Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter Anime 2014 Round-UP

It's that time again and finally, between the fact that most of my anime ended the week before Christmas and that the rest all took a week or two off for Christmas and New Years (which I do completely understand) I was going a bit mad over here with nothing to watch. I tried out a number of things, half rewatched some others, convinced myself to not start rewatching even more shows, and just am very glad that I'm back to having a regular schedule of having anime magically pop up every few days to watch. As per usual, let me first spend a few minutes on what shows I'm continuing from the fall season (at this point I've more or less dropped Tokyo Ravens and don't even ask about Space Bros, I'm at least a full season behind):

Kill La Kill: Oh damn, when KLK (along with these other two shows) took a two week break I wasn't that impressed where it ended. Some new things had been revealed, the second half was set up, but a couple of major things I expected to happen, well, didn't. They still didn't happen here but the story has finally done it's "major upset to motivate the second half" and this should make things quite interesting, at least for the next few episodes. I still am torn about KLK in many ways, the story has grown on me, I like the soundtrack, I like the characters, yet dear god it's just so much fanservice each week. And no guys, I don't think you can really say "these super skimpy outfits empower the female characters!" when, well, unless I'm wrong this is a show with a mostly male staff and guys, characters don't technically get to decide what they wear. Cosplayers? Sure, people on the beach in skimpy bathing clothes? Absolutely, but not fictional characters, not really, and that's putting aside the "okay howcome it's empowering when I wear little clothing but not when I wear baggy clothes that I really like?" detail. It's a problematic show in a lot of ways yet it's also really fun, just be really really careful where you watch it since it's rare for it to go more than 10 minutes without hitting NSFW territory.

Nagi-Asu: Finally, we're back to the plot! For those just tuning in, Nagi-Asu is a semi-fantastical, semi-coming-of-age story about a group of kids from the sea who are going to school on land and it was slowing down right before the mid-season cliffhanger a few weeks back. However the story is moving forward once again and quickly, as predicated by many viewers we have had a timeskip (although, given the character designs if I hadn't been told how many years it was I wouldn't have guessed) and it works out much better than I would have expected. The show is at it's strongest when it treads the delicate line between happiness and sadness and for once I think the show made a good call to focus on middle schoolers, instead of an older age group, for a romantic story given just how tumultuous that time of your life is without all the additional problems. And those additional problems are why I love the series actually, it takes a while but the fantastical setting finally comes into play and both creates new problems for the series and uses it as a metaphor for others, I would love for the series to focus on the fantasy a bit more this time (which I think it will given the slight change in setting) and it's gone from being a show I was unsure of to one of my favorites of the season.

Samuari Flamenco: Oh man SamFlam, what are you doing now? To recap, SamFlam started out as a show about a regular guy who wanted to be a superhero except, well, since there's no such thing as super-villains he was doing stuff like stopping people from littering. I didn't like it at first, lead Mayoshi's viewpoint grated with mine but as he changed and grew (both in thinking and his ability to not get beat up by hooligans) and it progressed rather nicely until about a seventh episode which honestly felt like the end of the series with everything wrapping up. Then, completely out of nowhere, the series underwent a huge genre-shift (less of a shift and more of a "gets in a monster truck and jumps across the arena" actually, social media was fun that day) and then it played around with these new superhero tropes, seemed to get comfortable with those as well, and then in episode 11 it seemed to shift over into a new one again and frankly I just don't like the current setting. It's sentai, which I have nothing against, but it plays all the ideas and tropes too straight, there's too little of that real-world connection the first two arcs had (and Goto who serves as the series comedic straight man) and without that I'm finding it boring. I'm sure we're going to go through another shift and I just hope it comes soon and that I like the show more again after it!


All three of these shows are streaming on crunchyroll, KLK also goes up on hulu fairly quickly and Sam Flam (both of which are licensed by Aniplex) has slowly been going up as well. Nagi-Asu has also been licensed but by NIS America instead.


