunter x Hunter (2011)
    We’re 20 episodes behind, but with the show finally having finished airing at 148, I’m hoping to not push this one off much longer.

10 thoughts on “Summer 2014 Season Wrap

  1. Nozaki-kun was great, with Mikorin and ‘Lorelei’ being my favs. I really appreciated the comedy that comes around when the characters consider manga and dating sims as real life advisors. It shows the idiocy of the act and reminds anime fans that despite being invested in certain stories, you can’t hold fiction accountable for the nonsense you do in RL. And to think that I didn’t have it on my watching list at first because the premise appeared typical shoujo… I’m very glad I decided to follow it.

    Barakamon was another surprise. I had it in my mind as a pick but was very reserved as to what to expect. One of my pet peeves is the idealization of the countryside. Cities might not be the healthiest places to live in, both emotionally and physically, but the sheer amount of options you have and the freedom to live the way you want to are priceless. I stayed one week in a village once, almost literally away of anything resembling civilization (no radio, no tv except in one of the restaurants there) and the book I had brought with me was my sanity savior. And yet I came to like Barakamon a lot. Despite portraying the island as the best place to live, it didn’t do so while trash-talking cities and I think it was framed pretty well as a choice that fit Sensei in particular and not everyone (btw I wanted to punch his mother so hard!).

    I agree with you on Zankyou no Terror. Every female character on the show was so -negatively- stereotypicallyportrayed. The soundtrack is on constant repeat. And yet, here I am some weeks after this series’ ending always checking on new fanart, still holding dear all my dear babies and OT3 9x12xLisa. I thought the loss of Hunter x Hunter would hurt more but I was wrong and I dunno what to make of my stupid feelings.

    Talking about Hunter x Hunter, come on, finish it already so that we can cry about it togetther😉

    About your comment on Sabagebu -which I didn’t watch- I have to say that although I agree that gun safety is important, your background was the one that deemed the possession of a gun necessary. I disagree with the idea about gun safety FOR ALL. Guns aren’t like sex. They aren’t a physical need. The best gun safety is no guns for the majority of the population, especially if we take in mind all these bloody massacres in schools and the recent tragedy with the 7-year old who killed someone with an Uzi.

    As for Sailor Moon… it’s one of these classics that really held meaning mostly for their era, but otherwise don’t stand the critique with the raised criteria we now have for storytelling, plot etc.Back then the girl power it presented was almost revolutionary; not only was it very pretty way in what is perceived as really girly (transformations, compacts, painted nails, mini skirts) but also had girls embracing things considered quite masculine then, like actual physical combat in the case of Makoto and like racing cars in the case of Haruka, without any shaming or implied contradiction. Additionally it featured the first canon serious lesbian couple in a mainstream anime, with many other genderqueer characters (see: Fish Eye or even the Sailor Starlights). That talked deeply to queer kids. I will also have to let you know that this latest adaptation is too flashy while eradicating the great emotions expressed cartoony expressions. The older series may be lengthy, full of fillers, but is much better in many aspects. I probably will attempt a rewatch. I’ll let you know if you can skip some episodes.

    P.S.1: Every time I read your round up I get a sense of guilt mixed with jealousy -why am I not able to watch so many shows? How much do I lose when I can only manage watching fewer even though I bet you’re busier than me? I admire you for being so dedicated to anime.

    P.S.2: Would you be interested in participating in the latest blog carnival I initiated about anime/manga that changed our worldview?

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    • Siiiiiigh, if only Lorelei could have had her big reveal to Wakamatsu, then their love could be realized! :p But yes, I, too, expected it to be a standard romance and that first scene between Chihiro and Nozaki instantly proved to me that this was going to be awesomely NOT standard shoujo.

      You know, it’s funny that you point out how anime tends to portray villages as ideal scenes…or in my experience, as settings for some paranoia and horror. But I agree with you that it’s really Sensei’s personality that makes the location perfect for him, not so much that the village itself is meant for everyone.

      As much as I love Emily’s writing and her coverage of Zankyou no Terror, I couldn’t really get on board with the show. And I didn’t even think about the soundtrack–but you are absolutely right!

      (Cut me some slack on the HxH–that Chimera Ant arc reaaaaaaaally burned me out for a bit)

      And it’s interesting that you point out the 7-year-old girl with the Uzi. I almost dedicated a post to Sabagebu! referencing that incident and a couple others, but that’s exactly a situation where she was handed a gun way out of her age range and capability. If she was truly interested in shooting, they should have kept her to ones fitted to her size and strength. But I concede that there are certainly places where gun knowledge is more appropriate than others. In Alaska where I grew up, it was almost a necessity. Now that I live in Seattle, I don’t see much of a need for it anymore, other than as recreation.

      ONE DAY I will watch the original Sailor Moon. I regret a bit not taking up my friend’s offer back in college to borrow her DVDs and watch it, but I just could not get past the English voice acting. I appreciate that you’re willing to take the time to maybe someday fill me in on your rewatch and on which episodes can be skipped.

      –I commute an hour each way to work every weekday. That’s two hours worth of anime I can easily watch. Then I have my work lunch where I have another hour. I don’t always fill that time with anime, but it certainly helps me keep up with the week’s pile!

      –Yes, yes I would be interested! I’ve started a draft on my influential anime and will hopefully finish it soon.

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      • Probably you have Shiki and Blood C in mind and you’re right. I just not watch this genre so I forgot about it. I had in mind the first installment of the josei shorts, Otona Joshi was it?

