Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Winter Anime 2015 Mid-season thoughts

I would say it's time to resume your regularly scheduled blog posts but 1. Wednesday's review is going up on Thursday this week (since there's a movie that would be perfect for this blog that has a showing near me on Wednesday night) and 2, like in years past I'm going to make a greater attempt at talking about anime seasons not only at the beginning of the season but halfway through as well which is right about now. I'm trying to be more aggressive in cutting out shows that I don't like and one way I'm doing that is checking in with various other bloggers at the halfway point in the season to see what shows are still worth watching and I thought I would do that same here. Since I already talked about the fall shows several weeks back I won't bring them back up again but overall I am enjoying my continuing shows more than the new, winter shows and this season seems forgettable as a whole, such is often the case with the winter anime seasons.


Excellent:

Shirobako: Well, I didn't talk about it during my Winter Anime 2015 Round-UP since I hadn't started watching it yet and it really is one of the best things I'm watching right now so I want to say why. Shirobako is both a fun story about producing anime (after this show I have no idea how any show manages to come out on time) and a look at five young women entering the (creative) working world and I love it for that. I've seen a few people say "oh the show doesn't focus on the girls as much after a few episodes and that's great!" but I would disagree, the show does flesh out it's many side characters admirably but in the end the focus of the show always returns to these girls and the surprisingly varied lives they live. While I do come across other stories about young women striking out (mostly in webcomics that have a fantasy bent to be completely honest), this is both one of the best takes I've seen and the one that comes closet to my own life which also makes it one I really want to recommend to other people. I actually already have been and most people I recommend it to have the same reaction I do, intrigue accompanied by that small wince that says "oh god that is way too close to my own life, can I even handle seeing that?" And the answer is yes, it's not so much that misery loves company but that seeing other people also suffering makes your trials more bearable.

Death Parade: I had two thoughts when this show started, one that it would be great since Death Billiards worked together so wonderfully and a little bit of worry, the show was announced so close to the start of the season I was afraid it hadn't had much preproduction time. I have no way of knowing if that was true but so far the show has held together magnificently and balanced several different levels of plot lines. We have the weekly, doomed, dead duo of the week where each new group gives the viewer more doubts about this system of judgement and the show has started to act upon those doubts as well, almost as soon as the audience thought about it actually. There is also the mystery of what is going on with Decim's black-haired assistant (and truth behind her situation was also casually revealed not long after the audience worked it out on their own) and I'm very curious to see how that case resolves itself. I'm also wondering if there are even more plots in this show, we had a brilliant scene where Nona, Decim's manager, and a man who says he's the closet thing left to God play billiards with the heavens and I wonder if their chatter about the going-ons in the bars was meant to be just office politics or an indication that there is something bigger brewing. I would honestly be happy with either answer but, considering how the show seems to get larger in scope every three or so episodes, I wouldn't be surprised if the show ends with a great shake-up.


Good:

Yurikuma Arashi: I've fallen a bit behind on this show not because I didn't enjoy it but because I feel that I need to give it my full attention while viewing which I haven't had a chance to really do lately. I don't love the show as much as I did with Revolutionary Girl Utena or Mawaru Penguindrum (the symbolism immediately captured me with Utena and I loved Penguindrum's strange mystery from the start) and I feel as if I am missing more of the references and symbolism this time around, thank goodness for other blogs to fill me in. But I'm still enjoying it, I continue to love the stylings of the show (each and every shot is so deliberate) and the moments when I feel like I've grasped the show are wonderful, it's very rewarding to look at something complicated and go "ah-ha, so this is what I should be thinking".

Yatterman Night: While I don't seem to be getting as much out of this show as some other folks are this still is a really solid show that I am enjoying. It manages to have the Yatterman be both big, over-the top villains with their actions and the show also has quiet, sad moments that are more implied than acted on and this balance really makes the show, it can go back and forth between silly and sad on a dime and always knows how to set the tone. I'm really not sure what the end goal for this show is, unless it's two cour I don't see them overthrowing the Yatterman since the story hasn't progressed quickly enough for that yet, but I am enjoying it without any prior Yatterman/Time Bokan experience which was my biggest concern going into the show so I am optimistic that I will accomplish whatever it plans to do!



Fair:

Assassination Classroom: Much like Death Parade I was in two minds when this show started, on the one hand the manga was already licensed so if the anime didn't do fantastic that wouldn't matter (especially since Viz wasn't even the anime licensor) but on the other hand, I still certainly wanted the show to be good. So far the show has stumbled, I've seen the first three episodes and that corresponds to the first volume of the manga which I reread recently for an upcoming review on OASG and I simply think that this adaption could be stronger. It's obvious where one chapter ends and where the anime needs to fill time (which will hopefully be helped once it gets into multi-chapter plotlines like the mini-Karama arc) and the show is overly eager to foreshadow some future plot points. Plus, while the inner dialogues work well in the manga they come off as boring and over-done here in the anime, I feel like many of them could have been slimmed down and shown instead for better impact. These are complaints that can easily go away if the show tightens up a bit, I had similar complaints about Yona of the Dawn and I think it's doing fantastic now, but given the director's track record I'm more than a bit worried. 

Durarara!! x2 Shou: I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, the Durarar!! novels aren't as good as the Baccano! ones and I'm still amazed at how well the Baccano! anime was adapted, it really had no right being as strong as it was. Drr's stories don't interweave as well and it returns to the same central cast too often which you can already see in these first few episodes. Plus, in the five years between these two shows, light novel adatations have become much more common so many of the tropes that the show is mocking (the celebrities, crazy siblings, etc) just feel awkward now since they're not played around with enough to feel like true parodies anymore. I don't even know if I should call that one a fault of the story or if I should just be worried that I'm now this cynical about yet another set of story tropes.

Magical Boys: Honestly I can't remember the full title of this show but it's okay, no one else can either and everyone knows what you mean if you say "magical boys". To be even more honest, if it wasn't for the fact that I'm watching this show along with another friend I would have dropped it already, she seems to enjoy it a little more than I do but it started getting stale for me in the second episode. It's simply not that creative about how it parodies the standard magical girl tropes and that's it's whole schtick, "hey look how silly this idea is, especially when it's not done by the usual characters!" and while it doesn't feel mean-spirited I simply like my comedy and parodies to work really hard at being funny in unexpected ways. But hey, it has an evil green hedgehog with the deepest voice ever and tons to snark at, that's more or less what I expected and does what I need it to do.

Maria the Virgin Witch: My feelings on this have ended up being more complicated than expected. On the one hand, the Catholic Church (mostly the "church of heaven" but the "church of Earth" as well) is just as big as a strawman as I had heard and having a strawman villain is a thing of children's stories, not something aimed at people above age 11. But Maria herself is an interesting, fun character with a lot of potential to become a very complex one and it's clear that the story is going to be about her growing and developing into this adult person that she has the potential to be and I'm interested in seeing that play out. Plus, I will freely admit that the sex jokes continue to amuse me after three episodes, the fact that the owl-incubus just REALLY wants a dick so he can do his job right is surprisingly hysterical! It's not at the top of my to-watch list but in a way I have higher expectations for it than I do for the other shows in this "fair" category, while they seem to be digging themselves in deeper I can see this show getting better and (as always) hope that it does. 

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