Happy New Year! I had an awesome little intro written out for this, but being as WordPress screwed me over in my attempt to publish and erased everything from my most recent revision, we’re going to be short and sweet and jump straight into my thoughts into the fast fall season. Hang on for the good, the bad, and the downright ugly!
Akame ga Kill!
The whirlwind rebellion has finally come to a close, with very few of the original cast left alive. The two cours series started off deceptively easygoing, but by the end of the first episode, I knew that there was plenty of unexpected events in store for the viewers. The moment those barn doors opened and we saw the true face of the good folk who had taken Tatsumi in, I was in Night Raid’s camp. I only wish this show had gone on perhaps one more season so as to slow the pacing of the action from this past fall. The first half took the time to acquaint us with both Night Raid and the Jaegers. But as the second half took to the stage, we were catapulted into a frenzy of action that resulted in almost a death or two per episode. While this certainly instilled fear in me for my favorite characters, I also began to feel numb to the shock of yet another death. I didn’t like how I started anticipating the next loss.
As appropriate as it was for Akame to fight the final battle and live on as the namesake of the show, I really wish more attention had been paid to her and Kurome’s sisterly bond. Their history and feelings felt tacked on at the end, and I couldn’t understand for the majority of the show why Akame was the name for an anime that clearly centered on Tatsumi.
Secret ingredient: More human-based weapons please! The two most prominently featured in the show were some of the ones I found most interesting.
The original was flawed, yet interesting in its world and characters; this was a sequel that was not only unnecessary, but also self-destructive. This follow-up shared many of the same characters–but somehow the personalities had transformed into ones too different to be believable. I held on in the fervent hope that the ending would somehow justify Kamui’s actions to a degree. I didn’t expect a happy ending, or even a hopeful one. I just wanted to see a smartly written conclusion to cap the overall confusions of the series. Unfortunately, what we ended up with was a strange re-definition of law and order.
Special ingredient: If there’s one thing about this show that I found somewhat redeemable, it would have to be its halfhearted attempt at depth of character. There are clear labels of who is “good” and “bad”, but no one is absolute. Their reasons for being the way they are make sense to a degree. One prime example of this is Kamui. His is a fate I wouldn’t wish on anybody. To find yourself a Frankenstein-ian masterpiece with no acknowledgement of existence sounds too mythical and horrifying to be true. I believe his anger, his discontent. I might even pass off his contradictory actions as those of several confused minds. And I unfortunately find no problem with believing in the actions of his supporters, those with doubts and seeking an easy answer.
Sword Art Online 2
I’ll continue with what I established at the very start of this season: I find SAO 2 much more enjoyable and cohesive than the first season. I never again felt the degree of urgency that I did with the opening episode of the original, but the overall pacing of the GGO and second ALO arcs felt much steadier.
Out of all the games experienced in this franchise, I wish we had spent more time in GGO getting to experience the combat and social circles of the cities and players. I loved the grittier environment and Kirito’s strange place as a saber-wielder in a world centered on guns. While I could have gone without the romantic overtones of Sinon, hers was a story I easily became immersed in and I appreciated the way they ended her arc. The return to ALO by means of a world-changing event, in turn, felt rough in transition. Just when I started to fall back in step with their questing and game life, we were then thrust into a new storyline featuring a completely different guild, the Sleeping Knights. I really wish the direction of this particular arc were less transparent; I saw the ending coming from the beginning with the exhaustive hints thrown at the viewers time and time again. Yuki as a character would’ve been more effective with longer exposure and without the forced pleas for sympathy.
Secret ingredient: As rushed as the timing was for Asuna’s confrontation with her mother, I found it much more suitable as a vehicle for her growth and future. The almost completely parallel lines of Yuki and Asuna’s mother lent well to one another, and if time had allowed, I would have liked the two sides to meet. Now if only we could get the father to come to the light and apologize for his horrid choice of suitors…
Mushishi Zoku Shou 2nd Season
All too soon, the enchantment comes to an end. I am never ready for the last episode, but the attitude I am left with is always one of a peaceful and hopeful nature. Like its original series, and the first part of the sequel earlier this year, Zoku Shou 2nd Season walked us through a several handfuls of lives and places and re-instilled in me an appreciation and awe for the mysteries and beauties of life.
For further thoughts on this particular show and some of my favorite moments, please take a look at my 12 Days of Anime post here!
Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji
I feel like I’ve cheated since I became interested enough in this show at the start to actually pick up the manga and rapidly catch up to where this anime ended. I’m actually past the Kobe arc now, so there was nothing that surprised me about the way the show ended. Be that as it may, I took a while to warm up to our characters, which featured again the oddly common scenario of dumb-ish nice girl and handsome, mean guy. It’s like the perceived readership of these love stories are all women aching for verbal abuse. I don’t really get it, but there we have it. Thankfully for this particular duo, the “black prince” has enough going for him personality-wise for me to stay interested in the relationship.
I only wish there were a better explanation for the jaded view held by Kyouya for so long in regards to love. As a child of divorce, myself, I can certainly understand the bitter feelings that culminate from the loss of what should have been a forever family. Certain circumstances have also made me extremely wary of people with never-ending excuses and little to show for themselves. But none of what I and my mother experienced, which from what I’ve read and watched was much more traumatic than Kyouya’s particular story, made me disbelieve in love. On the contrary, I became much more adamant about protecting it.
Secret ingredient: At the start of this show, I disapproved of the way that Erika changed her personality to befriend a couple of girls in her new class. I didn’t dislike the actual girls; I just hated the fakeness with which Erika treated them and herself. As her comfort with her place in the school increased, she was able to act more like herself around her classmates. I was happy to see that instead of completely dropping the fake friendships she had formed, she was able to turn them into genuine connections and appreciate their differences.
Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle
Chaika baffles me with its ability to reel me in time and time again, despite its weak auxiliary characters and hilariously evil antagonists. There was just something about the world and its method of magic that kept me interested in seeing our main group’s explorations. That and the character designs—they were adorable! I liked seeing every permutation of Chaika, and continually circled back to our original girl, the White Chaika, as my favorite.
The anime suffered also with excessive foreshadowing. Gilette’s revival and return to his squad was guaranteed the moment we met the halfway transformed Livi. After meeting the dragoon, Frederica, we witnessed her time and time again insist that Toru form a contract with her. So of course when dire circumstances called for it, I wasn’t in the least surprised when he finally accepted her offer. When Niva, Emperor Gaz’s fortune, was aimed at Chaika, I knew she would refuse due to the friendship that had been formed earlier in the season. The actions and reactions are blatantly obvious, but also provide logical closures to each thread.
Secret ingredient: I found the island arc to be incredibly satisfying in explaining the origins of Gundo weapons and the fuel used to power them. I had blindly accepted the strange properties of Gaz’s body parts, and even the unexplained possibility for Chaika to use her own memories as fuel, but was relieved to finally find some answers when the mysterious island was discovered along with all its inhabitants and test subjects.
I am usually a sucker for youkai and Shinto-based anime, and also had my fair share of laughs with Kokkuri-san, but I just couldn’t get particularly in sync with this show and its characters. Dry humor works well for me; Kohina did not. Pretty much the only thing I liked about her was her deadpan delivery of opinions about the spirits occupying her home. And did she ever tell us why she’s able to live alone? Someone please enlighten me if her situation on the huge estate was actually explained, because that’s an aspect that kept coming up and bothering me. We’ve got repeated discoveries of oddities and family heirlooms without the family ever making itself known. What is it about them, and Kohina, that attracts the supernatural so readily?
Secret ingredient: Thinking back on the episodes and their individual little stories, I remember enjoying Kohina’s adoption of the dog-like spirit the most. I was fooled into thinking that she had softened up to the fuzzball, going so far as to play with it, feed it, let it lick her wounds, and even sleep with it—all at the admonitions of Kokkuri-san, Inugami, and Tanuki. We even get to see a touching moment of familial caution when Tanuki protects her from the spirit’s growing bloodlust. The moment of truth where Kohina reveals her true reason for caring for it was so completely like her, yet hilariously out of sync with the rest of the scenes leading up to it.
Amagi Brilliant Park
Is anyone else with me in thinking how odd yet fitting the last episode was for closing out this series? Amaburi came waltzing onto the anime scene this past fall full of attitude and way too many characters. It was an anime theme park of laughs, tears, and disgust, hitting us over the head with countless names and faces and punching me in the gut with its slapstick and often dark humor. The roller coaster had its definite highs, and crescendoed nicely at the end with its addition of the extra drive of the ailing princess. The show could’ve easily over-dramatized Latifa’s sickness, but held back just enough to actually maintain my concern and focus on the park’s growth.
