Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring 2014 Anime Round-UP

It's that time of year again folks, time for me to talk about the sudden onslaught of new anime and I'm starting off this season with almost a blank slate since just about all my shows have ended, as is usually the case since winter shows tend to be one-cour and it's rare to have a show run for more than two-cour so all my fall shows have ended as well. The one exception (well, Space Dandy is split cour but it's currently off the air) is the latest Pretty Cure series, Happiness Charge (nicknamed Hacha! by fans because that's just fun to say). In case people are trying to remember, no I didn't finish Doki Doki Precure since, well, it turns out that wasn't one of the better series. This I'm still a little cautious about, once burned twice shy after all, but I already like how they're fleshing out the character better and the fights are rather fun and silly, just what I want from a children's show!

Not included here are Break Blade and Knights of Sidonia since I already saw the BB movie's years ago and this is just a re-edit of those (possibly with a few new scenes and a new opening but nothing can compare to the movie's wonderful opening song) and Sidonia is actually getting broadcast, dubbed, on Netflix in the summer so I'm waiting for that. Well, that and Sidona's CGI is making me nervous, I hope it looks fine in the series but those trailers do not fill me with hope.

Captain Earth

 Boy returns home to alien invasion. 
Since this show does come from a long line of Bones shows it's not surprising that various people compare it to various shows, although funny enough I see very little of Star Driver in there (which is the most commonly compared one, mostly likely since it was the newest) and a surprisingly amount of both Eureka 7 series and RahXephon. Admittedly it's been far too long since I've seen RahXephon but Daichi's sense of isolation with the world matches up with what I remember about RahXephon, where it takes a surprisingly long time for lead character Ayato to be accepted into the people around him and never felt quite at home in Tokyo Jupiter. Both Renton and Ao in the Eureka 7 series had to deal with being kept out of the loop in their new situations as well (more Renton than Ao) but in both of those cases they, and some friends, were isolated within a larger group that was by and large benevolent to them, here Daichi starts off completely on his own without even the friends that Ayato had (and Star Driver was practically the power of threesomes, seriously there are so many triads of characters in the show that it's ridiculous). I also liked how the show started off with Daichi isolated like that and his "deep" thoughts, I've seen some people write those off as pretentious but they felt pretty true to life from when I was that age in high school, but he even recognizes that even though he sometimes feels special and separated that really he's pretty normal, that amount of self-awareness also felt pretty true to life. I will completely agree that the style of the music is reminiscent of Star Driver but even the art feels like a cross between the style in Star Driver and that of Eureka 7: AO (and whenever I see the mech I think Heroman, probably because of how it's mostly white which is kind of unusual actually and it has those really fat legs). Despite all these comparisons I have no doubt that the show will end up being it's own, distinct story that brings in some of Bones' favorite tropes and yet brings a new spin on others. It's the show I was most excited for going into this season and so far it's my favorite of the bunch.

Captain Earth is streaming on crunchyroll. 

Coffin Princess Chaika

Mysterious girl has a job offer. 
I seem to be in the minority on this one but I did not like the first episode of this show at all. Part of it might have been because I tried out the first chapter of the manga adaptation first and, well, I'm predisposed to dislike stories that start with a brother waking up to find his sister straddling him in bed (I'm told they're not blood siblings but really that doesn't make a difference here). And onto the fact that the boy is more or less a neet with a personality that's so low key I question if it actually exists, yeah this isn't for me at all. I've seen people praising it for it's fast pacing and fantasy setting but guys, all we've had so far is no exposition (I will note that the show gets along well without it, but by now I can roll with just about anything a fantasy anime throws at me so I'm not as great a judge of how accessible it is) and it's "fantasy setting" is someone controlling a zombie unicorn and another person using an unnecessarily convoluted system to use magic with their gun. Actually, strike that last aside, if we're in a world where magic takes that long to do anything effective I want a damned good reason why we use it after all, rule of cool just doesn't cut it in a story that's trying hard to be taken seriously. Unless this one gets stunning reviews when it's done I don't see myself picking it back up, I will say that I am impressed that Bones is able to handle three shows this season without a decline in quality though (ignoring the art shift in the Soul Eater Not! screenshots I've seen that is).