Okay, time for the new stuff!
Buddy Complex: Time-traveling mecha action. As I alluded to in my recent Valvrave review, Sunrise is known for making mecha shows with strange "twists" to them and apparently this time around it's time travel. We have your average high school boy, see a bit of his life, see a girl who seems to like him, and then a mech comes crashing out of a time vortex and the short of the long of it is that our protagonist has now found himself in the future where his new mech seems to be syncing up with another one ("Nice Coupling," in case the relationships of Valvrave weren't spelled-out enough for your tastes!). Without that gimmick it's a pretty forgettable show, a few days after I tried it out I had completely forgotten about it so I won't be continuing with it.

BudCom is streaming on Funimation's website


Hamataro: Darker than Rainbows. Clearly someone here looked at Darker than Black and went "hey I like how these characters have to do weird things to use their superpowers, let's use that! But make everything way more colorful and add in more teens/young men!" Which in the hands of some writers/directors would work but Seiji Kishi isn't exactly known for making awesome anime these days and it just falls flat on it's face. In a nutshell it's trying to hard to be hip, cool, appealing to the action fans and those who want to stare at pretty guys, and the art direction doesn't quite work. For one thing there were an odd number of shots where the characters were staring right at the camera (leading me to go "man, is this a bad visual novel adaptation or something?" which is ironic considering Kishi's other works) and the staff decided that when the characters use their powers to completely oversaturate the scene with god-ugly rainbows and it just doesn't work, at all! 

While I won't be giving this one another chance those curious can head on over to crunchyroll to check it out. Also, has nothing to do with hamsters. 


Hozuki no Reitetsu: Administrating hell is tedious and varied. As I feel like I say too often, comedy is hit or miss and for me this was a miss. Not a huge miss however, it was more like a slight step off the path rather than someone running in completely the wrong direction so I might return to the show later after all. But for the moment I already have entirely too many shows airing on Thursday and while I cracked up a few times over a sarcastic quip or such, by and large the half-workplace-half-mythology humor just wasn't doing it for me and I'm going to give this one a pass.

For those who think that working in hell would be better than their current job, Hozuki no Reitetsu is streaming on crunchyroll and licensed by sentai filmworks.


Inari, Kon Kon, Koi Iroha: A girl obtains godly powers. Back when this one was announced I had a hard time keeping myself from marathoning the manga immediately since I tried it and found it to be just my kind of story, hurray! And this was a pretty wonderful first episode, the best word I have to sum it up is adorable. We're introduced to Inari (not the shrine nor the god) and it's hard not to fall for her since she's such a sweet, ordinary kid with great friends and accidentally manages to embarrasses her crush in front of their entire class. Oops. One thing leads to another and by the end of the episode she's made friends with the god Inari (called Uka here, unlike Kyousougiga we are not going to try having two characters with the same name) and really, the story is still pretty adorable so far. The art and music help, there was one strand of music in there that particularly reminded me of Natsume Yuujinchou/and the Book of Friends and the background art was fantastic, rich, wonderful colors, and lovingly detailed (although there was one scene with the tori gates that reminded me a bit of Den-noh Coil in tone which wasn't something I expected to say).

Considering how well Kamisama Kiss did for them, it should surprise no one that Funimation is streaming this on their website.


Noragami: A stray god does odd jobs. When I was looking over the season charts this was one of the shows where I just wasn't sure what to make of it. I had seen a fair number of people excited for it but when I tried out the first manga chapter I didn't like it at all. Thankfully it appears that at least some of the staff agreed with me since they neatly cut out most of the first chapter and I found out that the rest of the characters and the story was much more to my taste. Of course, considering this is only going to be one cour long and doesn't seem to have a good "ending point" it could just be that this was also a bid to cut down the material as much as they could but so far I don't think we've lost much from that cut. Now I'll admit, I did end up reading farther in the manga after the first episode (I wasn't kidding about how the gap in anime seasons can make me a bit twitchy and do silly things) so this is one of the rare times the source material is fresh enough in my mind I can compare it to the adaptation and I really like how their adapting it here. The story is bringing in a few details that didn't come up until later, from the OP I can guess what kind of story arc they'll try to create and I think it'll work well, they're establishing the characters nicely and even tossing in a bit of foreshadowing, and so far I think the pacing is working. It also certainly helps that the staff have a great sense of design and color so the show looks great, I'm amazed that Bones is able to make two such great looking shows in one season (especially since they haven't done anything since Blast of Tempest ended last winter) and I'm pretty excited to see where this goes!