I’ve always had an interest in amusement and theme parks, since as a kid I didn’t really have much experience with either. I was born in Anaheim, the city of Disneyland, but can’t recall my visits which were all before the age of five. I later went to both Disneyworld and Epcot in high school, but was too busy with my group’s concert band as we hustled around to performances. Now that I’m a working adult, there really isn’t any time to go to one, nor any within close vicinity. Some of my dreams are still to visit several parks like Universal Studios and Six Flags. I’m weak to spinning and twisting types of rides, but still enjoy the temporary immersion into another land.
Secret ingredient: Moffle instantly became a favorite character due to my familiarity with FMP’s Bonta-kun. From the same studio, writer, and director, it’s no wonder that Moffle takes so much after his predecessor. Were I ever to visit Amagi Brilliant Park, his attraction would be up there at the top of my first visits.
Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken
Danna ga Nani was a weekly favorite of KWoo and I, as short and sweet as it was. We loved the similarity to our own relationship, with the one being a passionate anime blogger and the other the primary breadwinner. Our own situation is reversed and I also work full-time, but we still enjoyed re-experiencing familiar scenarios and watching new ones.
Despite the short, three-minute duration of each episode, a surprising number of gags were included every week. At times this admittedly strained the effectiveness of the jokes, but for the most part I was laughing or feeling fuzzy-hearted. This is happily scheduled for a second season!
Secret ingredient: Another main reason why I enjoyed this anime was because of the way Kaori and Hajime reconciled their differences into a loving and understanding marriage. No matter how much their ways of thinking clashed, the bottom line was that they just wanted to support one another and be together.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
This remake of the 2006 anime came beautifully packaged with ufotable stylings and well-placed and conducted CG. It was a visual treat and I looked forward to each showdown between servants. Unfortunately, the plot and dialogue continued to be afflicted by this franchise’s tendency for dragged out conflicts and tiresome speeches. While Fate/Zero maintained some of these problems, it was an improvement on both versions of F/SN. As expected, every fight was prefaced by too much talk, and hardly anything was ever accomplished afterward. The only confirmed death was of Rider, whose demise was surprisingly abrupt but welcome given the lack of resolution anywhere else in this season.
Another issue this series has is with its transitions between the war and normal high school life. The two overlap continuously, but always seem at odds with one another. This would make sense given the nature of the Holy Grail War and its disruption of every day events, but the contrast still seems too stark. The best example of this was the last, hour-long episode, which began with an odd day of shopping and eating for Rin, Shirou, and Saber. I would have otherwise not minded seeing this other side to the characters, but the fact that it was the last episode coupled with the boring length of it ruined my overall feel of this series.
Secret ingredient: Anime-only followers of the original will note that deviation in this version from the previous, particularly in regards to Saber and Caster, as well as the development of Archer’s background. We’re headed into new waters for the promised spring continuation, but franchise die-hards will recognize the cues from the visual novels. I’ve only ever seen the anime, but have spoiled myself a bit here and there so wasn’t surprised with the increased focus on Archer and Shirou. As much as I dislike our protagonist, I’ve always liked Archer’s whole look and fighting style. I could do without his sulky attitude about everything, but I guess that’s what adds to his charm for others.
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis
The darkhorse of the fall season, Bahamut came thundering onto the screen with its swashbuckling adventure and high fantasy setting. I almost didn’t watch this show after the first episode, which I found just so-so, but kept with it despite my misgivings. For some reason, I was more inclined to read a story like this rather than watch it. It felt like a dinosaur of the past, and lacked likable characters at the start.
After a few, I was hooked on the saucy lips, demon tails, and side characters. Zombie Rita, pure and believing Jeanne d’Arc, drunk yet punctual Bacchus, and a mysterious dragon in its separate dimension–Bahamut’s cast was populated continuously with colorful and numerous characters who warranted their own stories. One cours just wasn’t enough time to give them the tales they deserved. I can easily see the influence of the role-playing card game that spawned this anime, and am reminded of an old favorite book series of mine, Dragonlance. I only wish there were books mixing the attributes of the card game with the characters of the anime, so I could spin off into the many side characters’ individual story lines.
