Summer 2015 Season Wrap, Part 2

My fall was all over the place in terms of genres and quality! I should only have one more of these summer wrap posts to go, so if I haven’t mentioned one of your favorites just yet, stay tuned🙂

  • Working!!!
  • Aoharu  x Kikanjuu
  • Ore Monogatari!!
  • Kyoukai no Rinne
  • Arslan Senki
  • Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace
  • Charlotte
  • Gangsta.

Working!!!

The time has finally arrived, ladies and gentlemen, for the loyal followers of everyone’s favorite restaurant sitcom to find satisfaction–romantic satisfaction, that is! After two seasons of cock blocks and repeated foot-in-mouth offenders, the agonizing entanglements of hearts are meeting together in mutual understanding and even reciprocated affections. The coupling of Yachiyo and Satou was a long time coming, and was hands down my favorite part of this season. We also find forward movement in other areas as well, including Yamada’s homelessness, and Inami’s androphobia.

So let’s start with “Yamada” Aoi. This careless child of a girl who runs willy-nilly through the restaurant disguised as an employee has long irritated me. If I were Kyouko, I would take even more advantage of free food I would report her as a missing person and be done with the broken dishes! The gimmick of the forever liar looking for a new family wore off early in the very first season, and I was afraid that the third season would carry her changeless to the end. But those of us who clung on were witness to a miracle: Yamada reconciled with her estranged mother. The icing that made this touching moment not quite as dramatic as it could have been was her continued refusal to acknowledge the existence of her brother. I would seriously also choose Souma as a brother in mischief.

Inami has improved greatly on her fear of men since the first season–while a good portion of her progress should be attributed to Takanashi, she, too, worked hard to change her outlook on the opposite sex. Although her physical strength was of no intention of her own, I’ve always admired the power hidden within that deceptively slight frame. The annoyance I felt for her character at the beginning waned, and was mostly gone during this third installment. And that perception wasn’t just unique to me–Takanashi also found himself attracted to her sweet spirit. We don’t have an answer yet on their possibility as a couple by the end, but we thankfully have a one-hour special to look forward to that will hopefully bring the love home ;) Rating: 1 dango* – Best if you’ve seen the first season

Aoharu x Kikanjuu

Airsoft guns and survival games have interested me for quite a while now after shows like Sabagebu!, Girls und Panzer, and Stella Jogakuin. I grew up with friends who played paintball most weekends, and I learned how to shoot a rifle and pistol at a young age from my dad. So when Aoharu x Kikanjuu rolled out, it was a no brainer to pick it up. With the main character being a girl dressed like a boy and keeping her sex a secret from her teammates, I was worried this would turn into some type of BL-esque romance.Happily, this wasn’t the case, but I don’t think what we did end up with was much better.

If I had to sum up this show in one word, I would have to say “lackluster”. The games themselves were fun, but not in a ridiculous, over-the-top way like I wished for, or in an impressively animated and strategic way. Yes, Hotaru was a beast when provoked, but her technique relied on unreliable “bloodlust” that very rarely reared its head. It was more of a device to push the drama forward when convenient. Then there was the angst over her secret about being a girl–the worries were completely overdone and carried through to the end. Her sex didn’t matter in the games, and very likely wouldn’t matter in her personal life since she looks and acts no different either way. And then there was Matsuoka’s strangely written trauma over repeated losses to Midori. As villainized as Midori was, I still preferred his honest approach to his play style to Matsukoa’s fake bravado. I can understand losing drive for a hobby that repeatedly shows you your seeming limits, but Matsuoka’s lashing out at his teammates is pure stupidity.The disconnect between his early friendship and the later cowardice is just to wide and forced. Rating: 0 dango

Ore Monogatari!!

