Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Winter 2014 Mid-Season Anime Round-UP

So I was thinking the other day that gee, while everyone obviously makes a fuss right when new anime series start, and a bit of one when they end, it's kind of hard to look at a season when it's half-way through and go "right, what did I miss?" Yes I follow quite a few anime blogs that post episode by episode thoughts and feelings, plus on twitter I see quite a few people talking about shows I don't follow, but you can't just jump into the post on episode 5 and get a feel from it if this something you really really need to start or not (plus, if you just try to read through a few posts chronologically you usually just end up horribly spoiled). So that's what I'm going to do here, I'm going to talk about all the shows I'm currently watching and hopefully convince a few more people to try them out, or not as the case may be since, while I am investing time each week into some of these shows, there are at least a couple I expect to have messy endings. And if there's anything I don't mention here feel free to chime in in the comments and convince me what to try out, there's a few I'm teetering on the edge of trying but just haven't been sure enough to dedicate the time to them. Oh and just to note I'm a week behind all the shows except Kill La Kill since even Funimation has free-viewer-delays now (they started it up DURING the new season with no prior notice, bah) so hopefully the last episode of these shows didn't do anything really weird that'll completely change my views.

Now, onto the shows and in the order they air each week, starting on Sunday!

Noragami: I'm still enjoying this quite a bit more than I expected when I was looking at it before the premiere, hurray! As many people have said, it's basic premise (gods and spirits in modern day Japan) isn't that original, even outside of manga, but Bones manages to pull it off with such flair and style that not only is the show great to look at but it flows together nicely. It is suffering a bit from "dammit guys talk to each other, you'll solve half the problems that way!" where it concerns Yato and, erm, just about everyone else but it is in keeping with his character (which I find interesting since he's stated outright to have a bit of a different morality than everyone else, and then he just doesn't communicate as much as he should so it gets lost). I am a little worried by some of the changes they've made from the manga, since Yukine's character is the entire point of this first arc, and I wonder if some of Hiyori's relevations are as striking and meaningful as they were in the manga with the way some things have been lightly shuffled around, but I do think that the writers know what they're doing and that it should pull through well!

Noragami is on Funimation's website and hulu. The manga was also picked up earlier today by Kodansha USA with the first volume set to be released fall 2014.

Nobunaga the Fool: Auuugh, I give up, I'm dropping this one. I've held out through six episodes but it just hasn't gotten any better. The setting is under-utilized, the plot isn't very interesting, Nobunaga is the closest I've seen to a Marty-Stu in a while* where he does all these things that drive the viewer/other characters batty  and yet turns out to be the right call with deeper symbolism later on! that I'm really despising. I suppose I shouldn't have been as surprised that the show focuses so much on him, he is the titular character after all, but with all the pre-airing focus on the other characters on the site I figured that some of them, Jeanne at least, would be more main character-ish. At least the ending song was pretty awesome though, the story told with that music and the images is way cooler and what I was hoping the show would be closer to (you know, more of an epic, sprawling story, not whatever the heck this is).

NoFool is over on crunchyroll.

A Pilot's Love Song: I'm also a bit disappointed with this show but by no mean as much as NoFool and I don't think I'm the only one. Part of the problem is that the two leads both have rather large secrets which most summaries spoil; at first I was fine with that but then it took 4 or 5 episodes to reveal all of them and that's far enough in that the summaries really shouldn't have mentioned them. That certainly hurts the viewers emotional response to the show, since I did see people who had managed to avoid them be rather stunned by the revelations (to be clear, these are secrets/reveals not "twists", there's a slight difference in my mind) and yet, regardless of that, the story hasn't really done anything with them yet. Initially I was worried about 5 volumes being adapted in just 13 episodes but it sounds like not only is the story covering ground fast (I think by 4 or 5 we had covered two volumes) but that might actually be too much time since the show has way too much down time which is also killing the emotional response. Like in episode 6 we had a scene that should have been really touching, one of the side characters having a little break-down, which we the viewers know is because she's scared they'll die but the rest of the cast doesn't, yet it's over in a heartbeat and instead the episode devotes 50% of it's time to how freaking great ramen is. I will note that I do like the cast of the show, they've got a good-sized cast of side characters, just about all of them having speaking roles each week so we've gotten a feel for their personalities and it's an exactly equal male-female mix which is amazing (I think a number of episodes have passed the Bechdel test, if not it's because the show does focus on Kal-el the most who is, well, a boy). It's a story with a good backbone but so far just hasn't done as great a job fleshing it out as it should and I'm hoping that in it's second half it'll buckle down and get it right. Oh and I do wish the show had a little bit of a bigger budget, not for fancier airplane scenes but because the character designs are simple almost to the point of ugly, heck even in the first episode you could see some shots where they characters were drawn a bit too simply. It's a small detail but it certainly doesn't make me any less grumpy about what the show is doing to it's potential.

