Winter is over and spring is officially here! At least, that’s the case in the Northwest–sorry if you’ve still got snow 😉 I am shocked at the number of shows that finished up this season, both one and two cours. My anime list was temporarily tiny before I started picking up new anime at the start of this month.
I apologize for the delay in this post; Sakura-con always seems to fall smack on the weekend between shows ending and beginning. iDOLM@S also hung around a week later than everything else and I wanted to include it in the season wrap. The 22 shows I finished up (and in the order discussed) are:
- Bonjour Koiaji Patisserie
- Akatsuki no Yona
- Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
- Dog Days”
- Koufuku Grafitti
- Death Parade
- Log Horizon 2nd Season
- Daiya no Ace
- Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road
- Tokyo Ghoul √A
- Sanzoku no Musume Ronya
- Aldnoah.Zero 2nd Season
- Kamisama Hajimemashita◎
- Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu
- Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!
- Yoru no Yatterman
- Durarara!! x 2 Shou
- The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls
- Garo: Honoo no Kokuin
- Absolute Duo
- Junketsu no Maria
Bonjour Koiaji Patisserie
As far as reverse harem shows go these days, shorts are probably the best way to maintain my interest for a full season. It’s been a long time since I’ve had one that really grabbed me, one I found worthy of recommending to others. Bonjour Koiaji Patisserie didn’t quite make that cut, but it came a heck of a lot closer than any others in recent years. It certainly helps that it takes place in my kind of food-heavy setting! The heroine, Sayuri Haruno, is still empty personality-wise as per usual; she’s sweet as a default and irresistible to the male teachers and classmate. Ignoring the strangeness of why it’s only specifically her on whom the instructors dote, I actually found the relationship between Sayuri and classmate Ryou pretty adorable. He’s a straight up tsundere whose attempts at confession are comically foiled each time. There are hints of something more than friendship between them, but nothing official is stated.
Special ingredient: For the most part, the pastries featured in this series are actual ones that you can find the recipe to online. However, the Earth that wins the competition at the end of the series is a mystery. I’m not sure if it’s a cake, candy, or some combination of the two. I like the idea of a moist cake somehow shaped into a ball and covered with a delicate layer of candy glaze. I’m a complete novice when it comes to sweets, so maybe you have better idea of the probably ingredients.
Akatsuki no Yona
The second of my series to wrap up this winter season, Akatsuki no Yona’s ending was both appropriate and bittersweet. We finally had the full group all together and ready to set something in motion, but then the show ended with a simple “thank you” to its viewers. There wasn’t even a hint of a sequel. So I stand conflicted regarding my final feelings on the anime–I’m happy to have seen it animated and been introduced to its characters and land. But I’m also thoroughly disappointed that we won’t get to immediately see this band of heroes go out and protect the kingdom.
At 16, Yona truly is still too young and unprepared to lead a country. As dubious as Su-won’s ascent to the throne seems, his management appears beneficial to the nation and its people. It’s too early for the path of immediate conflict against Su-won. We do not know the complete story behind the deceased King Il’s reign and his supposed quest for peace, but more evidence continues to build against his capability as a ruler. Yona’s decision to keep assisting Kouka’s people in person looks to be the wisest course of action for now–it allows her time to grow, and gives Su-won the chance to prove himself in his path. While I can’t condone his method of obtaining the throne no matter the results, we may be forced to admit his necessity for Kouka’s wellness. I just hope that we’ll get our sequel sooner rather than later.
Special ingredient: The relationship between Yona and Hak is imperative to the show and our princess’ mental well being. He is the only one other than Su-won who remembers her as she was while she is in the motions of becoming something more. To her group and the new people they encounter, she is Yona. For Hak, she will always be Princess Yona. He is a constant reminder of who she was, is, and wants to be. There are also obvious romantic vibes between the two, though she doesn’t seem yet to realize it. This is why no matter the number of males joining them on their path, I still don’t see this anime as a kind of reverse harem. She cares for the others as friends and perhaps even family–the way she speaks and looks at Hak are on a whole different level entirely. I don’t really hold much hope for the two of them ever having a married ending together given the difference in their status, but I am have a hard time imagining her ever finding a man who can eclipse the fantasies she once held for Su-won or the intimacy she shares with Hak.
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
When the winter season first began, I was extremely excited for this show given the classical music, particularly piano. I quickly became disenchanted when Kaori stormed in and dragged Kousei through his trauma. No reasoning, not even her letter at the end of the series, can excuse the way she and Kousei’s friends forced his return to the stage. The association between his mother and the piano made it surprising he could even do the small amount of piano playing he did up into junior high. Transcribing music and performing, however, are completely different playing fields. I give all the credit to Kousei for surmounting his mental block despite the nasty way he was pressured to confront it.
The show drastically improved after Kaori exited the musical scene and Kousei’s childhood rivals took center stage. I was even happier when his teacher, Hiroko, suggested he instruct Nagi in piano. I remember the uncertainty I felt when I first gave piano lessons as a high schooler to a grade school student. You suddenly notice your own weaknesses and try to show the other how to improve while improving yourself. It’s a wonderful way to grow.
I don’t think there was a doubt in anyone’s mind the direction this show was going and how it would likely end. I wasn’t absolutely sure what the “lie” would end up being, but the big reveal at the end was no surprise given all the contradictory actions beforehand. As cliche and dramatic as Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso was, there was no denying the tremble I felt in my heart at the final episode’s scenes. Kousei and Kaori gripped me by my shirt and dragged me over the precipice into their selfish, colorful world. As drawn out as Kaori’s illness was, repeatedly smacking us with ominous scenes, I respect the way the anime handled her death.