2 cours down, and we finally come to the end of this comically sweet love story–a perfect span of time to establish the strong relationships–romantic, friendly, and familial–and touch on most of the show’s individual characters. As choking-ly sweet for some as most of the interactions were, Ore Monogatari!! always knew when enough was enough and shifted to comedy or a touch of somber reality for balance. I didn’t object to any of the lovey-dovey scenes between Takeo and Yamato (see related post)–watching the success between the two of them brought hope to my all-too-cynical heart. As rare as I find true love to be, I don’t doubt its possibility, just its probability. A huge help to their relationship was their openness. The two of them are open-faced in honesty. In my own personal experience, a major detriment to relationships is a lack of communication and understanding.

Ore Monogatari!! also excelled in showcasing other types of relationships, including my favorite one between best friends, as well as the ties between family members. Suna and Takeo’s friendship ran almost equal, and sometimes even past, my adoration for Takeo x Yamato. The childhood friend is a staple in most school age anime, but rarely do we see good examples between men. In this case, we not only see the scene of their first meeting, but also witness repeatedly the trust and care they put into their bond. On the outside, they exhibit some of the most opposing characteristics, but in truth, they hold many of the same values. This brotherly love extends to showcasing their home lives–first with Takeo’s nuclear family and later with Suna’s single-parent household. They are each treated like family in the other’s home, and they support each other through the joys of birth and the fears of ill health. When Yamato steps into both scenarios without hesitation, it’s clear that she belongs right there with them. Rating: 1 dango

Kyoukai no Rinne

Rinne ended just as laid back as it entered. The gold to this show is it never takes itself too seriously; every situation is worth a joke, from Rinne’s horrible financial luck to Sakura’s deadpan reaction to almost everything around her. At the heart of the show, this is a slapstick comedy–shinigami politics and philosophy about the afterlife are just filler color. The wheel of reincarnation is a refreshing addition to the many afterlife-type shows in anime, and I’m glad it was used in a non-offensive, but not completely innocent, way.

Several times throughout the series, damashigami send souls to the wheel before their actual time is up. Be it trickery or an honest mistake, those misled lives are still reborn like every other soul. I thought it befitting that the method cared not for circumstance–it is absolutely impartial to who passes on to another life. One thing is for certain, souls who ascend must maintain a specific frame of mind: one of peace. Deaths with lingering regrets and agendas cannot move on. This exception brought about another favorite conflict of this show–the practice for exorcising evil spirits. Rinne is the good guy. He tries to understand the underlying feelings and desires before acting. Tsubasa shows a total lack of understanding for cleansing spirits, opting to ineffectively banish them before they are capable of leaving this life.

I almost make it a mission of mine to see every youkai-type show each season, and in the many favorites I have, Kyoukai no Rinne was good, but not great. Its shortcomings included flat frames that centered straight on the speaking character, and panning shots to give an illusion of movement. Rating: 1 dango

Arslan Senki

I knew we wouldn’t see an end to this campaign. Gah! Knowing and experiencing it didn’t help me feel any less robbed of an epic adventure cut short before likely victory. I did appreciate the decision to stop where they did but would’ve appreciated some kind of promise for a continuation (correction! We now have a promise for a sequel sometime in 2016). The battle at the Keep of Saint Emmanuel had just the right amount of risk, strategy, and impact to wrap up the adventure undertaken thus far, and was aided by Etoile’s revelation. Much of the groundwork laid out at the start of the season came to light, though lacked full resolution. Arslan’s claim to the throne of Pars stands on a precipice. His mother’s part in the change of rulers, as well as her estrangement with Arslan, has barely been discussed. Etoile’s confrontation of the hypocrisies of Lusitania still is yet to come. Many threads wait to be picked up and woven together, but I am willing to wait now that I know more is on its way.

From the very beginning, I found the relationships Arslan had with his father and mother strange. His continual pursuit for acknowledgment by his father was understandable, particularly with their royal status in mind. I just couldn’t understand King Andragoras’ complete lack of care for Arslan’s well being given his lack of other heirs. Then there’s the unnatural coldness between Arslan and Tahamine. If not for their matching hair color, I would doubt the blood relation. Part of me wonders if Arslan is some bastard child of hers and a scorned man, or if he’s actually the child of a shamed relative. Why else would he be raised among the common people for such a long period of time? If you’re familiar with the source material, please don’t spoil me on the truth🙂 On that vein of thought, I also wonder about Tahamine’s heritage. Is she of royal blood, or are her beauty and almost magical hold over men’s affections from a more common background?

