Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer 2014 Anime Round-UP

I swear each time it seems like the new season's releases get more and more stretched out, while some of the first shows aired around the first of July I wasn't able to watch the first episode of the noimtainA series until the 17th, hence why this seems so late! But we're still early in the season so it's a great time to grab new shows, but let me first touch on the shows that I carried over from the spring since there's still time to pick them up too!

Captain Earth: I do wonder a bit at the people who expected Bones to come in and make an amazing sci-fi show because, well, their sci-fi shows just haven't been amazing for a while. Ignoring Space Dandy, since that show is a bit of an interesting situation, Star Driver, Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean, and  Xam'd haven't been their best work and it seems like they've lost that spark that combines a great, interesting and not-shallow idea, with great execution and solid pacing. None of those shows were consistently bad and neither is this one but none of them are Great, they're merely okay to good. Like I said, I'm still enjoying the show but I went in with this mindset and while it's getting better it's not out of the woods yet (I  also wasn't expecting to like Akari as much as I did however, these past two seasons have been great for me in terms of unexpected comedy).

CE is licensed by Sentai Filmworks and can be found on crunchyroll as a simulcast and later on hulu.

Haikyu!! Honestly this was one of my most anticipated shows of the spring and the one I was most confident would be good and so far I've been right! The show manages to strike the right balance between game time and having the characters interact off the court (although after Taisho Baseball Girls it feels odd to not see more of their home lives) and 90% of the cast is hilarious, lovable dorks who leave me laughing each episode. The comedic beats are great, while the show has strayed a bit too far into melodrama a few times by and large the characters are already more than 2D stereotypes, and the show looks great, you can practically feel every thump of the ball. Plus, as someone whose done a bit of volleyball, I can empathize with things like Hinata's choice to bump or set a ball coming in at an awkward height before getting nailed in the face and every time a character misses a serve I wince with sympathy, hang in their guys you'll get better yet!

Also licensed by Sentai (and practically the first show of last season!), HQ!! can also be found simulcast on CR and a few weeks later on hulu.

Happiness Charge Precure: This time last year I was still watching Doki Doki Precure but I do think this is by far the stronger show despite some similarties. Both shows focus more on a larger plot than the situations surrounding the monsters of the week (at times they feel so disconnected I wish the show had the option to just not have a fight) and in both cases while the "main character" and audience surrogate is the pink cure the emotional heart of the show is another girl (Hime has practically stolen the show and it's been a real pleasure to watch her start growing in very realistic fits and spurts). It's a fun show, and I'm enjoying the humor much more than I expected, and in some ways it feels like it's more of a throwback to 90s shojo than just a reflection of ten years of Pretty Cure which is just the thing the series needs to stay fresh.

For the new season, it's odd, when I was looking up titles I was so excited, way more excited than I was about the spring season, but now that summer has rolled around I don't feel like checking out half the titles. It's funny but for the first time in a while I actually want to keep my watching list smaller, partially so I can keep making headway on my backlog and partially because if everything airs over the weekend anyway then I'm going to need a backlog show or two to watch during lunch regardless! So there are a half a dozen shows or so that aren't on here that I will check out sooner or later as the season moves through, probably once I exhaust my supply of easily-to-follow and easy-to-obtain shows to watch while working on a crafting project.

Aldnoah.Zero: Humans and Martian-Humans clash violently. Honestly I had a hard time focusing on the STORY of the first episode because the world-building made me so grumpy. I saw a timeline for the show here and I'm sorry, while you can create new countries have have incredibly tense relations with their neighbors in 40 years, that's not enough time for characters to go spouting off "we are Vers and shall defend the homeland we've lived in for generations! (especially those in the ships which the series states have only been there for 15 years). And it's weird because you'd expect a show to get the social details of a society right, not the "science" and yet some of it holds up. Not the part where enough of the Earth has been destroyed to have wiped out all life on the planet, but the actual technology is shown working the same way consistently enough, and with the same weaknesses that the fans had speculated, that I'm willing to give all of that a pass, I just hope that it turns out to have mind control powers or such to explain the timeline issues. All of that aside, three episodes in and it's one of my favorite shows of the season and I'm curious what direction the series will go next since it's switching from having Gen Urobotchi as the main writer to someone else (I almost wonder what the point is in doing that, sure you get the publicity of his name but considering how vital the writer is to a project I wonder if that outweighs the dangers of having the next writer's style completely clash with what's already been set up). It hasn't done anything new and clever with a premise that involves both mechs and high school students, plus I have no idea what the eventual end goal of the series will be, but I'm hoping this turns out to be a fun ride to that finish!

A.Z is an Aniplex show and can be found streaming on crunchyroll and hulu (the same day on hulu even!)

Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride): Uncute acting girl meets childhood friend. Forget watching this after Nozaki-kun, it's hard to watch both of these in the same season! In it's defense, when the show focuses on Futaba it's a rather nice show about friendships and finding both who you want to be and who you're drawn towards being and I rather like it, especially since in my/my friends' experiences it's the friendships, not romances, that help you survive high school. And then whenever Kou shows up and starts talking all I can think of are the shojo tropes that Nozaki-kun is lampooning, I've never found the "snarky yet actually nice and sensitive very deep down" character type to be anything close to realistic. But still, judging from the opening and ending I think the show will continue to focus on the friendships and not just on the invertible, blossoming relationship between Futaba and Kou and I'll keep following that for the moment.

BSR is licensed by Sentai and can be found on crunchyroll.