        I somehow missed that Sagagebu post when you posted it. Sorry:/

        NO, no need to do that to yourself. Why watch dub when you can have subs? *thinking about squicky cartoony voices* *horrified*

        Thanks for participating in the blog carnival!😀

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      • Oh no no no, you didn’t miss a Sabagebu! post. I aaaaalmost wrote one, but didn’t get it out before the season ended. I ended up just merging those thoughts into this season wrap🙂

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  2. Wow, Marina, thanks for the referral. Yeah, I truly loved Glasslip, it was a wonderful experience for me. And as I said lot during the season, I also liked True Tears (probably more in retrospect, even). Also, thanks for not just dismissing the show, even if it wasn’t your thing.

    Of the other shows, I really loved Ao Haru Ride. I’m the kind of person who likes the first couple, generally, and wants that interloper pairing to go away. So I really liked that they focused the whole season on Kou and Futaba, but also thought it was great that it wasn’t about Kou and Futaba almost getting together, then something pushing them apart, then almost getting together, then pushed apart, then almost together… That really tweaks me in a lot of shoujo. I also thought Yuuri was adorable, and the way that Yuuri and Futaba’s friendship, borne of their frustrations and experience with other friendships, really had a solid foundation that is so far able to withstand their being in love with the same person.

    And then my next favorite was Rokujouma. It knocked me off my feet in the first episode by introducing everyone, but in such a way that it was a welcome overload. And then they did a great thing: They took a harem setup and pulled it back a lot. They had everyone become fast friends. They’re not all after Koutarou. They’re not even all after Room 106 anymore. They’re there to have fun and protect their friends. My favorites were Kiriha early and then Yurika just stole the show later on. I still like Kiriha (and Karama and Korama), but I think that Yurika, toiling in obscurity, always being the MVP of the fight but never getting credit, always taking the crappy job (she did get an upgrade from horse to dragon, tho!), and becoming a great friend for everyone, really was a great character. And I think all the inexperienced VA’s for the girls did well too, in the first credited role for most of them.

    Sabagebu! was great, I usually don’t like characters that are jerks, but it pulled it off so well. Nozaki-kun was a lot of fun because I realized early on that Chiyo had no chance with the show the way it is, so I didn’t get upset about that. Hanayamata was really nice and cute, but kind of annoyed me with their dime store melodramatic plots and the cheaping out on the yosakoi dancing (here’s the big finish… and it’s all the same cuts you’ve watched all season in the OP). Another show I really enjoyed was [LOCODOL], which brought heart and amusement for a show that was a fun watch.

    Rurumo, Free, Rail Wars!, Barakamon, and Captain Earth were all ok for me. Same with Mahouka. Aldnoah Zero really ticked me off with that ending. I thought it was utterly stupid, and completely in line with the Gen Urobuchi / Katsuhiko Takayama penchant for putting in “OMG THIS IS GONNA BE AWESOME! Aren’t you shocked???” stuff that just ruins the whole plot. And for just bad shows that I watched, Momo Kyun Sword and SeireiTsukai no Blade Dance. Bad but somewhat amusing to pass time.

    So some shows that I really, really enjoyed, some that were nice, and some that just let me down.

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    • I really find it difficult with my schedule to find time for reading up on other blogs, despite wanting to! I think it’s imperative for bloggers to regularly read and comment on other blogs. I’m more than happy to refer to your posts when the moments arise🙂 In this case, your view on Glasslip proved the worth of the show’s existence for me.

      Yuuri’s and Futaba’s friendship is the type of friendship I only wish I could have with another girl. It’s not often in shoujo anime, or in real life for that matter, that I see such a selfless pair. And like you, I’m happy that this particular anime didn’t go the path of so many shoujo romance before it, opting to avoid the dramatic getting together, then distancing, then reconciling. There was a bit of it emotionally, but no where near the level that I’m used to. Have you read the manga? Knowing what’s coming up should a second season air, I think you might not be so happy with a sequel.

      I didn’t realize that most of the VAs for Rokujouma were beginners. That’s pretty great! I wouldn’t be surprised if Yurika turns out to be the most popular of all the girls and ends up with the most fanart and products. I imagine she might even get nominated for ISML, but I suck at predicting those kinds of nominations.

      Somehow I’ve completely missed this [LOCODOL]. Were they full-length 25-30-minute episodes? I admittedly like most idol shows I’ve seen, so I might backlog this if it’s not one of those shorts.

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      • LOCODOL (Futsuu no Joshikousei wa [LOCODOL] Yatte Mita, or “Normal High School Girls Try being Local Idols”) is a full-length series, and is probably more of a local slice of life than an idol show. There are two locodols, Yukari and Nanako, and two other girls who are trading spots in the mascot suit. It’s very good in that the girls who are locodols are completely aware of what they are (in some cases a little bit too resigned to it), and they’re not trying to get super famous and screwing over the town. They want to help the town as much as possible, because that’s what they’re doing. I’d recommend it for a nice show to watch.

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      • Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the next parts in the Aoharaido manga the same way. I’m not particularly stuck on Kou and Futaba, but would be more annoyed if the story turned into an annoying back and forth as mentioned. Either way, I think I’d rather have a second series than not.

        Yeah, the four main girls in Rokujouma, I think only one of them had even one other role (and that was Yurika’s VA in Nobunaga Concerto). There was plenty of well-known talent around them, like Aoi Yuuki and Ayana Taketatsu as Karama and Korama, Saori Hayami as Ruth, Yukari Tamara as Clariosa, and Yuuichi Nakamura as Koutarou, but they still carried the show, as far as I’m concerned.

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  3. Oh, and talking about Sailor Moon, I watch it for pretty much one reason: I think it’s hilarious when Usagi says “Muuun Purizimu Pawaaah!!!!” and “Say-rah muuuun!”

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    • That is the perfect imitation. You should really consider being a guardian! :p In all seriousness, though, where in the world did she learn how to do all her spells and why in the world does she have to do a fancy pose for each one of them?

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