Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer 2015 Anime Mid-Season Round-UP

So, we're over halfway there and this season isn't quite as dire as I feared! I did drop Ranpo Kitan since I found I had absolutely no interest in the second episode, and Rokka turned out to be part-mystery anyway, I still haven't had a chance to watch Knights of Sidonia 2 and I've decided to hold off until the very end of the season to see if Charlotte is worth watching or not. With that in mind, here's the cream of the crop and then everything else.

1. Gatchaman Crowds Insight: Holy cow Gatchaman, hoooly cow. When I saw the announcement for the second season I was surprised since it seemed like the first season wrapped up so neatly I wasn’t sure what else needed to be said. It was an argument that yes, you can create new forms of communication and with a system of checks and balances keep it from being just a tool to bully the weak, which yes is optimistic but the entire show was rather upbeat on the changing times in society and how even the role of a hero is a very blurred line with more meanings than it used to be.

I now cannot imagine watching Crowds without Insight, it has taken that idea and said “well that’s how you deal with internal grounds, what about external forces?” and given Rui two of them to contend with, one obviously malicious and one more insidious and innocent which has produced fantastic conflict for all of the characters, not just Rui, Hajime, and new lead Tsubasa. It's my favorite show of the summer easily and also easily in my top five for the year, my only regret is that it's not the most newcomer friendly (by which I mean, I totally wish I could show this to my mom, a poli-sci professor and who does enjoy anime movies but I feel like this is just "too anime", it's a shame since the actual political debates and such are great!)

And then there’s kinda this four way tie for what comes next, generally I’m more excited for C*C and Rokka than Gangsta. and Akagami but all four of these shows have had very strong episodes and weaker ones (well, Akagami hasn’t had weaker ones, just a bit of a weaker premise by virtue of being a long-running shoujo romance). So this changes every week for me but roughly:

2. Classroom*Crisis When the season started I thought "but do they have to be high school students instead of, you know, actual young adults?" and while I'm not super happy with the answer the show has given for that (it allows the show to limit them in more ways and better focus the story) I will grudgingly admit that it does work beyond my original fear which was that they would be kept young as a kind of pandering/"we only want to try this show if it has cute girls in it!" sort of thing. The girls in the show are quite adorable but honestly the kids are at their "cutest" when they're snarking on some events much more intelligently than most high schoolers would be and the show is also a bit smarter than I expected. It still has some dumb moments (I didn't dislike the beach episode as most people did but it was certainly the weakest episode so far) but it also seeds plot ideas early on and I became really, genuinely interested in Nagisa's growth as a person much sooner than I thought. It's a romp, I'm pretty satisfied with where the story is going in it's second half and feel pretty confident that it's going to stick the landing with no rushing or unbelievable asspulls!

3. Rokka This series is alternating between being something I'm really interested in week to week and popcorn entertainment, which isn't bad persay but I of course wish it was consistently engaging. I still like the designs, the characters are still under-fleshed out halfway through but that's what I expect from a light novel series adaption, and while I do think the mystery of who our seventh brave is is interesting, the fact that the characters are running around in literally a locked room mystery until they can solve it is getting tedious. That said, I do know who the 7th is (I spoiled myself on purpose) and I am still interested in the show for just understanding why which is a good sign, just can we please get a move on with the story again! 

4. Akagami (Snow White with the Red Hair) So far the series has been pleasant if a little bland, no problem lasts longer than an episode and the fact that Shirayuki and Zen's group of friends completely overlap with each other means that we don't see a lot of independent growth from them, it always comes back to the other character. I am a little worried now that Zen's brother has showed up since this is when I thought the manga started going downhill. This past week I talked about what I've dubbed "proactive vs reactive plots" and Akagami is very much a reactive plot. Shirayuki and Zen rarely go out to do something without first hearing than something has gone wrong and sometimes they don't get to do even that much, just the implications that something might be misconstrued can paralyze them. I am enjoying this adaptation so far, and aside from the character designs I like everything much more than the manga, but knowing the source material still makes me too nervous about this series jumping the shark.

6. Gangsta. I've had titles like Jormugand and Black Lagoon on my maybe-to-watch list for years but after this show I can confidently take them off my list and not feel bad about it. I don't dislike Gangsta, it's really grown on me actually, but many parts of it feel very tired; the setting and struggles all feel like something I've seen/heard of them too many times before and I'd rather watch one good iteration of the idea and be done with it. The series here isn't helped by the fact that it's visuals are just lacking something, the neutral color schemes make everything look even flatter than intended which is giving it a very subdued tone, possibly more than intended. Now that we're digging deep into Worick and Nic's backstories I'm really interested in the show week to week, however I wonder how the story will "explain" keep Alex around. I do like her but this is a story where every "important" character is connected to violence, from the handymen to the cops to the mafia, it makes even the important supporting characters like Alex and the doctor feel very out of place even when the anime is telling their story.

6. Dandelion Well this is my fluff show of the season and it's an okay fluff show. The multi-part episodes work although the lows and the highs for the series are pretty far apart from each other. I don't have any definite favorite skits yet but the one about Akane's president classmate was my least favorite by far, it was dumb and I felt like it was pandering to an audience that probably isn't even watching this show! I mean, if you went and watched a non-ero, non-harem show this season of all seasons for fanservice you're just kinda bonkers. There's no way the staff would have known about this but, if you read this manga looking for fanservice in a comedy based around a family 4 koma you're also kinda bonkers....

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