Monday, May 18, 2015

Weekly Round-Up: May 10th-16th Edition

Well I was going to change the format of this up a bit but I'm on day two or three of a headache and that sounds like it would require more focus than I currently have so, next week (EDIT: Headache got so bad that this got pushed back an entire day, anime review coming tomorrow!)! In the meantime, I talked about a lot of stuff as per usual this week, on the grumpier side of things we have Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! (think I got that name right) and Anansi Boys, neither of which were bad works but I'm unlikely to recommend them unless I get very specifically asked "I want a magical BOY show" or "I want something with even the barest hint of African mythology in it." On the more positive side, I really enjoyed Ms. Marvel: No Normal and also enjoyed Shirahime-Syo more than expected (over on OASG).

Going back to anime for a moment, last season I did an entire post about how the season was looking at the halfway point but I feel like I'm already moving through my reviews slower than I'd like so I'm going to condense that all under the cut here, at least that's one good thing about a smaller season.

First off, what I'm NOT watching: I still haven't picked Arslan back up (although I'm still intrigued by that 90s OVA), I have been paying attention to the Plastic Memories reviews and decided that I'm just not interested by that story, and got halfway through the fourth episode of Punchline and realized I wasn't interested. That one I still might pick up again but, I feel like I can get the gist of the entire story through simply reading reviews for it, that watching it doesn't add anything else to the experience which is a pretty bad sign. 

Now then, what I am watching in order from favorite to least:

BLOOD BLOCKADE BATTLEFRONT (KEKKAI SENSEN): A show I was excited for and didn't realize just how much I needed it in my life. It makes it all look so easy, sure it's a piece of cake to have a story with somewhat convoluted, surprisingly dense episodes, a couple of running themes, new characters every episode or two, and hold it all together. Plus it does seem to be building up a conflict to end on very quietly AND has the best OP and ED of the season. I'm thrilled that so many people are now seeing Rei Matsumoto's work for themselves and, since Noragami also by Bones just got a sequel and I think BBB is on track to sell more, have my fingers crossed for a second season somewhere down the line.

SOUND! EUPHONIUM: For a show that wasn't even on my to-watch list for the season I'm impressed, this is my favorite KyoAni work since Hyouka both in terms of characters/story and in terms of art. Even as someone who never was in a band the struggles are instantly relatable, we've all been in some kind of group where one half wants to goof off and the other half wants to work hard and remember that kind of drama. While some of the characters might have too-precocious lines that perfectly sum up a situation they never feel so clunky as to knock me out of the show by thinking "no high schooler would say that." KyoAni rarely does sequels but, this this show also has enough material for one, I have my fingers crossed for even more of this down the line!

YAMADA-KUN AND THE SEVEN WITCHES: I'm still a bit worried about how the show is going to fit in all the material it needs to but after six episodes I'm really enjoying it so far. The tone of the show perfectly matches the manga and I'm laughing at the gags and jokes all over again, it's silly, heartfelt, and keeps the fanservice to a manageable level (it's very unashamed about it's fanservice and since it never verges into "icky" that's okay). I still grumble over revealing all of the witches from the get-go in the OP (which is the second best OP of the season BTW) but that is the failing of a show that talks about witches in it's very title.... 

SHOW BY ROCK: This show narrowly beats out Pleiades for me in the "fluff shows I enjoy" category since there is a little more behind that fluff here. It's the different between say cotton candy and a chocolate with filling, both are tasty and great in various situations but there's more of a surprise to that chocolate. It really does feel like a kids show in many ways with how it's gone about fleshing out the characters and introducing new ones without ever really touching on the setting or making the main plot more complicated than it first appears (I will mention that, due to Funimation's free-user delays I'm pretty far behind in this series and I think it does touch some more on the setting but that ultimately it's less important than how the characters act within it). Oh and all of it's designs are so cute, if this show ever releases figures you'll find me mooning over pictures of them for days.

WISH UPON THE PLEIADES: You know what? This actually isn't a terrible magical girl series at all. It's not utterly fantastic, one that I'll remember and recommend to newcomers for years but it's a solid affair whose heart is in the right place and gets that what makes or breaks these shows is the characters and their relationships with each other. It still needs to flesh out parts of the main cast, and I'm hoping it doesn't go for an overly grimdark ending since it does have the potential for it, but each week I've been pleasantly surprised by how much I'm enjoying it.  

FATE/STAY NIGHT: UNLIMITED BLADE WORKS (PART TWO): Oh lordy, this is way weaker than the first half. If there hadn't been a gap this wouldn't have been quite as dire, the writers could have chained together the Caster arc and her backstory wouldn't have felt out of place (even if her master is so ughhhhh, ANIME in his motivations) but a lot of this series is starting to fall apart now. Illya has been given so little time that her backstory had no impact at all (which is a shame since she's one of the biggest ties between this and Fate/Zero) and while both Archer and Shirou were more than tolerable in the first half of the show they're both really frustrating characters now. Their respective ideologies have been turned up to 11, solely to make a fight between them invertible and to try and be ~deep~ and it's just not working (JoseiNextDoor has actually been doing a series of posts on Utena recently and her post on ep 34 about princes made me wish that the writers here were so aware of what you can actually do with character motivations). I do agree that a big part of the problem is that yes, F/SN was written long before F/Z with a different writer but, it sounds like the first half of the show did some good adapting by rewriting more problematic lines so I wish they could have gone even farther with that this season. This got made (at least partially) because Fate/Zero did well, capitalize on that and bring some of those old themes back, make the connections even clearer and then you would have a very strong series on your hands. At this point I'm just feeling resigned, the show has sidelined Rin, it took it much longer than I expected, so there's nothing I'm really looking forward to left.

SERAPH OF THE END: You know that Blue Exorcist comparison from before was even more apt than I realized and man, it's making me realize just how much I regret that that show was animated before it was ready. I'm pretty close to current on that series and it takes a very similar plot line (semi-secret school involving magic that's used 90% of the time to fight an "invading" force of "evil" with somewhat blurred lines) and just creates much more interesting characters out of it. Everyone here seems to be made out of cardboard, I'm still grumpy over the direction they've taken with Shinoa since I legitimately feel like it's making her lose some of her own snark and anger, and it's this weird combination of some very quick animation that doesn't look quiiiiite right and some really well thought out moments (mostly involving Yuu getting his ass kicked but there's such nice weight and details behind it that I almost don't mind that this is where the time is going). In another three or so episodes we'll be beyond what I've read of the manga which will be a nice change of pace for me at least, hopefully it just doesn't jump the shark even higher than it's trying to right now.