Knights of Sidonia: Humanity fights aliens in exile. Sure it came out in the spring for viewers in Japan but since it released July 4th on Netflix (which is right when the summer season starts) why not talk about it! So far I'm enjoying it way more than I expected, I had tried out the manga and found the pacing very weird (I've also read a bit of Blame! but don't recall having that problem there) and was worried that the CGI would be too off-putting but so far so good! I mean, any time the actual characters have to make big motions it's still not pretty but I can handle close-ups, small motions, and I've dealt with all CGI mechs for years. I still wish the show had more than one light source (those shadows, aaauuugh!) and I've heard that it actually looks better at 60 fps so I'm going to have to look up some of those videos when I'm done with the show and I'm excited to finish it regardless anyway which is more than I can say about some shows this season!

As noted earlier, KoS is streaming in full on Netflix.

Love Stage: Boy mistaken for girl by another. Tossing this on here since I did watch the first episode and, eh. I'm told that this is one of the better BL out there since it does not get rapey and I am 100% for that, that alone makes me curious about continuing with it later on when my to-watch list is drawing short. But for the moment it's not on my list, I have enough to keep me entertained and it turns out that I handle overly-shojo-sugary-nonsense better than I handle the over-cheese of BL series, the opening alone was enough to almost send me running! But so far there is nothing wrong with the series, aside from being a bit generic, so if you would like a light-weight BL story go for it.

LS can be found on crunchyroll.

Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun: Love-struck girl becomes a mang-ka's assistant. Going into the season this was my summer one hyped for show ever since tumblr convinced me to spend a few evenings reading through a few chapters of the manga and I had to restrain myself from sharing every single page. And the anime captures all of it's best points really well, obviously it's a show that you're going to enjoy more if you're more familiar with the shojo tropes it's poking fun at but even without a crazy deep background most of the skits are self-explanatory and funny by themselves. I'm not too worried about it running out of steam later on and just hope that someone picks it up for a DVD in the US!

Nozaki-kun is streaming on crunchyroll.

Sailor Moon Crystal: She is the one called Sailor Moon. As I believe I've said in the manga reviews, my mom remembers me watching the original anime but I have no memory so I'm going in as a new fan in that regard, except for the fact of course that I've now read all the manga and don't see why half the fandom spends all it's time lambasting Chibi-Moon and Tuxedo Mask. And hopefully this new series will change that, it's been pretty faithful so far and I was once again surprised at just how funny the series is. I always feel like I'm laughing with it at Usagi's antics and weird situations that the villains set-up, not at it and that's critical here, Usagi might still be a bit too much of a crybaby for me at this point but since I know she's going to get better I am fully along for the ride here!

Viz Media has licensed both the original series and Crystal and Crystal can be found on crunchyroll, hulu, and niconico near simultaneously every two weeks free for everyone (niconico is the only place with the previews however, and no ads at all!)

Terror in Resonance: Two mysterious boys terrorize Tokyo. The noitaminA show this season (the other half is being taken up by a Psycho-Pass re-airing) and the other show being directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, I'm lukewarm on the series so far. The first episode wasn't terrible, far from it since it managed to balance multiple character introductions, motivations, and a rather tense plot as well which is amazing. The art direction is also rather cool, the scenes alternate between being so shrouded in darkness it's nearly impossible to see anything but the subtitles and that glaring brightness of high noon in the height of summer where white buildings seem like a cruel feat of architecture. It's also really desaturated at points, I remember in Samurai Flamenco I complained about the lack of a wide range of tones and hues in it's color scheme but here it works, combined with the lighting choices it feels very deliberate and sets the tone as effectively as the boy's actions do. But I'm not sure where the story is going to go after just one episode, what it's end goal is and how exactly it's going to focus on the characters (at this point I find Lisa to be the most interesting character and doubt that will change, unlike 9 and 12 she has more options and they're all much more dangerous for her) and until I know that I'm not going to be as pumped. But rest assured, since I fully plan on watching the rest of the show I'm sure I'll be as excited as everyone else soon enough!

TiR is licensed by Funimation and can be found streaming on their website and for free on hulu a week later (as usual, the free stream on their site also goes up a week later)

Tokyo ESP: Espers in Tokyo. So I've read some of the manga here and I am confused, why on Earth would you jump ahead 20 odd chapters for a first episode that doesn't even have the main characters in it? I know what's going on and I'm confused, the series has huge cameos from Gai Rei Zero (a prequel anime based on the manga-ka's other work, Gai Rei, which I did enjoy but still), a plot a bit like The Unlimited from last year and a soundtrack that reminds me a bit of The World Ends With You, put together these things work surprisingly terribly. I do plan on seeing the second episode, because again we didn't even meet the main cast here, but I'm already worried if the director and writers really thought this was a good idea since it felt like a waste of an episode (you can't even argue it was good for setting up the setting since let's face it, we've seen so many similar stories before that the audience really needs only the minimum of details here for it).

Same as above, ESP is a Funimation show and follows their usual streaming schedule.

SO, my weeks look very odd now. Two shows on Sunday, HQ!! and Nozaki-kun, Blue Spring Ride on Monday, TiR on Thursday and ESP on Friday (which both almost don't count since I can't get the phone app to work while I'm on my lunch break), and then a whopping combination of Crystal, CE, and A.Z on Saturdays (every other Saturday for Crystal that is). Add in HaCha and Sidonia whenever I have the time and I'm already doubting if I'll have time to get through any of my backlog this season!