Pilot's Love Song is streaming on crunchyroll and has gotten picked up by NISA since I last wrote about it.

Inari Kon Kon: Few shows have made me squee and kyaaaaa over them as much as this one and I'm having a really hard time convincing people that it's not shojo! That's right folks, even though it stars a middle schooler, has a bit of fluffy romance (the "iroha" in the full title is the name of a famous love poem I believe), realistic girl friendships, and is one-third magical girl it's actually seinen (since that's the magazine it was published in and that and only that determines something's demographic). Unlike a couple of other shojo-esque seinen stories I can think of however this one is remarkably free from fanservice, the only real fanservice we've had is from a character who is and fully looks like an adult, so don't worry about any skeevy scenes, it's remarkably charming and cute. I had had high hopes for this one after I read some of the original manga but I am a bit surprised at how quickly it's moving through the plot, I actually had to check and see if the anime had created it's own plot to wrap everything up in ten episodes. And yes that's certainly why the plotting is so fast, although, as much as I would have loved a 12 or 13 episode series, considering that apparently the studio has put out a call for help on twitter for more animators and in-between checkers (the third show this season to do so!) perhaps this is for the best.

Inari Kon Kon is streaming on funimation's website and on hulu.

Nagi-Asu: When I was watching this back in the fall I liked the show but it hadn't grabbed me, it just quite doing it for some hard-to-articulate reason. Yet somehow it pulled together an amazing mid-season climax and the story has been crashing and barreling along ever since. My theory on it is that this is a story that lives and dies by how connected you can get to the characters struggles and emotions and what that climax meant, where half the cast hibernated for five years and the other half kept moving along with the rest of the world and now they all have to sort out five years worth of feelings, not to mention just how much more complex it's made nearly all the relationships in the show with characters feeling guilty and rage for what was really an act of god, yes this show has me hooked. It still teeters on the edge of melodrama quite often when a softer, more unspoken approach could work, and the pacing is still a bit on the slow side, but so far it's holding steady. I also love how the inherent magic of their world has also become a more major focus of the show (it's an anime about mermaids, I demand it to be fantastical!) and I really do wonder how things will work out in the end. I don't expect a tragedy but I wonder if the ending can even be bitter-sweet, they're not crazy enough to not have ANY of the pairings work out are they?

Nagi-Asu is streaming on crunchyroll and has also been picked up by NISA since I last spoke about it.

Samurai Flamenco: I give up, I don't know whether to recommend this show or not anymore. For those who somehow missed the chatter on social media, SamFlam started out as a show about a guy in an everyday world being a superhero taking care of everyday crimes (think Kickass) and then has gone on a wild and crazy journey of jumping into almost a half a dozen other genres by this point and has lead me to discover that I just didn't like a lot of them. The first arc grew on me, the second was okay, the third I didn't like at all since a lot of the reoccuring characters from the first and second arcs got put on the sidelines (and they were the whole reason the second arc had kept my attention), I think I'm just about to finish up the fourth arc which also just isn't quite working for me but it does sound like with the end of that the story has come in more of a full circle which I would like. We've got at least one more arc to go at this point, maybe two since they go through each new genre faster than before, so I'm holding out hope that if the show returns in part to the way it started and actually continues to use the characters it spent a lot of time building up (heck, they never even did anything with the new characters for the third arc which made me even more grumbly about it) then I'll go back to enjoying it more. Until then, all I can repeat is what I saw someone else say on twitter "it's really daring for Mangaglobe to pay their entire staff in nothing but tequila!" since let's not even talk about the "samurai quality" of the art.....