Then there’s Etoile and Arslan’s almost fated connection. From their first encounter as children to their present truce as adults, I hoped for these two to come to a mutual understanding about humanity’s place in the face of religion and politics. Having seen them from a young age grow into the people they are now, it appears Arslan is the only one to have attempted to better understand his seeming enemies–their faith, motivations, and shortcomings. Etoile has sadly made very little progress in treasuring human lives regardless of nation or faith. But her repeated collisions with our young leader will hopefully open her heart to re-evaluating her beliefs and future actions. I loved seeing that look of awe on her face when holding the newly born baby in her arms, a life spared by the “heathens” of Pars. Rating: 2 dango

Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace

So comes an end to this tale told in memory of Edogawa Ranpo, an author who popularized mysteries for the Japanese audience. His works range from simply mystifying to downright terrifying–one of my favorite short stories was actually the inspiration to this anime’s opening episode, “The Human Chair.” After watching the opening, I assumed that the rest of the show would follow in kind, with each week showcasing another one of Ranpo’s short stories as self-contained episodes. While this was true to an extent, instead of jumping between multiple unique works, the show instead chose to feature the connected tales of the Fiend with Twenty Faces. I unfortunately have not yet had the pleasure of reading these particular stories, but am familiar with their parallel to Western children’s classics written by Edward Stratemeyer. I also never read the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew series as a child, opting for mysteries written by Edgar Allan Poe and Agatha Christie.

Perhaps it was my unfamiliarity with Twenty Faces that prevented me from full immersion into this particular anime; for some odd reason that i can’t quick explain, I never felt drawn to keeping up-to-date each week. A few would pass before I would remember, “Hey! I’m behind on Ranpo Kitan.” I’d watch, somewhat enjoy, then promptly forget about the show once again in favor of other more satisfying summer shows. This is a shame really, given my initial excitement after the first couple of episodes re-telling “The Human Chair” for the new setting and cast of characters. Once Twenty Faces became the repeat offender, my curiosity slackened. I still appreciated the visual art of the scenes, as well as the explanation of different crimes, but couldn’t hold interest in the overarching theory that connected them all. Perhaps I’ll give this another go after reading Ranpo’s works featuring Twenty Faces and see if my view changes. Rating: 1 dango

Charlotte

Key really ought to stick to romance dramas like Clannad and Kanon, and P.A. Works needs to stop picking up middling works like this when I’d much rather see their gorgeous art applied to less contrived works. The show wasn’t so bad at the start, giving me an unconventional despicable lead using his power to overtake others’ bodies for the stupidest of reasons. Given his youth, it was refreshing to see a main character acting selfish instead of martyring himself for the good of others. Heck, if I could have done what he did at that age, I probably would have taken over some guy’s body and conducted a bit of self-examination in lieu of our school’s weak sex education classes. The temptation to cheat on exams would also probably have been too much for me to withstand. But then comes Nao, whisking Yuu off to a new school with a pre-determined set of friends. Our egocentric protagonist all too quickly did a 180, running around at his peers’ beck and call. It was only during his moments of greatest despair that we saw a return of his darker self, though much more violent than expected.

Aside from the opening episode, the first half of Charlotte ran a power-of-the-week format that felt almost normal. It was boring in a predictable, group-bonding kind of way. Yuu got to know Nao, Joujirou, and Yusa/Misa through their retrieval of other students with powers. Somehow through the forced assistance and ignored bullying, he became their friend. As unbelievable as that was, the show only got more ridiculous as focus moved on to Yuu’s little sister, Ayumi. Her awakening, so to speak, brought with it a storm that completely changed the tone of the series. Our characters were pitted against common evils, authorities bent on capturing them in an attempt to use the abilities for their own twisted ends. The agenda this show took on came across like a little kid trying to fit into his dad’s shoes–thirteen episodes were much to few to give any sort of depth to the story. We instead received a harried series of events, including the dangers of time travel, aimed at wrapping everything up neatly by the end. While resolution was found, the journey there lacked emotional connection. Rating: 0 dango

Gangsta.