Noragami is streaming on Funimation's website and is also on hulu.


Nobunaga The Fool: Historical figures in a fantasy mash-up. Whelp, I was interested in this show since I generally like Kawamori's utterly crazy stories and this one looked a bit like a mash-up of Escaflowne and Aquarion, however so far both of those shows made way more sense and that's saying something in Aquarion's case! So far we've been introduced to the setting, a series of dual worlds, one inspired by Renaissance Europe and the other by Warring States Japan, seen characters from every conceivable time-period, and, erm, have had a lot of ham already. So I'm split on the show, half the time I think it's actually pretty cool and entertaining but the other half it seems to be jumping off the rails with crazy character speeches, too many characters being introduced at once, and probably about a half dozen plot threads flying around already. I'm going to keep watching it at this point but not because I think it's going to be great, I just want to know what the heck they're doing with it!

For everyone else who has been lacking some Kawamori-style craziness in their lives you can go over to crunchyroll to check this one out. 


Nobunagun: Historical figures as weapons, even Gandhi. You know it's an odd season when I can say "you know the show where Nobunaga, that Japanese warlord from a few centuries back, gets turned into a gun? NOT the craziest Nobunaga show this season", any other time that'd take the cake! The show actually isn't that bad, we have a high school girl who seems a tad obsessed with military weaponry (but in the same way someone might be with a sport, not in the carrying-fake-weapons-everywhere kind of way) who goes on a school trip, there's some implied yuri, it goes south (the trip not the yuri), and then is revealed to have special powers that involve Nobunaga and a gun. As I said, it's not bad (I've seen some people liken it to Symphogear and from what little I know about that show it seems to be an apt comparison), honestly it just isn't zany enough for me to get behind the premise so I don't see myself continuing with it.

In an odd twist, Nobunagun is streaming on both crunchyroll and Funimation's sites.


A Pilot's Love Song: Kids journey to the world's edge. This was my most anticipated show of the winter season and was also my most anticipated show of the fall and summer seasons as well! I have no idea this is show was delayed or if the people making the upcoming anime charts simply jumped the gun a little bit but I was pretty excited about this even before I watched The Princess and the Pilot, something about the novel cover art and the summary made it sound like high fantasy and reminded me more than a bit of Keys to the Kingdom (which is one of my favorite shojo fantasy manga that no one has heard of). It turns out that it's pretty different in tone than KttK but you know what I'm fine with that, so far it's been a pretty charming little show with an interesting setting, it's balancing introducing a good sized cast nicely, and so far the pacing seems to flow well too. Yes it is trying to adapt 5 novels into 12/13 episodes, that's certainly worth worrying over (while I've seen some shows cram a crazy number into a single cour it usually works much better when it's only two or three) but since there's nothing I can do about that I'm just not going to worry about it for the moment. I am having flashbacks to Fractale because of the character designs (you can tell the budget is a lot lower than the movie, we're already seeing scenes with the characters looking super simplified so I am worried what all of the, probably many, plane scenes will look like by the end) but I do rather like the background music, although so far the OP and ED are rather forgettable. Best of all, it has no connection to the movie so far (in fact it's a prequel) so there's no barrier to entry here, hurray!

For those seeking a combination of airplanes and students, with some romance and quite likely political intrigue thrown in, head on over to crunchyroll.



Sakura Trick: High school girls kiss often. One of the shows I was rather excited about more because of it's concept than anything else, it's so rare to have yuri shows and especially one that's not "will they or won't they?" I will say however that my biggest impression of the show was "wow that was a lot of shots in partially shaded CG classrooms wasn't it?" which is sad since when the show isn't CG the design aesthetic is pretty cute (also followed by "why does it look like half the girls aren't wearing bras in the OP?"). As for the actual content, I thought it held together remarkably well for a series based on a pretty basic and silly premise and being a 4koma manga. I'm interested in what the next episode will do, since it's got an A part and B part and focuses on a different "couple" so I'm not 100% committed to following it yet but it has potential for me. Now it just needs to prove that it can come up with new gags each week and actually do something with the characters instead of having them make out for 50% of their screentime*.  