Special ingredient: With all the ups and downs in the story telling, but favorite aspects about this show were mostly in the senses: the music, the art, and the animation. I absolutely loved the way the last episode gave us Chopin’s arguably most well known work (I can’t even count the number of times I replayed the scene in The Pianist where Szpilman performs for the officer). The history of the piece already carries with it a myriad of emotions, and seeing it here coupled with Arima’s memories and feelings was a treasure. Then there was the inclusion of the water color-like stills of Kousei and Kaori, caught in a vibrant moment. I could really sense the love those working on the anime put into it for the viewers.
As Becky and Millihiore so perfectly describe, I don’t feel sad at the end of this show. It truly does feel like I’ll see Shinku, Nanami, Becky and everyone in Flognarde again soon. We’re three seasons in to this franchise, and I’ve loved every one of them. I’m always excited to see another sequel on the calendar, since they’ve done a great job so far at keeping each season fresh and remarkable from any other. I wasn’t sure the direction this third season would take to differ it from the previous two, but my concerns were misplaced and I once again met a whole slew of new people and saw new lands worth revisiting.
The first half focused primarily on introducing us to a key new cast member: Sharl, the Flognarde’s Dragon Priestess. We also experienced the story of Adel and Fi, back before Flognarde had its tri-nation alliance. The world was forced into isolation by the uncontrollable demons, and none of the war games as we know them existed. Both Sharl and Adel’s stories set us on a path with one eye on the past.
Then the second arc catapulted us into the Sky Kingdom far above the clouds. I had no idea the Star Whale or its people even existed–and apparently neither did a good majority of Flognarde’s people, who thought of them and the Sky Priestess as bedtime stories. Once “accidentally” sucked up by the whale, our heroes stumbled across familiar enemies, demons sickening the Star Whale. I really love the whole idea of the Sky Kingdom as a sea in the sky, with both its guardian the whale and its mermaid-like people swimming through clouds and stars. It’s the kind of dreamy art I’d want canvased in my home on decorative pillows and in picture frames. It’s here in the Star Whale that we bring together the two halves of the series, with Sharl revisiting the legendary Sky Priestess.
Special ingredient: I blogged about it in my flaugnarde recipe post, but my favorite episode was undoubtedly the story of Adel and Fi. I already loved Cou’s character design, and seeing a very similar look for Clarifier brought me an immediate feeling of kinship with the former ruler. Her bright smile, heart-shaped hair bun, and quest against the demons all highlight what it is I love about Dog Days. This is a world who has figured out peace and will join hands again and again to maintain it (regardless of any cloth-eating demons).
The second of the series this season that dominated my blog with posts was Koufuku Grafitti, a fantastic series about the joy of cooking and eating with others. Including this anime in my winter lineup was a no brainer. It was produced by SHAFT in an attitude reminiscent of Hidamari Sketch, and centered on food, one of my great loves in life. It didn’t take too long into the series for me to figure out that I really should’ve made this a goal for writing episodic posts–I could have easily discussed a recipe or relevant story to tie in to each week’s release. Maybe I’ll do that next season for Shokugeki no Souma. Regardless, I did end up with posts on both takenoko gohan as well as conbini foods.
Koufuku G takes an episodic story structure, with each episode focusing on a particular food or multiple foods and a corresponding story with Ryou. Some favorites include “2. Fluffy, Sizzling,” “4. Moist, Crispy,” “5. Slurp, Gulp,” “7. Sizzle, Pop,” and “11. Chop-chop, Slurp / Crunchy, Shining.” I can’t get enough of the eating and the ridiculously funny faces and phrases from Kirino and Tsuyuko.
Special ingredient: The overarching theme to Koufuku G was the importance of company when eating meals. At the very beginning, we see Ryou dining alone on a dish that we will later learn means a great deal to her. However, instead of enjoying it, she finds it bland. There’s no explanation for the lack in flavor–the ingredients and proportions were correct, and it looked exactly as it should. It’s not until her cousin begins staying with her weekly that she realizes the flavors come to life when in the company of others. What is a flavorless dish by oneself becomes delightful when shared with another. I don’t find this to be true in my own experiences since I have absolutely no problem enjoying food on my own, but I can’t deny that eating with friends and family makes the entire moment much more colorful.
We never did receive our standard street parade, though I think viewers could easily argue for a different sort of parade by the end of the series. The show took us through a whirlwind of a journey, mainly seen through the eyes of arbiter Decim and his black-haired female assistant. Their encounters with various couples in the afterlife are oftentimes harrowing, but occasionally touching. The parade of visitors bring Decim and his assistant closer to understanding one another and the humans they judge. Sometimes the judgement seem easy, and the results obvious; other times, I wanted to shake Decim for forcing reactions the would result in dubious readings. His helper, whose name is later revealed to be “Chiyuki”, stands as a sort of second window pane to assessments. She looks at more than past and present actions, bringing a human element to Decim’s machine-like deductions.