Secret ingredient: My favorite moments were whenever Bacchus was on screen with his oxen-drawn carriage and goose-like bird, Hamsa. Bacchus is a mashup of a few different cultures that I can tell right off the bat, with the Roman name of Bacchus, Greek heritage as Dionysus, and connections to the Indian Surya and Hamsa. What we end up with is a perpetually inebriated god of bounties who rides around in a cart with a magical white bird. He shows up out of the blue at the most opportune times for our adventurers, collects bounties willy nilly, and provides useful intel on the whereabouts of both goodies and baddies. I would have loved to have seen more of him riding on the beach ball Hamsa, but I count his battle with the demon Jeanne as one of my favorite moments of the anime.
Sora no Method
Along with Psycho-Pass 2, this and the below entries are among my worst watches of the season. Sora no Method stands at the top as the best of the three, but falls far below what I would consider a likable series. My few compliments go towards the art, which reminded me a bit of P.A. Works anime, and the surprise ending. The rest was a train wreck of horrid characters, terrible communication, and forced drama.
I remember what it was like being these kids’ age. Sure, I exaggerated everything from my likes to dislikes, and had a hard time going against what was popular despite my preferences. But there was a limit to my drama, and I knew the difference seven years could made on my childhood friends. People change and drift apart, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Yet most of the characters in this series were fixated on forcing connections with people without actually verbally communicating their true feelings. It reminds me a bit of my dog, Suzi, who hates it when other dogs at the dog park run up to sniff her butt in greeting. She snaps at them and tucks down her tail, but goes in for a sniff of her own as soon as they turn their backs. Shione and Yuzuki are two prime examples of girls who simply do not deserve to be friends with Nonoka and Kaori (Souta is utterly forgettable). They have nasty attitudes and are selfish in their intentions. They hold grudges like only trolls do. It takes an embarrassing amount of groveling to get them to lower their guards. With work and errands and life, my time is precious. I just don’t have enough to waste on people who don’t care enough to clearly reciprocate my feelings.
Secret ingredient: The time jump in the last episode was a pretty surprising and neat addition to the ending. I didn’t expect the travel back in time to when Nonoka was just moving back. She’s seemingly the only one with the memories of all that had transpired and of the saucer; everyone else remembers years of normalcy. Shione turns out to have moved shortly after Nonoka did those long seven years ago, and though Nonoka recognizes the surroundings and people, many of the events are slightly off than originally experienced, such as her assigned homeroom. I wish the show had gone through with this thought, or at least started it earlier.
Yuki Yuna wa Yusha de Aru
Magical girl shows gone dark is in a bit of a fad now, isn’t it? Since Madoka aired, there have been a few similar themed shows popping out each year, like Gen’ei o Kakeru Taiyou, Selector spread WIXOSS, and now Yuki Yuna wa Yusha de Aru. I quite liked Madoka, but didn’t find it as amazing as others did–I tend to read a good amount of dark fantasy novels and short stories. I admired what it did in the anime medium, but found that those following paled in comparison. I never finished Gen’ei, stalled midway through WIXOSS, but somehow found the stubbornness to finish Yuki Yuna. I really wish I hadn’t. I could’ve spent those hours blogging! Or watching my new favorite series, Grimm, on Amazon Prime! Or walking my dog like a good dog owner!
I actually liked this show for the beginning episodes. I liked the pretty pastels and cutsie guardians. The hero club was really just a glorified doormat for other clubs, but I enjoyed their community service. I used to do puppet shows myself back in the church days (I wasn’t very good at it), so laughed quite a bit at the scene where they accidentally knocked over the set while putting on a show for the kids. But then the inevitable darkness swooped in, and our girls realized they were sacrificial tools of battle, who would eventually lose their senses, possibly even memories. I don’t blame them their fears when they first started losing sensations like sight, speech, and taste. But did everything have to be drenched in tears? Did we have to be deafened by yelling? An angry Togo is acceptable; a deluded Togo bent on world destruction is not. The emotions and dialogue are comically cartoonish, featuring overly emphasized emotions of rage and obligation. And then after we were put through all of that, the show decided to renege on its buildup and slap us with a happy ending of sorts. The fight continues on, but our special girls have guaranteed special treatment for all heroes: sacrifices no longer have to be made in exchange for power.
Secret ingredient: As much as I hated Togo through her suicidal rampage at the end, I appreciated her position as the connection between now and then, the current team and those that came before. I hadn’t really thought about her handicap and accepted that it was because of an accident. Her natural aptitude with the Hero Club and unique ribbon accessory different from the rest of the group’s flowers didn’t hit me until we were point blank informed of her lost memories and secondary name. I only hope that after all of the fall out, that she went back to being friends with her old friends and heroes.