Chaika and her compatriots can be found on crunchyroll. 


I think that this show had hands down the best first episode of the whole season (ignoring Mushi-shi) and was even better than I had hoped. The first episode took a different tack from most sports shows by instead of starting off with a bright eyed, curious yet hesitant lead who knows nothing about the sport we have a bright eyed, super enthusiastic main character who loves volleyball and dammit he's going to have his rag-tag team of middle schoolers, two who've never played before, win the championship! I think the only reason the show managed to pull off not explaining the sport at all is due to how simple volleyball is, you have six players on each side and have three chances to manage to hit the ball back over to the other side and the game can move fast. I played some volleyball in middle school (not as much as I would have liked because things got a bit strange) and this show made me wish even more that I'd been able to continue since it really got across just how much fun the game can be. The game itself looks incredibly realistic, the characters move just the way real people do and even when they're not playing they're still moving around in little ways that makes all of them, even though 90% of those from the first episdoe will probably never show up again, distinct and that kind of attention to character animation is less common than I'd like. The characters interact and bounce off of each other realistically and, while this isn't my number one, gotta see it! show right now it's the one I'm most optimistic will stay good and get even better this season.

Haikyuu!! is streaming on crunchyroll and amazingly was one of the first shows to be licensed this season by Sentai Filmworks.

Mekaku City Actors

Music video characters do something. 
Well, I had hoped I would like this since I had no idea where to start with the Kagero Project otherwise (I've liked one or two of the songs, the one about Mary I think) but this just didn't connect with me. I am just so goddamn sick of all the hikkikamori's and neets in anime (probably because the neets here feel nothing like the "neets" I know in the US and I'm pretty sure the lives of actual hikkikamori's is not nearly so seductive) and found all of the main characters problems dumb and completely unrelatable, I couldn't care about him at all. Some of the side characters (who will surely be important since they actually look like characters) caught my fancy a little more but since he is the main character I wonder how much they'll appear. I'm also rather, mad, at the art direction here. Let me explain, after seeing a number of amazingly composed shows last year, like Kyousougiga and Gatchaman Crowds where tons of thought was put into every single cut, seeing this show just toss out images of clocks, gears, and characters in empty space and set it up as "these images are DEEP guys because they're SYMBOLISM" just bothers me. Not it's not symbolism, it's using symbols to represent something like loss of memory or the repetitive nature of the story but it feels both incredibly lazy and the definition of style over substance.

Mekaku is an Aniplex show so they have dibs on distribution and are streaming it online on various websites including crunchyroll and daisuki.

Mushi-shi Second Season

Mushi continue to interact with people. 
It's not fair to compare Haikyuu!!'s first episode to Mushi-shi's because if this episode hadn't been up to par with the episodes in the last season then something would have been terribly wrong. Yes it's been 8 years but considering that just about, if not all, of the major staff returned and it's still drawing from the same source material, it feels like a seamless transition between the first season (/the OVA) and here. I've seen some people say you can jump into this season without having seen the first and I suppose you could but if you like this show you like it because of it's atmosphere, it's little moments and the tone creates and you would be doing a disservice to yourself if you only watched half of those episodes instead of all of them (although if you wanted to start here and then catch up on the previous season on the other days of the week that could probably work, there are only a few plot threads that need to be watched chronologically).

Mushi-shi Zoku Shou is an Aniplex show this time around so it's streaming on crunchyroll, the first season can still be found on hulu thanks to Funimation.

Nanana's Buried Treasure

Kid lives with teen girl ghost. 
A bit ole' ehhhhhh sums up the show for me. I'm giving it a shot because it's noitaminA and sometimes the shows that don't quite fit in the slot are rather good anyway (I was very leery of AnoHana before it started and, even though the show didn't quite fully work the first episode completely grabbed me and made me more hesitant to write off noitaminA shows from the premise alone). This one though, ehhhhh, I'm just not sure what it wants to do. Will it be an adventure or just slice of life with characters that are a mixture of too many tropes and unoriginal concepts that fumbles along "because that's how youth is"? My money is on the later and I'll give it another episode or two to see if it at least strikes a fun balance and tone and makes it worth watching but for the moment it's not exactly setting itself apart in my mind.

Nanana is another Aniplex show that can be found streaming on crunchyroll.

Ping-Pong the Animation

1970s Japanese teenagers play ping-pong.
The other noitaminA entry this season, this one feels like a proper noitaminA show with the return of Masaaki Yuasa and my feelings on this show are mixed in an entirely different way than they are about Nanana. One the one hand, the art style doesn't jive with me at all, this is just one of the times I'm not enjoying the sketchy style and the intentional ugliness of the characters doesn't fit right with me either (actually the art reminds me a little of the screenshots I saw of Flowers of Evil but they still look rather different). However I cannot deny that Yuasa and the rest of the staff know how to frame the cuts of this show like nobody's business and every single scene is interesting and engaging to look at, from the action scenes with tons of angles to the cuts where the action plays out panel by panel as if the screen is a double page manga spread. And it was that plus the tension in the character interactions that grabbed me, atelier emily did a great post over here about the friendship in Ping Pong (which I suspect is familiar to every viewer even if you weren't in one of those relationships yourself) and I am really interested to see what twisted mess it turns into. The whole show hasn't grabbed me, especially since ping-pong is not a sport I find really fascinating to watch, but I'm going to give it another episode or two.

Funimation has picked up Ping-pong for streaming and can be watched on their site or on a one-week delay on hulu (which is also still streaming The Tatami Galaxy which was another Yuasa noitaminA show).

The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushi)

Princess is betrothed to bratty king. 
Before the show aired I checked out some of the manga and eh, it's okay, especially when I didn't have anything else to grab my attention, but I didn't find it very gripping and thought it lacked a central conflict. So I was rather surprised when 90% of the first episode turned out to be completely original and yet still my impression is "eh". I do think they made a good choice there since it establishes Nike in a more natural feeling way, although it was strange to go from the first chapter of the manga where she says that calling the rain is a very special thing and should only be done with the right emotions to seeing her call up wind left and right in the anime. I'm also a bit perplexed how they managed to turn a currently running manga (which has the feel and tone of a mid-2000s shojo which tend to be focused more on the romance and everyday lives of the characters than than fantasy-adventure part of it) and make it feel really 90s. Apparently the director also did Fushigi Yuugi and Ceres Celestial Legend and, while I've not seen the anime for either of those, the tone I feel here matches up with what I remember from those manga and it just leaves me a bit confused. I don't think it's a right or wrong choice for the story, Still Beautiful (like a lot of mid-2000s shojo) suffers from having one idea and having not enough plot to make it work as long as it does and even changing the tone around a bit is not going to help it out here. I do wonder if they can create enough for the story to make it work but I'm not really that optimistic about it. Oh and the art is strange, there are one or two places where it's nicely detailed but most of the time it's just a bit bland and under-designed, like the artists just slapped in a background and didn't spend the time thinking about how they could use the composition and framing a bit better which is frustrating.

Still Beautiful can be watched on crunchyroll.

So, as if right now I have 4 keeper shows (HaCha, Haikyuu!!, Mushi-shi Zoku Shou, and Captain Earth), plus Magica Wars (which is a 4 minute gag anime from Gainax about magical girls representing various prefectures that I'm in for just the cosplay potential), and 3 three-episode-rule shows (Nanana, Still Beautiful, and Ping Pong). And if I continue to see good reviews for One Week Friends in a few weeks I will give that one a shot, other than that I think this is the perfect season to make a real dent in my backlog, anyone doing the same or has everyone else found enough current shows to completely fill up their schedule?

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