At the start, I assumed Chiyuki was like Decim–a product of the afterlife, a sort of arbiter-in-training. It doesn’t take long to realize that she is closer to human then previously thought. She empathizes with the deceased, and balks at the cheats the arbiters instill into their games. It isn’t until the interference by another arbiter, however, where we hear it explicitly stated that Chiyuki still awaits judgement. The series then takes a turn towards the very role of the arbiter and the rules that govern them. Arbiters supposedly are devoid of human emotions, yet Decim repeatedly makes me question that fact. He expresses far too much curiosity in speaking with Chiyuki, and has a strange reluctance to let go of his experiences with past guests to Quindecim. Other arbiters also exhibit oddly human-esque thoughts, though it’s only Decim who is revealed to have had a bit of human emotions injected into his make-up. I could easily see a sequel to this series where Nona’s history and current thought process take the forefront.
Special ingredient: I was very happy with this anime’s inclusion in the winter lineup, since it felt very different from the others and constantly kept me on my toes each week. The opening episode had me upset, but intrigued about this world of bars, death games, and the afterlife. The following weeks only made me more curious about Decim’s world and those inhabiting it. What exactly did Oculus mean when he said that even he is a puppet? I very much hope for a continuation to Death Parade in some form of a series or movie to chase Oculus’ foreboding comments.
Log Horizon 2nd Season
Finally, some movement towards reckoning the game and real worlds! I was looking for this for most of the first season, and had expected resolution in this sequel, but I guess it’ll take a third installment for us to see Shiroe’s new goal come to fruition. This particular season went by in a blur, but there were noticeable changes the whole way in the environment and attitudes of those trapped in Elder Tale.
What was once a clear translation of game play into everyday life, with known, predictable stats and skills, began to evolve–new monsters and skills emerged; repeated in-game deaths and resurrections dragged down the hearts of players. We started being more concerned about real life, and how to escape and return there. For the first time, we peeked into other servers facing similar predicaments as Log Horizon. The mysteries in this sequel kept me invested in the show, despite the often slow arcs, in particular the raid of The Abyssal Shaft. Like in many RPGs, I found the barrage of new characters and possible quests this season a tad overwhelming. When I was able to focus on one or two of them, I rode along and enjoyed the journey. But when the names and faces piled on, it made it difficult to remember the details in the face of this and my many other shows during the winter.
Special ingredient: Tetra’s character always had me giggling whenever she popped up on the screen and spewed her magical idol girl power everywhere. I didn’t actually have a single clue about her being a guy in real life until it was explicitly stated, but could care less since she’s simply awesome. “Idols don’t fart!”
Daiya no Ace
CORRECTION: I wrote the below rant before I saw the spring line-up with the continuation of Daiya no Ace included. I don’t really get why this first season is capping when the second is just following on its heels–it might as well have just been considered the same.
Original rant: Noooooo!!!! I thought this would never end! At the very least, I had hoped to see Sawamura fulfill his dream as wearing either a 1 or 2 jersey at Nationals. But I guess that is not in the cards for us, particularly since I can’t recall any sports anime that has let us see a win at the National level, other than the recent YowaPeda. Heck, most of the time, we don’t even get to see teams playing at Koshien, only heading that direction after qualifying in the finals. I figured with the long run of Diamond no Ace and having seen the original team with its seniors almost make it there, that we would see the juniors fulfill their dreams with Sawamura leading them. Bah!
Back to reality: YES, we will get more Sawamura on the pitcher’s mound, and hopefully YES, we will battle our way to Koshien once more. There’s already a great deal of hope in play with Eijun’s discovery of the low and away pitch thanks to Chris’ coaching (suck it, Miyuki!). This defensive way of pitching should work great with his more offensive style once he can again pitch to the inside. I earnestly hope we don’t have to wait too long for that, though he could undoubtedly use practice in the outfield.
Special ingredient: As frustrating as it is to move on without the seniors with whom we’ve become so close, and to watch Sawamura hit a different wall repeatedly, I’m glad for the decisions this show has made. Sure, it would’ve been wonderful to have the original team members make it all the way to Nationals together, and I really do want to see Eijun wear the #1, but we would’ve either had a hugely optimistic series or unrealistic progress for the still very rough-edged pitcher. The vast majority of players never get to see the final stadium before graduating, and a pitcher who can’t focus off the mound isn’t fit to be the ace. The realities are harsh, but refreshing to see on screen. Now that Seidou has come so close to their dreams, I expect their fight back to that spotlight and beyond will be even more ferocious.
As The Cart Driver so aptly impressed upon its readers, this anime about anime is without a doubt a show all anime fans should watch. This series beautifully captured a hint of the stress that is involved with creating our beloved medium. I repeatedly see viewers complain about recaps, slips in animation and art quality, and countless other details without putting much thought into the actual people who are involved. It’s as if the staff is made up of an army of working drones, without need for a recharge of rest or fuel. Like everywhere else, the staff are people with bouts of laziness, family and friends to visit, bicycles to ride, fish to catch, and other dreams to pursue.
Main character, Miyamori Aoi, was the perfect character to follow as the protagonist. She loves anime, but has no idea what exactly she wants to do in the industry–she just wants to be involved in something related. All her other high school club mates know the areas they want to pursue, and when we first see her some years after graduation, she looks like an overworked employee tired at the wheel. But it quickly becomes apparent that she honestly loves where she’s at, even though I don’t recall her explicitly stating it. Musani Animation may not have been her first choice, but it is no doubt a great place for nurturing Aoi into a fantastic production assistant and later leadership as the Desk. She’s fortunate, really, to not have fallen into situations that bogged down Hiraoka. Making connections, following through on goals, and repeatedly leaving great impressions are essential to any business, and Aoi excels at it.