SamFlam is streaming on crunchyroll.

Silver Spoon: I keep forgetting about this show but not because it has been boring but rather because it's been the most consistent show and the only one where there's not a niggling thought in the back of my head going "god I hope they don't screw this up!" every week. Probably also because, while a lot of the other shows I'm watching are anime original (and will therefore tell their entire story in one go) or adaptations which are structured to have a satisfying resolution when they end in April, Silver Spoon has set itself up as a very long running story, one with years to make it's characters grow and develop, so in some ways the pacing is much more leisurely. I don't mean it's slow-paced, far from it, but that knowledge that it doesn't have to tell the entire story in just 22 episodes has given it an assurance to it's step, it'll develop the characters at just the right rate and you can't force it to do otherwise! And I love how it's been going so far, we've gotten insights into everyone's character but still don't know everything that makes them tick, especially not our lead Hachiken (I felt like this was nicely expressed when he takes off his glasses at one point and he looks like a very different, harder character and certainly an unusual design for a lead whose not an outright delinquent). I hope the manga gets adapted again later down the road, it sounds like the manga has gotten a nice boost anyway, since I would love to see this story play out to the end but for the moment I'm more than satisfied to watch this story about teens coming into adulthood which has hit surprisingly close to home for me.

Silver Spoon is over on crunchyroll.

Kill La Kill: Nope, still not fond of those outfits and no I still haven't gotten used to them, if it had just been the underboobs I might have been able to but the transformation shots of the girls with those strappy crotch things make me shudder each week, how in the world does this not have the  "this is for mature audiences only" warning at the beginning of each episode on hulu? Ahem, clear proof that almost the entire staff of this show is male aside, I have ended up enjoying the story and the characters more than I thought I would. Ryuko and Satsuki are a little too stagnant as characters but I do like Ryuko's brash, yanki approach to her problems and Mako is amazingly fun to watch every week. I find myself laughing at a lot of the humor, the plot has become so over the top is works (and has actually had enough foreshadowing/running themes to make it work), and the action is fun. It's pretty clear that they're saving budget in some places to splurge on fights later on but I'm okay with that, they've done it in such a way as to make it a part of the shows style (as opposed to save Love Song where it feels like there's no rhyme or reason for why some scenes are less detailed than others, here they make it flashy with cheap effects and barely animated footage but they do it with purpose). So yeah, it's turned out to be a surprisingly good show but if you were turned off by all the fanservice early on, yeaaaaah it hasn't gone away, although I can't exactly say they've made it any worse which is almost a miracle....

Kill la Kill is streaming on crunchyroll and on the same day on hulu if you are in the US and not a CR member.

Space Dandy: I'm still staying up each week to catch the dub on Cartoon Network and to start with I'm still pretty happy with the dub, the humor really seems to work with English (like, there are jokes that translate easily and then there are shows like Joshiraku where the entire point of it is Japanese culture/language, not a good choice for dubbing). The show itself has grown on me a bit more than I expected (although, given that everyone I've seen has been saying "enough with the Boobies!" I do wonder why they'v drawn out that joke as long as they have), partially because of just how kinetic and colorful the show is each week and partially because it is fun to watch something truly episodic and have no clue where it's going each week every once in a while. Usually that's never my kind of show but it's such a cohesive product, and the humor usually gets me guffawing at least once each episode that I'm living in the moment with it. Can't see myself buying it and rewatching it in the future, and with all the Boobies it really is hard to recommend, I've had a couple of friends already be completely turned away by it, but if you're okay with a lot of boob jokes and want to see some truly fantastic animation then give this one a shot.

The sub for Space Dandy is on funimation and hulu's websites, the dub does not appear to be online anywhere.

*well, outside 1Q84 but y'all aren't getting that rant for another month or two