For all your sweet, blooming yuri romance needs please go on over to crunchyroll.


Silver Spoon: Kids learn about farming and life. Aw, the opening song isn't nearly as catchy this time around! Ahem, other than that, I know the series has a new director for this half (ironically enough it seems the old one is going on to work on Sword Art Online II) and everything feels more or less the same, although it's always a bit weird when you get a new director after a break and try to work out if anything really is different or if the time just blurred your memory (and the fact we started out with a bra joke really, really didn't help). In the downtime I did accidentally come across that seems like a rather major spoiler for the series, oops, and with that in mind I feel like the story is moving a bit too fast to get to it and it's making me nervous, but I'm just going to hope that everything is as solid as it was the first time and that I'm just having first episode jitters!

For everyone who doesn't want to watch the other set-at-an-agricultural-school-show this season, Silver Spoon is streaming on crunchyroll and has been licensed by Aniplex.


Space Dandy: A dandy guy hunts for aliens. It was a given I was going to check out this show, I did make time to go to the panel on it at Otakon after all, and after hearing that they were going to try a simuldub and actually air it on Toonami before it even airs in Japan, and not in a crazy 3am timeslot, I decided well why not try watching it dubbed too? And so far I'm enjoying the show, I like the dub (which seems to be hit or miss for a lot of people, I like that it's a bit "cartoony" given the setting and often wild animation) and I'm surprised and how quickly it seems to be over each week even with commercials, although I am sad that they had to cut down the OP and ED for the broadcast. It's not a ridiculously amazing, this-will-blow-your-socks-off, show but I am finding it a lot of fun as a loosely connected series of episodes with the same characters, a growing number of running gags, and it's clear that the people working on it are having a heck of a good time as well (at least one of the animators on twitter has said that they've had a lot of freedom so far and I think that shows). I've looked a little at the staff list and it seems like they're going to have some interesting people writing and directing over the course of the show and I'm looking forward to it!

Dandy people can catch the dub airing on Toonami in the US at 11:30 EST or they can catch the subbed version of the show on Funimation's website and hulu.


Wizard Barristers: Magical lawyers defend the accused. Not originally on my to-watch list but since I saw a number of people praising it, why not? Except for the fact that I'm actually a really good judge of what will interest me these days and this show bored me. Yes it had good action but the way the characters dressed and the colors just completely rubbed me the wrong way (erm, just of the clothing, everything else looked fine). Something about the tone didn't quite sit well with me and everything was, well, just a bit too silly yet oh man it could get serious at any moment!1! for me. So that's a drop, if I feel like I need some workplace comedy I'll go back to Hozuki no Reitetsu first, then this show.

For those who think that wizards involved in court cases sounds like an awesome idea, head on over to crunchyroll to check it out yourself.



So, now that this is all said and done, what am I actually going to be watching? Right now it looks like Noragami, NoFoolLove Song, Inari Kon KonSilver Spoon 2, Sakura Trick, and Space Dandy, in addition to my fall shows. Well, in a surprise move earlier today Funimation announced that all of their simulcasts will be a one week delay for non-subscribers so it looks like the only show I'll actually be able to remain up to date with will be Space Dandy since I'm staying up late to watch the dub, maybe it's a good thing that APR just disbanded. In any case, I might end up dropping one or two of these shows and can't rule out picking up anything else but so far that's a pretty full plate for me, while there haven't been any amazing, stand-out shows for me so far this season there do seem to be a number of solid, okay to good shows out there and I can only hope they get even better!




*Also, since there does seem to be a bit of a sharp divide along sexuality lines for who did and didn't like this show, I'll note that as a female asexual I am neither of the target audiences for this show and that after KLK each week my tolerance for fanservice has become a bit warped. ^^;

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