Special ingredient: I’d be surprised to hear if anyone following this series had a dry eye at the end with Zuka’s voicing of Lucy. That moment is a culmination of all her efforts, and perfectly captures the essence of everyone else’s hard work in the industry. I really loved how the show tied in the various ends of the inaccessible mangaka, meddlesome manga editor, re-imagined ending, and Zuka’s first anime voice acting role.
Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road
Let’s all give a collective sigh of relief that finally we have an ending, and a glorious one at that. We’re not dropped at a cliffhanger in the middle of an Inter-high day, and we don’t have to suffer yet another near-win. We get an honest to goodness complete Day 3, and triumph in Souhoku’s hands. I’m impressed I even made it this far, given all the torturous obstacles that stood in the way: strange anime cycling mechanics, gratuitous villains, flashbacks (+repeated flashbacks), drawn out battles, and final goodbyes.
I had posted before about some of the issues with YowaPeda’s display of cycling, so I wont repeat that here. I also found it odd how this sports anime felt the need to fill in villains who don’t seem to serve much purpose other than to slow down our main team and create unnecessary drama. I didn’t find a single redeemable trait to Eikichi’s character. His way of thinking is repulsive, and I could have easily done without his whole arc. Then there was Arakita’s backstory–which was actually well-placed and entertaining. Or it was, until the series decided to overdo it and give his history to us again a couple more times. The flashbacks just felt like filler recaps. When the show finally decided to push us through to the next development, it usually climaxed with the final “hurrah” of a beloved member, who would then give some emotional well wishes and farewell to the rest of the team and figuratively die in a heap on the side of the road. I quickly realized I should just comically wave at them and yell at the remaining members to focus back on the race at hand.
Once I was able to start viewing all trials as comedy, the race became much more entertaining. Wait, Imaizumi’s bicycle frame is cracking? Don’t worry–he’ll still manage to stave off Midousuji’s charge! Speaking of Midousuji, he leaped up from thoroughly disliked cast members to one of the most hilarious inclusions to the second season. His interactions with Onoda at the start of this sequel put him on a better path, and I gradually warmed to his ridiculous faces.
Special ingredient: I’m probably odd for thinking this, but one of my favorite moments of Grande Road was when Onoda’s mother stumbled across Inter-high and witnessed him sprinting up the mountain to the finish line. She’s always been so oblivious to his club activities, and has this magical ability of seeing one thing and misunderstanding it as something completely different. But when she sees him on his road bike racing against the best of the best, she immediately understands his frame of mind and wholeheartedly supports him. When I saw her eyes open and heard her scream his name, I had an immediate positive vibe for the outcome of the race.
When Rolling Girls’ first couple of episodes aired, I was very excited for the rest. Unfortunately, much of the drive and freshness of the opening fizzled out rapidly with Maccha Green’s admittance to the hospital. The art was always phenomenal with its detailed backgrounds and myriad of colors, but the pace was just soooo sloooooow with Nozomi and Co. There were moments where that original sparkle returned, but they were never frequent or prolonged enough to salvage the mediocrity of the overall anime.
Another oddity of this show was the big reveal about one of its main characters, Chiaya. From the beginning, she comes off as a tad stranger than the already strange cast. She goes about wearing a gas mask, and persists in calling her friends by nicknames they haven’t used since early childhood. We later discover that not only is she the adopted daughter of the Tokorozawa President, but she’s also an alien who once met the rest of the girls long ago while in her octopus-like form. I’m guessing that sounded weirder than it was for me to type it, and the whole otherworldly back story just comes across as misfitted to the setting and story. I have a hard time drawing the lines between Chiaya’s background to the opening episodes and later character themes.
Special ingredient: Along with the art, another spectacular addition to the anime was its music. There’s a retro band regularly featured and played in the series called the Momiage Hammers. It’s another commonality that brings not only our main girls together, but also many of the other people across whom they stumble. Another favorite arc that takes place in Kyoto with a gorgeously drawn and animated concert on the famous porch at Kiyomizudera brings together the old and the young, the traditional and the modern.
Tokyo Ghoul √A
With the second season of Tokyo Ghoul now at a close and having seen Touka’s new direction, I don’t expect there to be any further development in terms of full series. A good many of the main cast we came to know and care about no longer live, and much of the hope that burned with Kaneki’s stance in both the ghoul and human worlds has been extinguished. I don’t think anyone watching the battle in the 20th ward with Anteiku’s staff felt that a particular side won. Watching the many deaths of humans and ghouls alike only emphasized the pointlessness of the entire affair. Yoshimura, Enji, and Irimi may have had terrifying deeds from their pasts for which to atone, but I don’t believe that dying would be the best way of payment. The same goes for the rest of the Devil Apes and Black Dogs–what purpose did their deaths have in the grand scheme of peace and balance that Yoshimura seemingly upheld? Maybe the tragedy for all was supposed to convey some type of message of futility in fighting, but the price still is much too high.
As final as the last episode felt, there were still many loose ends left hanging. Many characters were featured earlier on in the series and given ample screen time, but ended up not having much else done with them. What, for example, was the point of releasing the “Orca” from CCG’s maximum security facility, Cochlea? And the history between the twin sisters, Nashiro and Kurona, and Juuzou was never fully explained. The girls were obviously human at one point, and, like Kaneki, they later became ghouls. I wanted to see some kind of discussion between them and Kaneki.