While Charlotte played at a serious and dramatic plot, Gangsta. strutted with style through its grimy back alleys filled with hit men and prostitutes. I mentioned before that it greatly reminds me of older favorites Black Lagoon and Jormungand, and I still stand by that statement after finishing. Much like those two, Gangsta. introduced numerous families made up of unlikely and mostly unrelated members. While their backgrounds, ethnicities, and professions differ, they come together under one cause in a manner arguably stronger than the ties of blood. Almost to prove that, we see relatives standing on opposite sides of a dispute: siblings Alex and Emilio, and siblings Delico and Erica. In both cases, separation from a young age into opposing life styles almost promises head-on collisions at the expense of one or the other. This ill-boding air permeates almost every crevice of the setting that is Ergastulum. The city is one brought together by a mutual desire for refuge from others or from the self.

One of the main drawbacks to this anime that its comparisons mostly avoided is its focus. Almost every episode or couple of episodes we meet new cast members with their own agendas. The oddly-placed recap in the latter half of the series was actually appreciated because it explained the factions of Ergastulum instead of straight up summarizing past events. It’s easy to get confused on who is doing what and why and how, much less care for anyone other than our main trio at the Handymen. Their flashbacks and emotional connections with one another are what keep me coming back to the show despite the muddied plot. I’m not sure if a sequel has been decided, but with the way that the last episode ended, I’m expecting a continuation sometime next year. Rating: 1 dango

*Rating system:

  • 0 dango – average and forgettable.
  • 1 dango – very good in its category.
  • 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
  • 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.

7 thoughts on “Summer 2015 Season Wrap, Part 2

  1. Gah, I loved Ore Monogatari so much, it’s my anime of the year for sure. It was so sweet and adorable, and yet also emotionally sound. There were many moments that really rung true for me, which doesn’t often happen in shoujo.❤

    I'm so glad Arslan Senki is getting another season!❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hooray! Another Ore Monogatari!! fan! It’s a bit early to choose if for anime-of-the-year for me, though😉 Funny thing about Arslan Senki, I was almost done with this post before I saw the announcement for the sequel. I had a much more negative response before I revised it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hooray for Part 2!

    Arslan Senki is that show that everyone I know is talking about and I’m just not into. I watched the first two episodes and just wasn’t interested after that. Not even after reading the continuing coverage for 2 cours on Metanorn. It’s obvious there’s some quality there, but I just have felt no desire to pick it up. Perhaps it’s just my lack of enthusiasm for “Sword and Sandal” epics in general. I’m glad people liked it, but I just couldn’t generate any desire to watch it.

    Aoharu x Kikanjuu (Seishun Machinegun😉 ) was pretty good, although there were times where I just felt like turning it off cause it wasn’t going anywhere. Honestly, it wasn’t about survival games, not even as much as Sabagebu! or Stella C3! were (and neither of them were much about survival games). It clicked into place a lot more when I realized it was a bishounen shoujo romance. And at that point I also realized there is no way that Hotaru will ever end up revealing his gender to Matsuoka. Because things don’t get “done” in those shows, they just carry on and on and on. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t anywhere near the top echelon of those romance shows. A middling result that wavered around being annoyed with Hotaru.

    Working was how you want all the shows to end! They even managed the impossible, to get me to like Yamada. It took about halfway through, but that episode where she finally seemed to realize her role, and said “As punishment, [Takanashi] has to spend time with Yamada!” Even a little bit of progress goes a long way in a show like that, and the cascading resolutions were almost too much to bear. But they handled it really well, and I’m hoping that the extra episode won’t actually be a fantasy-based one, just a straight up finish to the series.

    Ore Monogatari was sweet through the end, although I wasn’t the biggest fan of the final arc. I’d rather have had more physical relationship development between Takeo and Ringo, as we discussed half a year ago. I think that would have stretched Takeo’s character more than what we got, which was more confirmation of what an awesome guy Takeo is, even when faced with some jealousy (which seemed new to him) and feelings of inadequacy (which weren’t exactly new, but were approached in a different way). But it was still a great series, and I love to see one where good things happen to good people who are being good people, and even making those around them be better people by their example.

    Charlotte: I don’t know how much to say about it. I could complain for days, or just be resigned and not say a lot about it. Writing about it (mostly) weekly meant I was paying a lot of attention to it, and while it had some really good parts (like Yuu’s encounter with Sara Shane), it fell victim to being far, far too overwritten. People went places and did things because the story made them. Things happened because the story demanded it. People cried or laughed or went crazy because it was written in the script. It was such a contrast to my favorite series of the season, Jitsu wa Watashi wa, which was entirely character driven (really, one of the absolute best examples of writing some interesting enough characters and letting them be themselves throughout the whole show. The story went where the characters went, not the other way around). As you say, it’s kind of a shame that PA Works talent was wasted on a show like this, although I fear that the Japanese fandom will eat it up, just because of Jun Maeda’s name on it. But it was so shallow and contrived that it was almost painful.

    Ranpo Kitan and Gangsta I only watched one episode each of. Rinne I watched probably half of the first cour, but it looked like it was settling into a rhythm and sameness that it was gonna stay in for a while, so I just let it go.

    Again, thanks for writing up your thoughts about the shows! It’s a treat as always to be able to read and comment on them!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ore Monogatari is excellent and I definitely agree with you about Takeo and Suna’s relationship, it’s the very first thing I noticed about in this show and by the end of the show, I think I’m actually liking that relationship dynamic even more than Takeo x Yamato.

    Charlotte was just kinda weird that it’s just inconsistent all around. The power of the week format is fine, but was too lengthy and definitely overstayed his welcome, then comes the episode where Yuu returned to his darker side, which was one of the more emotionally powerful episode, although Nao just staying invincible throughout the whole episode is kinda weird. Then, the time travel happens… and then the finale… which is surprisingly decent considering how rocky it was throughout. I think Jun’s definitely a competent writer, he just needs to have a better grasp on anime’s structure and pacing, or maybe just 20+ episodes, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • While Takeo and Rinko were always heartwarming, yes, the pairing with Suna was infinitely more interesting!

      I really shouldn’t have been surprised by how Charlotte panned out. Exactly like you say, so much overstayed its time with the audience. I don’t know enough about Jun’s personal life and influences to know what most affects his writing, but he could use more mentoring! It’d be interesting to go to a panel with him as a guest artist and get a crack at what justifications he gives for his choices.

      Like

      • I assume he still has a very visual novel-like mindset when writing stories, so that means he would usually need a lot more than just 10 episodes to cover everything nicely, lol. Barring Angel Beats and Charlotte, most of his anime (just except for Air) are 20+episodes in length, and all are arguably good shows. Then again these anime are all adaptions, so maybe it’s not a good comparison.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Personally, I’m hesitant to excuse the bad writing of Charlotte based on any factor besides “Jun Maeda just isn’t that good of a writer”. The problems that I had with Charlotte were also there in Little Busters, maybe they were painted over a little bit more because they talked a lot more. Perhaps with Charlotte he just felt like he didn’t have enough time to talk his way over it being a Just So story. To me, that’s not the fault of the length of the series, it’s the fault of the writer who determined that “These things are important and have to be done” and then made the characters do those things, come hell or high water. And since Jun Maeda wrote the script and was involved throughout, that’s gotta go on him.

        I won’t even excuse it on the factor I’m hearing “It’s like a VN, so it follows that style”. Even VN’s can have good or bad writing. I want characters to get to where they end up by dint of natural reactions to the things that happen to them, and reasonable things happening to them (reasonable even accounting for superpowers or special circumstances). It shouldn’t feel like the characters are just reading the script of their life.

        Liked by 1 person

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