Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring 2013 Anime Round-up

And the spring shows have started folks! Trying to get this out a bit earlier than usual so for all of the shows here I’ve seen just one episode and I’m cramming everything into one post, should be fun to check back in three or six months to see what I actually kept/dropped. And as a quick note, I’m still following three shows from the winter season, Chihayafuru 2, Doki Doki Precure, and Space Bros. So far Chihayafuru feels a little weaker pacing wise than the first season (they only spent a few episodes at Omi Jingui and had completely wrapped that arc up by episode 15 but here we’re at 13 and still in the team matches, I’m wondering if the rest of the season will be spent at Omi Jingui and I really hope not) but it still has my attention and it’s managed to flesh out the two new club members better than I had hoped and the rest of the gang continues to grow (even if Arata still isn’t showing up on screen much, I finally found a word to describe him though guys, he’s a tritagonist!). Doki Doki Precure isn’t as good as Heartcatch so far but it’s self aware enough to make me laugh along with it and have fun casually watching it each week, although I’m having real trouble with the villains each time (instead of focusing on the monster/victim of the week like Heartcatch did we see a quick shot of them thinking a selfish thought, being mature and saying “naaaaah” and then they turn into a monster anyway, this idea is as awkward as it sounds in writing). However, unlike most of the shows I watch I don't feel super motivated to find fansubs for it each week and if this season gets busy I'll probably drop it and check back on it later to see if it's worth picking back up. And finally it looks like Space Bros is in for the long haul, it sounds like the anime is somewhere around volume 10 out of 20 volumes so far and I want to say I heard that the manga-ka is predicting it to go on for around 30 volumes. I’m really curious how much longer this one is going to be sticking around, it would be hugely impressive if it went all the way to the end, at the current pace they have about a year’s worth of material to animate still and in the past the manga-ka churned out an impressive four volumes a year but last year only produced two. I guess in theory the manga could stay far enough ahead (and it seems like the anime pads a bit with recap bits to help with this) and the show just got placed in a new timeslot which is right before Detective Conan on Saturday afternoon/evenings which is apparently a really really good sign. Regardless I still enjoy it’s humor, all the space stuff, and all the stuff involving it’s multiple sets of siblings now which makes me reflect on my own relationship with my siblings, although I do feel like a mediocre big sister when compared to Mutta.

Arata the Legend (Arata Kangatari)
Arata (no not that one) switches places with Arata (again, not that one) from another world.
Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure this is Yuu Watase’s only non-shojo work and it’s always interesting to see when an author (of any medium) who is very heavily associated with one genre (in her case shojo) switch to a different one (shonen) and seeing just what tropes carry over. You could actually make this into a shojo very easily so I'm wondering what this genre switch will bring besides male main characters (which she's had before, Alice 19th had them for sure and a lot of her earlier works have a good amount of action as well). Also, I noticed on a scanlation site the other day that in Japan that the story is over 150 chapters yet the show is only going to be one cour, how the heck is that a good idea? With a story that long I can almost guarantee that individual arcs in the story are going to be longer than 13 chapters and, even if the pick up the pace and put multiple chapters into one episode (like they did here) they’ll still have a freakisly hard time making that work. Really at this point that’s what’s keeping me from getting really excited about this series, while it has potential I just don’t know if it has the time to make it work.

Arata the Legend is streaming on crunchyroll but only for United States and Canadian viewers and it might be for subscribers only. If it is subscribers only, the wording is a bit strange, I 'll have to drop it since I'm using a free subscription now to save money and won't be continuing with it.  

The Devil is a Part-timer (Hataraku Maou-sama!)
Satan escapes a crusading Hero and flips burgers.
Someone pointed out this one to me a few months back when they noted that a voice actor I had heard and liked had landed the leading role here so I checked out the manga (adaptation of the light novels this is based on that is) and found that the humor worked surprisingly well there. And here the humor continues to work, the first episode starts off a bit slow as it gets through the backstory of “how the hell a conquering demon lord is now trying to become a full time McRonald’s employee” but once it hits the second half it pulls off the situational humor pretty well. So I have high hopes that the entire show manages to stay funny and keep my interest, if that manga adaptation is any indication then it should fulfill those expectations very nicely.

Funimation has picked up the show for streaming and can be viewed either on their website or on hulu.

Devil Survivor 2 the Animation
Kids summon demon’s with their cell phones.
Initially this wasn’t on my to-watch list since I’ve never played any of the Shin Megami Tensei games of any franchise but, since I saw a number of good reviews for it and that reasoning hardly stopped me from watching Persona 4 the Animation, I gave it a shot and yeah, that was pretty solid. Thankfully here they’ve chosen to give the main character, in the game the player avatar, a real personality instead of trying to develop him as the show went on a la P4tA and the story gets to the action pretty quickly. I can still see that this was adapted from a game (“oh here is the exposition, this one is probably the tutorial fight” etc) but it doesn’t feel like I’m just watching a Let’s Play of the game so for the moment I’m sticking with it.

DS2tA (DeSu2A?) is streaming on crunchyroll for people in : USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, and Scandinavia..

Gargantia on the Verduous Planet (Suisei no Gargantia)
Mech pilot accidentally space-warps to backwater Earth
This was one of the shows I was most excited for going into the spring season. Scratch that, I was curious about a number of shows but only really excited for this one, it's a low-key season for me this time around, and I had such a hard time waiting for the second episode that I eventually found a fansub of the second episode (ripped from a DVD given out a few weeks earlier) with subpar subtitles and still enjoyed the heck out of it. Somehow this one just worked for me, I've seen a lot of people say that the first half moved a little too slow for them but I like space battles and space operas so I was just fine with epic-scale outer space fighting (and no the CGI does not look bad, it's not quite as nice and neat as Majestic Prince's was but it's perfectly fine guys, the show in general looks fantastic) and I was also okay when the story did a pretty large genre shift for the second half of the episode/for the rest of the series it seems. I’m okay with how they’re handling the shift to a quieter, not exactly slice of life but certainly smaller in scale story following the remnants of humanity on Earth living on boats and endlessly moving on the all-encircling ocean.

Gargantia is steaming on Crunchyroll for United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, Turkey, Brazil, and Portugal. 

Two boys get entangled in secret, colorful, organization.
I’ve been a bit worried about Karneval for a while now since I’ve read the manga and I can say first hand that this series has it’s strong points and it’s weak ones and the beginning is most certainly one of the later. The anime works with the source material as best as it can, namely by compressing the first three chapters into one episode which does cut out some problems (I don't think the manga-ka even knew what they wanted Circus to be in the very beginning) but the pacing as a result just does not work. I’m tempted to say that the staff spent more time trying to figure out how to make the story look cool than how it was going to make sense and I’m really hoping that it gets smoother as the series goes on but that’s another thing I’m worried about, the length. This has been confirmed to be a one cour series and based on what characters have been posted on the website I can guess at least how far they’ll go and frankly I don’t think there is a really good stopping point after just thirteen episodes. All all I'm nervous about this series, I've seen manga fans say "yep that made about as much sense as the manga did at this point" and non-manga fans optimistically say that they think they like where it's going but yeah, I'm going to hold off recommending this show until it ends and I can say whether or not it worked.

For those willing to risk dazzlement and confusion, Karneval is being streamed by Funimation for Region 1 viewers.

Majestic Prince (Ginga KikĊtai Majestic Prince)
Five failing teens are flung into mecha fights.
Another of the mecha shows this season and one where I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I went into it. The good news is that the snark I saw in the trailers was present in the actual show, but a bit of snarking alone isn’t enough to make me keep watching a show especially when it’s got weird character designs (seriously, here are the original designs, here’s some promo material, and here’s an actual screenshot, I think a side character in the first few minutes stole everyone else’s noses in order to have a large schnoz, this is even worse than the Moyashimon Returns character design changes) and nothing new about the premise in general. Heck, while it is also fast paced and has some nice fight scenes it’s seriously lacking in the explanation department (or perhaps the common sense department, I want at least a line about why they took the worst teen mecha pilots and gave them the best robots they had AND someone at least noting that they seem to be working much better as a team than they were just a few hours earlier) and sure that can be remedied in further episodes but with so much other stuff coming out this season I’m not going to stick around to find out.

Majestic Prince is streaming on crunchyroll for USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand and has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks.

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru or literally My Youth Romantic Comedy is as Wrong as I Expected)
Teacher forces student to join service club.
Intially this wasn't on my to watch list since, well, the premise on the lists and charts of the upcoming spring season didn't interest me and it sounded like Brain's Base was just redoing a less interesting version of My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun) half a year later. But after seeing a couple of good reviews, plus the fact that I wasn't interested in that show before trying it either, I gave it a shot and nope, my instincts were spot on. The show actually reminded me more of Bakemonogatari in how it sets up two of it's lead characters, the guy's appearance to a small extent, how it tries to be artsy with flashbacks and such, and guys, if you're going to be similar to another show you had better be better than them and that's not what happened here. I'd like to say that I'm not saying that one light novel series copied the other here but this one is certainly the weaker of the two and I'm not a huge fan of the -monogatari series to start with. Also, as I was watching this I thought "the author here feels young" and yep, the original author is only 27 and since this series is now on it's fifth or seventh book he must've started when he was even younger and it shows. Neither he (I believe it's a man) nor the director/writers of the show were able to make the characters believable or even interesting and the idea of a group/school club that helps people is a pretty tired premise yet they didn't do anything to spice that up either. 

Another dropped show for me but those interested in checking it out can go over to crunchyroll, provided you live in United States, Canada, South Africa, Finland, Norway, Sweden, or Denmark. 

Red Data Girl
Girl breaks computers and boy is broken.
So I caught one of the rips of the niconico stream a week or so back and man, maybe the fact that I was watching the worst quality video I’ve ever seen that wasn’t a copy of a copy (etc) of a VHS tape but this first episode just didn’t grab me. Looking at other’s screenshots I can say now that yes the art looks fine, lesson learned there, but the first episode just felt a bit awkward. We can see the characters acting but we don’t know why, why is cutting Izumiko’s hair so important (it’s not like this is Crime Edge, heck that makes this the third anime this year to place a focus on hair so I'm declaring 2013 "year of hair" at this rate) and why is Miyuki’s dad so insistent that he’s going to help her? Since there are a few more episodes out I’ve seen some people say it gets stronger I am going to give it a few more episodes (especially sine Funimation is streaming it) but there's another problem, the legal streams (and the tv broadcast) are a full three weeks behind, almost a month in Funi's case, the internet streams which is going to make avoiding spoilers for the series nigh impossible. I have absolutely no idea why there's such a huge delay, it was weird enough last season that there was a three day delay between when the first tv stations showed From the New World and when the main station/crunchyroll did and this is even stranger. Oh well, at least I'll have something to watch on Wednesdays.

As noted above, RDG is being streamed by Funimation, also make sure you use the hastag #rdg_anime on twitter or apparently you'll offend a small town in England.

Valvrave the Liberator (Kakumeiki Valvrave)
Average teen meets mech, gets messed up
And the award for the show which made me snark the most this season so far goes to Valvrave! Seriously folks, this show has some okay moments (when part of the what looks to be a good sized cast chilling in school), some bad moments (maybe I'm getting jaded but I couldn't take any of those military operations/people seriously), and then, well, one rather large WTFDIDIJUSTSMOKE moment at the veeeery end of the episode, make sure to watch past the credits guys. I seriously don't know how to feel here, the show looks great but the plot alternates between being generic and feeling like the creators are trying to hard to replicate their past successes, namely Code Geass. Here's the thing, I liked Code Geass (or at least the first season, the second season promised to reveal some things which it didn't and that annoyed me) and even Guilty Crown (which I believe also shares a lot of the same staff) didn't have me snark-raging as much as this did. Honestly in that respect the show reminds me a lot of K but with K I tried the second episode and went "you know, I think the writers are aware that what they're writing is kinda silly and they're just rolling with it, I can deal with this" and enjoyed the show, I don't think that's what Valvrave is doing. I'm going to give it another episode or two (mainly because of how pretty it is) but if this doesn't get at least more amusing then I'm going to find other shows to spend my Fridays watching.

Valvrave is streaming on crunchyroll for  US, Canada, United Kingdom, and Ireland. 

SO, now that I've finally gotten through everything, my final verdict? I am following Gargantia, Chihayafuru, Maou-sama, and Space Bros for sure (and most likely Doki  Doki) and I'm gonna be pumped for them each week. And I'm going to continue with Arata, Karneval, RDG, Devil Survivor, and Valvrave for now, if any of them fail to keep my interest for a few episodes I'll drop them with no hesitation. And dear lord, all of those shows except Precure and Space Bros (maybe Devil Survivor, Valvrave is apparently confirmed as split cour) are going to end this summer, I am going to be very busy come late June/early July with reviews.

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