Special ingredient: The final episode almost felt like a completely different series, yet I thought it the most beautifully constructed one of them all. The lighting, fleeting imagery, and dialogue all worked together to drive home the tragedy of past and recent events. I had a horrible feeling that the blood dripping in the cafe as Hide and Kaneki shared coffee came from Hide, given his previous scene facing down another ghoul, but that actual moment where he stumbles and Kaneki cradles him in his arms felt more tragic than any others that had come before.
Sanzoku no Musume Ronya
What a fabulous Ghibli release for television series. I sincerely hope this is not the last we’ll see of the company in our seasonal roundups, but I have no idea how successful this show was in Japan, much less anywhere else. Ronia the Robber’s Daughter is classic children’s book by Astrid Lindgren that has been published into 39 languages and has even been adapted to film and music. Surprisingly, Ghibli’s is the first animation to be based off of the tale. Miyazaki Goro was able to retain the sparkle of the novel and its characters, and it became quite thoughtless to just overlook the CG and immerse myself in the experience.
The series started out on a stormy night with Ronya’s birth, and the episodes that followed of her growing from infancy to toddler to young girl passed a bit slow–I expect that people who didn’t drop this show due to its art may have dropped here due to the pacing. But it wasn’t long before the events sped up, particularly upon the entrance of Birk Borkason, the only child of the of the rival robbers who have long feuded with Ronya’s family. Our first view of him is colored by Mattis’ animosity, but I think I liked Birk from the very beginning regardless of Ronya’s prickly attitude towards him. His smirk and calm demeanor were soothing after Mattis’ rowdiness. All of his later reactions to Ronya revealed just how golden of a heart he has. I loved seeing the two children come together as friends, then later self-proclaimed siblings. I knew that eventually their relationship would crash with the feuding family heads, but their way of defying expectations surprised and delighted me.
With today’s norm of over-sheltering kids, it’s almost unheard of to let them run free without adult supervision, much less out in the wilderness without technology. An article I recently read referred to such parenting as “free range.” I remember my mom telling me to go play outside, and not to come back in until dinner. I would roam the neighborhood and surrounding woods on adventures with others my age. We’d build tree houses, swing on ropes from high branches, and hide underneath the canopy of ground-brushing spruce. I felt nostalgic watching Ronya and Birk swimming in the river and taming wild horses. The two relied on each other and nature to survive from spring to fall, and through their experiences learned more about their own limits and desires, and the importance of human connection.
Special ingredient: The series’ final episode hit us with the bombshell of Skalle-Per’s death. He was a constant through everyone’s lives, having been there before Mattis’ birth, and up through Ronya’s childhood. While he enjoyed being a bandit at a younger age, with old age came not only physical impediments, but also a growing desire to stop away from robbing others of their possessions. He nurtured Ronya along with Lovis as they stayed behind and tended to their home, and encouraged the children to find honest work. As he died, it felt like the golden age of Mattis’ and Borka’s lifestyles had come to an end. Instead of remaining sad, I actually felt uplifted by Skalle-Per’s hopes and couldn’t help but cheer along with Ronya’s shout of spring.
Aldnoah.Zero 2nd Season
I’m sure I’ll get a good amount of flack for saying this, but I actually enjoyed the second season despite the ending. I was so confused by the last episode of the first season, that riding along with Slaine and all his decisions through these past months helped clarify his character and purpose. I usually didn’t agree with his views, but I still came to admire his tenacity in surviving in a hostile environment and his unshaken feelings for Asseylum. Inaho, on the other hand, became even more robotic, trusting more and more of his everyday actions to his assisting A.I. It was fun watching his various battles against Martian Knights, but also sadly predictable. We could almost always depend on Inaho to figure out weaknesses and defeat Kataphracts. As if anticipating the audience’s boredom with Inaho, the anime focused mostly on Slaine, the Knights, and the sister princesses, Lemrina and Asseylum.
My biggest beef with the ending was with how it came about with the miraculously timed arrival of Count Klancain, son of the deceased Count Cruhteo. There was no real mention of him throughout the first season and most of the second, and he randomly arrived near the climax of the sequel just in time to give Seylum a solution for ending the war on Earth. My feelings on the princess’ decision to wed aside, I really wish there was a better transition to Klancain’s introduction. He appears much softer and more understanding than most of the Orbital Knights, and has a hint of a history with Asseylum. I would have liked to know more about their relationship and how he came to be so different in personality from his peers and father.
Aldnoah.Zero’s handling of Slaine’s future also comes across as lazy, if not torturous. I would’ve gone through with Inaho shooting him, but instead Slaine is imprisoned and left to mull over his past deeds and losses. As much pain as his actions have caused, I can’t help but wish him better treatment, at least one that includes therapy of a kind. Maybe watching birds through his tiny window will help his learn to appreciate Earth’s gifts, but I doubt it.
Special ingredient: Lemrina was a fascinating character I again would have loved to learn more about. She is obviously left much to her on devices, as sheltered as they are, and has little to distract her from her disability and overall feeling of neglect by others. As she states, there is much in common between her and Slaine. As a handicapped female of royal blood, her choices in life are unclear. She cannot hope to lead a country with Asseylum there to stand in the spotlight. And even if she tried to be active in assisting her people through acts of charity, she could never say who she truly is. I had hoped for a more hopeful ending for her, but we are only left with an image of her distraught face at the loss of the only man who she thought understood her.
I didn’t think I needed more Nanami in my life, but I definitely did. Now fairly adept at writing talismans and purifying small areas of darkness, Nanami has a better understanding of her responsibilities as a land god and is more adept at balancing those duties with her human high school life. This second season steps out of the classroom and focuses primarily on her godly duties: attending heavenly gatherings, assisting neighboring lands, jumping into the underworld to save others, and continuing to grow as a human and a god.
I don’t think there was a single arc here that I found lesser than the rest, but favorites do include her time spent on Mount Kurama as well as her passage through the twelve gates of time. Kurama took up a good majority of the season, but never felt like it dragged on. It became quickly apparent upon entering the forest that there was something seriously wrong with the mountain. And when we first see the young tengu cruelly treated by their elders, it’s enough to make anyone angry, much less the ever sensitive Nanami. True to her nature, she has no fear confronting the temporary head of the tengu, Jirou. He, in turn, mistakes her for a nymph, a beautiful creature of nature and goodness–which isn’t altogether untrue. Nanami comes in her best form here, infiltrating the household, purifying the land to knock down any barriers, and searching for the true tengu head’s missing soul. Her kindness and strength endear her to the tengu, even the seemingly hard-hearted Jirou.
Special ingredient: The ending couple of episodes where Nanami passes through the past twelve years of her life are witnessed by both Tomoe and us, the viewers. For beings like Tomoe and Mizuki, twelve years is nothing. But for a human like Nanami, it’s a whole different life. We see where she came from, the parents who birthed her and raised her. The truth is a depressing one, and odd in light of Nanami’s current bubbly personality.
Her father is nothing but a man bent of self-destruction–gambling away money, dragging down the spirits of his wife and child, and leaving them to the mercies of those only collecting what is owed. Even her mother is helpless in protecting herself and her daughter. Having experienced a similar type of childhood, I wonder why Nanami’s mother couldn’t do more to stand up and move away from the negative influences in their lives. And if it was illness that prevented her from getting away, I still don’t quite understand her lessons to Nanami about staying away from men–it doesn’t sound very proactive. Regardless of her losses, Nanami remains strong-willed and positive. Seeing the gentle way in which she held the new year’s ram and persuaded him to do away with all the extra fluff made it apparent that she was no longer the little girl we first met.
Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu
Kiseijuu stands near the top for shows consistently at the top of quality from week to week. While it may not have been my favorite anime for the past couple of seasons, it was always one of my preferred shows. Whenever I was beginning to think that Migi was becoming softer, he would say something so opposite to the natural human inclination that I’d again be on alert towards him. Shinichi, too, surprised me with his gradual change from gentle and mild demeanor to a calculating, almost cold, view. Like Murano and Shinichi’s father, we witness that change more closely than others; unlike them, we have an unclouded sight to his experiences with Migi and other parasites. The anime does a great job of pulling us into the experience and immediately gaining my compassion for Shinichi.
I wasn’t sure at all of the direction that Kiseijuu would take with its ending, but Migi’s decision to sleep for an undetermined length of time shocked me. I thought it quite befitting considering their relationship, but still had halfway expected him to forever stay awake with Shinichi. Another part of me suspects that his true reasoning for his dormant state is out of protection for Shinichi–perhaps his brief time with Gotou gave him too much of a desire for seeking out and being with his own kind. Whatever the case, Shinichi finally has a chance at a hopeful future with Murano at his side. Murano and Migi are practically anti-theses of each other. Only one can remain at his side at a time, and the happiest answer is probably Murano as a nurturing, constant presence.
Special ingredient: I can’t help but wonder about the possibility of Shinichi passing on his alien traits to future children. If this were to happen, would they continue to be part of Migi and remain dormant? Or would they evolve into a more sentient existence and influence the child’s thoughts and actions? It would just be Shinichi’s horrible luck to raise a child bent on someday destroying him and the mother. We mustn’t forget that in Tamura Reiko’s instance, two completely human bodies parasite brains mated and birthed a purely human offspring.
Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!
Thank goodness this was only a single cours, because i don’t think the show could’ve held up for any longer than what it did. At the start, I thought Bouei-bu brilliant in its positioning and portrayal of the magical girl genre. What wasn’t there to love about high school boys bedecked in colorful and poof-y outfits with magical stick raining down love upon their enemies? The opening introduction of characters and formation of the group was great, and I happily looked forward to more. But I quickly became bored with the premise and the novelty wore off. The series joked about the repeated and overly long transformations into magical boys, but that didn’t stop me from still wanting to skip those sections. There were also huge chunks of dialogue, meaningless dialogue attempting to be silly and tie-in to the related episodic villain that had me yawning and checking the duration. The same formula would repeat itself from episode to episode.
It wasn’t until the last couple of weeks where Bouei-bu finally changed its tune and revealed the relationship between Atsushi and the Conquest Club’s Kinshirou.The glimmer of brilliance returned in the shape of a very Truman Show-like set up. The whole good versus evil, Earth defense versus Conquest turns out to be nothing but material for a universal television show showcasing the destruction of a planet and its human species. While the green hedgehog Zundar and the greedy goldfish Hireashi are fully devoted to making their series a success, Wombat turns out to be honestly peddling love and the protection of all humans. What follows is an epic battle the likes of which I never imagined I’d watch: a goldfish and hedgehog piloting a spikefish mecha up against the joined forces of Defense and Conquest in More Better Love mode (I’m not even making up that phrase). Bouei-bu could’ve stood for more of this ridiculousness throughout the boring middle episodes, or perhaps either had a smaller episode count or shorter episode duration. I have very fond favorite moments and feelings about this anime, but it could’ve been much more.
Special ingredient: Poor, poor Tawarayama-sensei. After Wombat’s confession regarding his acquisition of the man’s body, I wasn’t sure if he would ever wake up again on his own accord. But there’s that hilarious episode where he does revive, once separated from Wombat, and confusedly tries to make his way back to other people. I was actually cheering him on and hoping he could regain his life and get away from our ridiculous club members, but, alas! Such was not to be. With his re-injury and re-animation by Wombat, who knows if we’ll ever see him truly alive again. Hang in there, Tawarayama-sensei!
Yoru no Yatterman
Yatter, Yatter, Yatterman! I have no experience watching any of the older shows that brought about this anniversary piece, but we are repeatedly told the legend of Yatterman-1 and Yatterman-2 who boldly battled the villainous Doronbo (Doronbow? Dorombo? How am I supposed to spell it?) Gang. It becomes immediately obvious that the times have changed, as have the definitions for good and bad. What I love so much about this show is the seemingly ineffectiveness of Leopard’s trio to “give the Yatterman a good forehead flicking!” To stick it to the man for exiling her family and preventing her from getting the necessary medicine for her dying mother, Leopard decides to don the clothing of her ancestors, the Dorombo Gang, and hunt out the so-called heroes, Yatterman. Nothing can stop the plucky trio from continuing onward–not the weather, not hunger, not loneliness, and not Yatterman soldiers. They continue to build their over-the-top mecha, usually one-use only, and scurry from defeat to defeat.
When Galina and Alouette came along, I expected them to drop out when their story ended and our main characters moved on. Surprisingly, they stuck around and became integral parts of the Doronbo Gang–Galina assisting and learning from mechanical-savvy Voltkatze (“Boyacky”) and the blind Alouette uplifting and warming the hearts of everyone around her. My suspicious weren’t even aroused until the moment when Galina put on the eye mask. Suddenly, he was the spitting image of the original Yatterman-1, Gan-chan. I wasn’t sure where the anime was going to take that resemblance, but once we learned the truth behind Yatter Metropolis and the involvement of Dokurobey, I knew that someone of importance would have to gather the people together and unite them against their oppressors–and that definitely couldn’t be our comedic Doronbo. I grinned like a fool when Alouette stood atop Yatterpug dressed like Yatterman-2, Ai-chan, and clearly looked out on the people.
Special ingredient: I’m not sure what happened with Galina and Alouette at the end, since we returned with Leopard to her home outside the Yatter Kingdom immediately following the defeat of Dokurobey. Their return home felt right, given the similar state of poverty both inside and outside of Yatter. What better place is there then the place of Leopard’s birth and the resting place of her family? Now with Dokurobey out of the picture, our trio can hopefully lead peaceful lives and interact as needed with their friends inside the borders.
Durarara!! x 2 Shou
Well, durrrrrr, I guess we’re only a third of the way through this madness. I honestly checked out for a good portion of this sequel, tuning out many of the new characters and only perking back up when good ol’ Shizuo, Celty, and some other old faces reappeared. I didn’t expect this sequel, and unlike Kamisama Hajimemasita, I came out of this one not really caring for the additional episodes. I’m surprised they’re churning out two more arcs later on down the line. When the first season aired, I was excited for something similar to Baccano!, and though Durarara!! was much, much different, I still fed into the hype. Somehow, this sequel lacked the drive and originality of its predecessor, instead feeling tired, like walls painted over too many times. No one wants to watch paint dry.
I didn’t care much for the entire Dollars affair in its evolving form. And there were a myriad of new faces that I can recall but can’t specifically name–maybe they’ll be important later, but for now, I wish less screen time had been given to them. What I didn’t mind watching were all the events surrounding little Akane, who was silly adorable when interacting with Shizuo and Celty. Her story line felt by far to be the most cohesive, and the only one I felt wrapped up as much as it could by the end of this first chapter. I’ll likely stick around for the following two cours, and cross my fingers for follow through on the many leads created this season.
Special ingredient: We received a ton of Celty eye candy here, both physically and supernaturally. Her steed gets a lot of attention this time around, and we see it with more personality here than previously shown. I loved seeing it transform into various types of transport, but still prefer the original horse form. And then there’s Celty’s ability to manipulate a black, fibrous matter with seemingly no limit. I wish I could pop on over to her neighborhood and have a ride with one of her custom made shadowy cat helmets!
The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls
Having big a fan of the first anime series, The iDOLM@STER, I was excited to see this spin off, Cinderella Girls. Unfortunately, I came into the new series with a bit of the wrong expectations. I thought it would be more like the original anime, with focus spent on a single group through the duration of the show and occasional back story of individual girls. Instead, Cinderella Girls spotlights several groups / single idols within a Production Company’s project. The most consistent presence we have is the Producer, who we meet at the start and changes very little throughout the duration of the show. This change in structure had me struggling for almost half of the series; I kept feeling like something was wrong with the pacing, and couldn’t connect with any of the characters.
It wasn’t until the eighth episode that I finally jumped on board with the anime’s concept and started to feel fondly about the girls part of the Cinderella Project. Ranko felt like a cardboard stereotype of the goth loli up until this point. But with her debut suddenly upon her, we quickly learn that there’s much more to her than her appearance and dark fantasy lines. I was in step with the Producer and he slowly realized that she was both misunderstood and misrepresented by the concept work. I loved seeing him finally coming face-to-face with her and hashing through her dialogue to come to an understanding of her desired image. Each of the episodes after this added upon my affection for the girls, even Dekoration, whom I had previously disliked.
Special ingredient: It’s interesting to me that the girls who opened the series and found resolution in the final episode were the ones to whom I felt the least close. Maybe it was because after their debut, they sort of dropped out of the picture for the majority of the anime. Or maybe it was because their personalities just never jumped out to me as girls I would go out of my way to know. Despite that disconnect, I still took great satisfaction in their ability to perform against despite the diminished crowds. Call it sympathy from having performed on stage myself, but I was proud of them for learning from their past and bringing the energy back to the festival.
Garo: Honoo no Kokuin
I wish a show like Garo would come about more often in anime–it offered a fantastical maturity that I don’t often see and would love to experience more of in the future. I believe I stated this back with my set menu at the beginning, but I felt like I was re-living one of my favorite dark fantasy novels. The closest examples I can think of to this show’s tone is maybe Bahamut, or Berserk. Like in both those shows, the designations of good and evil can’t be clearly drawn in Garo. Some of the darkest characters were born out of the Makai Knights and Alchemists, those who were meant to protect life and banish darkness. We meet many people with good intentions, but whose weak hearts are swayed by evil and irreversibly transformed into demons. And the supposed hero and namesake of the show is a sulking brat with no reason for wanting to protect those around him.
While setting and story were certainly part of what I liked about this show, it was the characters who earned my affections and loyalty. German’s lusty nature and necessity to procreate at every inconvenient moment somehow was endearing. Leon’s emotional outbursts made me want to mother him since his own could not. Alfonso’s steadfast and pure soul gained my respect and trust. And Emma’s obvious agenda was suspicious, but didn’t stop me for admiring her strength and cunning. The bonds formed between them over these past two seasons proved unshakable even in the face of total annihilation. I felt incredibly satisfied at the end of the series, and was surprised to hear of not only a movie, but also a whole other season, in the works for the future. Part of me hopes they’ll go with a completely different timeline and leave these characters be, but another part would like to see Leon and Alfonso grow as men and knights, as well as the birth of German’s child.
Special ingredient: Garo had a knack for introducing highly likable characters, getting us attached to them, then breaking our hearts where their often gruesome deaths. To name a few, there was Raphael, Lara’s family, and Laura. Raphael was probably the most heart wrenching for me–he was a fatherly figure and instructor to Alfonso during one of his most trying times. While alive, he was the oldest of the knights, and was instrumental in Alfonso’s birth and station. I wouldn’t object to an OVA series or movie featuring his life up until the time we meet him the animation series.
One of my filler shows for the season, I only picked up Absolute Duo during times of great boredom or whenever KWoo pushed for catching up on it. I don’t have any particular beef with the show; I just found it very mediocre and sexist. The idea of weapons manifesting from your soul isn’t new, but the execution here is kind of cool. I find it hard to believe, though, that Tooru is the only one to have a defense Blaze instead of the normal weapon Blaze. There have got to be others who feel a similar desire to protect instead of attack.
As the source material is still ongoing, I’m wondering if Tooru’s background will be fully revealed and followed up on eventually in the manga or light novels. I was disgruntled that we kept getting flashbacks of a mysterious figure standing over Tooru’s sister, but no follow through was provided on the villain’s identity or purpose. Julie received a bit more detail from the show, but we again never discovered the culprit and reason of her father’s death. The anime instead focused mostly on ridiculous battles between first the academy and a strangely evil bunny teacher, then later repeated attacks on the Exceed students by Equipment Smith’s Units. In the end, I didn’t really see the point of the battles that students were pretty much forced to participate in. Absolute Duo was not achieved, and actually injuries came about from fighting with the Units.
Junketsu no Maria
It’s interesting to me how one of the shows that most surprised and intrigued me at the start of the season ended up paused on my list until the very end. The dynamic beginning and ending sandwich a so-so middle pandering to the church. When the series stuck to its magical antics and bawdy humor, it was gold. When it focused on the mercenary Garfa or the Roman Catholic Church’s monks, Bernard and Gilbert, I was less enthralled–some of the encounters just left a bitter aftertaste and soured my view of the whole episode. Maybe that was the intention of some of those scenes, but I greatly disliked seeing any of their involvement in Maria’s affairs.
With Maria’s stance on war and god, I had expected more of a showdown at the end between her and the Archangel, Michael. The angel’s change of heart to first survey the humans’ views of Maria instead of immediately eradicating her didn’t quite make sense to me given his past actions, but the ensuing responses served well to move us toward an uneasy truce between the heavens and the witches. KWoo was cheering for the monk, Bernard, when he yelled of no longer needing god and angels and attempted to choke Michael. KWoo thought it would have been brilliant if a human’s omission of god had given him the ability to physically strike it down. I wasn’t so positive on that outcome, but it probably would have been quite entertaining both in the show and in the resulting aftermath from viewers and critics.
Special ingredient: I think I more enjoyed watching and listening to the various witches’ familiars than I did the humans. Artemis, Priapus, and Edwina’s unnamed black cat were ridiculously cute in their animal forms, and very pretty when transformed into humans. I wanted to pick up the two owls and hug them to my chest every time they swayed to the ending credits’ music, but they probably would’ve pecked me to death. The cat, however, looks like she appreciates a good chin scratching!
- Yuri Kuma Arashi
- Seiken Tsukai no World Break
- Shimai Maou no Testament
Ongoing (old and new):
- Ansatsu Kyoushitsu
- Kuroko no Basket 3rd Season
- Kill la Kill
- Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei