Mid-Winter 2016 Anime Ranking

showa genroku rakugo shinju - 5
01. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (ep. 1-10) – Definitely not your typical anime production, Shouwa Genroku plays out more like a live-action period drama. The rakugo at the heart of the story is a traditional style one-man stage play, where the pieces are classics and what sets the performers apart is their delivery.

After the stunning double-length first episode, Shouwa Genroku flashes back to Yakumo (Kikuhiko) and Sukeroku’s youth. It’s a slow burning character study; and we know there’s going to be tragedy on the horizon, although how things will end up that way is a mystery.

The setting is immersive and the characters seem like real people, each full of charm and flaws. Kudos to the voice actors in this show, who must convincingly portray their characters performing Rakugo; and especially Ishida Akira in the lead role, who plays his character as an awkward young man, all through his evolution to becoming an elderly Rakugo master.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Boku-Dake-04
02. ERASED (Boku dake ga Inai Machi) (ep. 1-10) – A well-written time-travel murder mystery. Like Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, the show’s premiere revealed a fatalistic present, only to go decades back in time from the second episode on. It’s been a tense and thrilling ride so far.

It doesn’t seem like Satoru’s efforts to prevent each victim’s murder will accomplish much, as long as the killer’s identity remains unknown. But wait, we might be further along than I thought.
(streaming at Crunchyroll, DAISUKI, and FUNimation)

Ajin - 03
03. AJIN (ep. 1-8) – The way Kei’s personality is sometimes very cold and clinical, but other times emotional and impassioned is very interesting. I’m eager to learn more about ajin and what it is that turns people into them. So far the show has been great with its pacing and with how it reveals tantalizing morsels of information a little at a time.

It’s hard to believe that almost all the humans are heartless money-grubbers, though. I can see there’s a message here that the normals are maybe less human than the ajin. Well, the problem is, how can you not see it? It’s pretty heavy-handed.

The CGI may be a barrier for some viewers. At times the movements can look really good, however, just as often, they look stiff and unnatural. The quality is similar SIDONIA, and not as polished as in BBK/BRNK, for instance. Also, as I was searching for a screenshot, I became acutely aware that the colouring is all grey; so yeah, definitely not a great-looking show. Good thing the story is strong enough that it makes up for the visual flaws.

This season has been above average for decent theme songs. For two of the best, in my opinion, you need look no further than AJIN’s OP and ED. I did a double-take when I saw flumpool’s name in the opening credits; I never knew they could sound this good! And Miyano Mamoru’s “HOW CLOSE YOU ARE,” a heartbreaking acoustic ballad full of longing and regret, is also quite the departure from his usual upbeat dance music.
(to stream on NETFLIX in future)

04. ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) (ep. 23-32, or SECOND SEASON ep. 1-10) – AssClass has been so much fun to watch! The season premiere episode was great, and it’s continued strong each week, even while varying between lighter and darker story arcs. It’s nice to see the students and staff getting some character development too, especially Nagisa and Irina.
(streaming at FUNimation)

akagami shirayukihime-21
05. Snow White with the Red Hair (Akagami no Shirayuki-hime) (ep. 13-21) – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this second half of the series, as things on the romantic front seemed pretty resolved by the end of the first cour.

I’ve enjoyed seeing Prince Raj’s personal growth and how he’s been inspired to better himself. He’s become an unexpectedly sympathetic character. And Obi, as Shirayuki’s bodyguard, has had many opportunities to shine lately. I like him a lot.
(streaming at FUNimation)

Grimgar-of-Fantasy-and-Ash-4
06. GRIMGAR OF FANTASY AND ASH (Hai to Gensou no Grimgar) (ep. 1-9) – GRIMGAR’s team of volunteer soldiers are tasked with killing goblins in order to earn a living. But more than battling the goblins, which seem to be intelligent and social creatures, they are hunting them. It is intentionally disturbing, and I like that.

The kids spend a lot of time sitting around, talking, maybe too much time, but I find that it’s preferable to the opposite situation. By comparison, currently airing series “BBK/BRNK” also features a ragtag group of juveniles forming team in a fantasy setting. BBK/BRNK has no shortage of action scenes, but after 3 episodes (which is all I watched before dropping), I couldn’t get a grasp on why the characters were working together, and I didn’t care about any of them.

Although GRIMGAR takes its time developing its characters, it had my attention even after just one episode. But it really does move at an excruciatingly slow pace.

Did I mention how pretty it is? Regardless of content, this anime might just be worth watching for the breathtaking watercolour artwork alone. It is that gorgeous.
(streaming at FUNimation)

07. Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS (Tekketsu no Orphans)
(ep. 14-22) – After some unexpected conflict at the Dort Colonies, Tekkadan make it to Earth with Kudelia. Things won’t be easy from here on out. Kudelia’s work is just beginning and there’s no telling if the Tekkadan members will even be able to go home.

Whenever IBO’s writers raise a death flag on a character, they pretty much will follow through on it without fail. Not necessarily saying that is a good or bad thing, but I certainly didn’t expect that the title of the first OP, “Raise Your Flag,” could have had that kind of meaning!
(streaming at DAISUKI, Crunchyroll, and FUNimation)

08. Mr. Osomatsu (Osomatsu-san) (ep. 13-22) – A runaway hit in Japan, Osomatsu-san continues to provide irreverent and random comedic goodness. I like it best when the Matsuno brothers look like themselves or appear as their bishounen versions. I have to admit I don’t really get the Girlymatsu stuff.

My favourite episode so far is definitely ep. 16, featuring that outrageously inspired Mad Max parody.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Prince-of-Stride-Yagami
09. PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE (ep. 1-10) – The whole sport of Stride, which requires the closing of city streets and the cooperation of many people for a few minutes of parkour/foot racing, strikes me as impossible, or at least highly impractical. But to dwell on that would be missing the point. PRINCE OF STRIDE is not asking to be taken seriously. This is a show that has been known to check off anime tropes onscreen! And yes, one of the teams happens to be an idol group and another team spends time modelling fashion in photo shoots. I had to reset my expectation bar to a slightly lower setting after the second episode, but I’ve been enjoying it just fine since.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

10. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) SECOND SEASON (ep. 39-48) – Even though I don’t especially think I look forward to Ace of Diamond every week, once I start watching, it’s always riveting. I take for granted that this show will always be there for me with a weekly dose of Seido baseball. The thought that it will be ending soon, for real this time, does leave me anticipating a bit of withdrawal.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. Haikyuu!! Second Season (ep. 14-23) – After the stretch of intense training, the Karasuno boys are facing some of their toughest matchups to date. It’s good to see them making use of their improved skills; and I like how the players’ personalities are having an impact on gameplay.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

KONOSUBA
12. KONOSUBA –God’s Blessing on this wonderful world! (Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!) (ep. 1-9) – Amazingly, there were 3 series this season in which a boy dies after being hit by a motor vehicle and subsequently receives a new life of some sort in the first episode. That would be ERASED, AJIN, and this show, KONOSUBA.

I had been kind of off of the trapped in game/fantasy world genre for a good while, but this season I’ve ended up following 2 such shows. GRIMGAR is the dark, serious take on the theme, where the adventurers need to think about cooking, cleaning, and making a living; and a mistake can mean death.

By contrast, KONOSUBA plays the scenario for laughs, in much the same way as IXION SAGA DT did. I’m happy to report that it isn’t even close to as offensive as I’d feared, although it maybe isn’t quite as funny as I’d hoped, either. Overall, it’s still been pretty enjoyable, low-intensity entertainment.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. DURARARA!! X2 Ketsu (The Third Arc)
(ep. 25-34) – All the pieces are in play and getting ready for the grand finale. However, the preparation is taking a while. There really are too many characters! After all this time, it’s pretty hard keeping track of how everyone is related to each other and what their individual objectives are.
(streaming at Crunchyroll, DAISUKI, and FUNimation)

14. GATE: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (ep. 13-21) – Fortunately, the main focus has been on power struggles and politics and dragon hunting in the Special Region. The show has yet to descend to full-on fantasy harem, and for that, I’m grateful.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Active-Raid-04
15. Active Raid (ep. 1-10) – This series about an armoured police force tries to be both funny and serious, but unfortunately, it isn’t terribly successful at either comedy or drama. The attention that’s given to police protocol is impressive; and even though the characters are pretty one dimensional, they are sometimes amusing to watch. Overall, though, the show’s not that good.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. Utawarerumono: The False Faces (Itsuwari no Kamen) (ep. 13-23) – This show’s been all over the board. There’s been a big war that kind of fizzled out, some big reveals, a plot-twisting death, some power-struggle scheming, and some nothing episodes. At least the girls all seem to have something useful to do lately, and they’re not just sitting around looking at and drawing yaoi; and all that time that Haku spent cleaning gutters might finally be paying off.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

rainbow days - 6
17. RAINBOW DAYS (Nijiiro Days) (ep. 1-9) – Pretty forgettable show about the daily lives and romantic exploits of 4 high school friends. It’s a half-length program only. The other half, “club RAINBOW,” is live-action, and it features the 4 male seiyuu who play the leads doing random activities. Club RAINBOW is totally trivial, but it actually leaves a much greater impression than the actual anime itself.
(streaming at FUNimation)

18. Dimension W (ep. 1-9) – Normally, this type of dark and gritty science fiction would be right up my alley, but Dimension W really lost me with the ghost story in eps. 4 and 5 and never regained my interest again. There are too many unimportant characters, and not nearly enough development for the leads to make us care about them.

It kind of feels like we’re in the middle of the second season of DRRR!!, with how convoluted it is and how difficult it is to keep track of the characters. Except we’re only at 9 episodes of a single cour of Dimension W, as opposed to 50+ episodes of DRRR!! over 7 years!

Also, what kind of idiot (main character) brings a sports car to navigate across a torn-up terrain?
(streaming at FUNimation)

19. GARO: CRIMSON MOON (Guren no Tsuki) (ep. 12-19) – Every once in a while an episode will impress us by being not bad, such as the one involving the other brothers (ep.16), but at this point, I’m mainly watching because now that I’ve come this far, I may as well continue for completion’s sake. I have long since discarded any hope I had for this series.
(streaming at FUNimation)

20. Sekkou Boys (ep. 1-10) – About a group of idols who are literally plaster busts, and the long-suffering manager girl who has to look after them. The Sekkou Boys talk, but they do not move, not even their lips. I’m sure there’s some social commentary in there somewhere, but the only reason I can make myself watch this is that each episode is less than 8 minutes long, and it’s usually over before it becomes excessively tiresome.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Jacquie’s 2015 Year in Review – Anime

There were about 50 or so series that I watched in entirety which finished airing in 2015. Those are the titles being considered in this Best of 2015 section.

Looking back on the anime series that I really enjoyed during the past year, I realized that while they all had various strengths, most of them were considerably flawed in one way or another.

If I were to think about the shows I most looked forward to watching each week, there would be GARO THE ANIMATION or GANGSTA.. However, both of those had issues in the later parts and I wasn’t that happy with the way either of them ended. And good endings are important to me.

On the other hand, if we’re talking about great endings, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! might have actually had the best one all year. But that’s a show that didn’t even crack my top 10 as it aired during the winter season.

Meanwhile, there were anime series that were thoroughly unique and well-written, such as SHIROBAKO and SCHOOL LIVE!. Unfortunately, the characters in those shows didn’t click with me personally, for whatever reason.

There was ultimately only one truly enjoyable series that did not have any problematic issues for me.

I think it was our last pick-up of the summer season and it might not be what you expect. Certainly I, myself, did not have very high expectations when I decided to start watching this fanservice-laden jailbreak comedy.

Anime of the Year:

Prison School
PRISON SCHOOL (12 episodes) – Five male students in an otherwise all-female high school are imprisoned on school grounds by the Underground Student Council for the crime of attempted peeping. They are forced to perform hard labour, endure indignities, and complete their studies in jail. They could just get themselves expelled and walk away, but somehow these guys view expulsion (and having to explain to their parents the reason) as a far worse outcome than their current situation.

PRISON SCHOOL is riotously funny, thrilling, and well-paced throughout. And it presents a satisfying conclusion even as it sets up a possible storyline for a sequel.

The main drawback is that I can’t exactly recommend it to polite company. PRISON SCHOOL is a gross-out comedy, after all, so there is implied nudity, sexual deviancy, uncontrolled bodily functions, forcible confinement; the list goes on. But in the show’s defence, almost all of it is plot-relevant! I’d also say the more gratuitous fanservice stuff is just totally over-the-top rather than titillating in nature.

In spite of all the absurd and uncomfortable situations that they find themselves in, the characters are generally viewed sympathetically. As I’ve said before, PRISON SCHOOL is not particularly mean-spirited, and that goes a long way in making the crude content tolerable and in helping the humour to really succeed.
(streaming: FUNimation)

And that’s it! No seriously, it’s too hard to do a proper anime ranking this year, so I give up. Instead, I’ll just highlight some of the shows that stood out for me and say a little bit about them. Maybe next year I’ll go back to the Top 10 format.

My Favourites, with Flaws:

Garo the animation
GARO THE ANIMATION (GARO: Honoo no Kokuin) (24 episodes) – This anime started its first episode with the burning-at-the-stake execution of the main character’s pregnant mother. Yup, that immediately set the stage for what kind of dark, mature-content production this was going to be.

Throughout most of its run, GARO excelled in its depiction of its complex, flawed characters. It was evident from the animation, story, and dialogue that the people who worked on this action-drama anime really loved and respected these characters. And because they gave a damn, that made me give a damn too. I particularly enjoyed the father-son dynamic between German and Leon and the refreshingly cooperative relationship between the two young Makai Knights.

Unfortunately, the final story arc proved to be rather nonsensical and disappointing. That ultimately had a negative effect on my overall enthusiasm for the show.
(streaming: FUNimation)

gangsta-anime
GANGSTA. (12 episodes) – Amazing series, except there’s one major problem.
When I think of previous anime that made no attempt to wrap up any plot threads, the first to come to mind is “Deadman Wonderland.” With that show though, I didn’t particularly like or care about the characters at all.

At least with GANGSTA., I was primarily invested in the characters. I was interested in how their relationships were informed by their past and present situations. Even relatively minor roles were fleshed out and sympathetic. Because of this, I think I really got something out of each episode, even the final one, in spite of the obvious fact that it failed spectacularly in delivering any kind of conclusion whatsoever.

I suppose if there really was no good way to end it, this kind of “advertisement for the manga” ending was still preferable to an anime-original one that didn’t make sense or that would be problematic in the off-chance that a sequel should ever happen.  However, as it stands, I could never recommend this show without also warning the potential viewer about the unsatisfying non-ending.
(streaming: FUNimation, DAISUKI)

Seraph of the end
Seraph of the End: VAMPIRE REIGN (Owari no Seraph) (24 episodes) – Another show with an interesting storyline and characters who were full of personality. The facial movements and expressions were frequently exceptionally well-animated. The quality of the action sequences was inconsistent, but the show was enjoyable overall.

No concrete ending here, and likely won’t be for a long time, as the anime is apparently caught up with the source manga already.
(streaming: FUNimation)

PARASYTE the maxim
Parasyte –the maxim- (Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu) (24 episodes) – The smaller-scale story of Shinichi and Migi learning to live with each other and developing an understanding for the other’s perspective was thought-provoking and often humorous. For me, the show lost some of its momentum as the view expanded to the rest of the outside world.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

Arslan Senki
THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN (Arslan Senki) (25 episodes) – The epic tale of Prince Arslan after the fall of his nation offered balanced viewpoints from all sides of the conflict. I really appreciated that aspect of the show. The second half was more about Arslan’s group working to assemble their allies in order to retake Pars and that was not quite as riveting for me. No real conclusion here either, as they don’t make it all the way back to Pars by series end.
(streaming: FUNimation)

Great Fun:

one-punch man
ONE PUNCH MAN (12 episodes) – The action scenes were often creative and really well done, however, what I loved best about the show were the characters and their interactions, especially the dynamic between Saitama and Genos. Sonic was great too; and I think Mumen Rider had me at hello!
(streaming: DAISUKI)

Assassination Classroom
ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) (22 episodes) – This story of a class of misfits who must kill their tentacled teacher, Koro-sensei, before he destroys the planet turned out to be not only humorous, but also surprisingly heartwarming.
(streaming: FUNimation)

Starmyu
STARMYU High School Star Musical (12 episodes) – Let me just state that we were not impressed by the first episode of STARMYU. The many characters each got only brief appearances and we didn’t get a sense of who they were at all. But the real kicker was the abominable introductory song by the elite Kao Council, in which they basically told the student body, “We’re better than you.”

My sister, who is now a devoted fan, was so turned off, we almost didn’t continue with the show! For some reason, I insisted that we had to keep watching; maybe it was morbid curiosity.

We ended up loving STARMYU! It’s not about much, but the characters turned out to be really likeable and had good chemistry with each other. And I was actually moved by the flashback storyline which explained the difficult relationship between two of the Kao Council members.

It was weird when the guys broke out in song, and the pop tunes were generally not to my taste, but the music was competently produced and the songs sounded polished. One of them even found its way onto my best of 2015 list (see below).
(streaming: FUNimation, DAISUKI)

Cute high earth defense club love
Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!) (12 episodes) – There was a significant mid-cour slump, such that I lost a lot of enthusiasm for the show for a while. But then the final episodes came along, and they were so inspired and insanely funny! That incredibly strong finale made me really glad that I watched this crazy stupid magical-boy anime!
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

Ace-of-Diamond-anime
Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) (75 episodes) – This baseball anime was consistently enjoyable and deserves a mention here as a technicality.  The stopping point was kind of arbitrary and SECOND SEASON started immediately after the first one ended, so it really doesn’t feel like it’s over at all.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

Sequels Made with Love:

yowamushi pedal grande road
Yowamushi Pedal GRANDE ROAD (24 episodes) – The previous season ended right in the middle of the Inter- high. GRANDE ROAD brought the race to a proper conclusion with all of the show’s usual charm intact.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

noragami aragoto
NORAGAMI ARAGOTO (13 episodes) – This sequel took the concepts from the first series and really ran with them. ARAGOTO played out in two main arcs, the first featuring Bishamon and the second focused on Ebisu, and in turn, Yato. Both arcs ended up being thought-provoking and touching, with self-sacrifice vs self-preservation being a major theme.
(streaming: FUNimation)

K RETURN OF KINGS
K: RETURN OF KINGS (13 episodes) – After the first season, I wasn’t that sold on K’s setting or colour-coded Kings mythology. So much so, that I was actually reluctant to watch the subsequent movie and this sequel.

It seemed like too much style over substance. The K franchise is nothing if not stylish. The visuals were colourful and vibrant, and the constantly moving camera made for some stunningly dynamic action sequences (and also some uncomfortable fanservice).

Impressively, this had an ending that actually made some sense. It seemed obvious to me that the creators really cared about the story they were telling and the roles of the players involved. The characters were consistently true to their motivations and personalities, and the outcome made sense based on the setting and events prior. Maybe it also helped that I was not particularly fond of the Silver Clan, who were the primary focus originally, and therefore totally didn’t mind that they had much less screen time this season.

The Worst Ones:

I suppose it’s a good thing that I had to actually think about this. These are the shows that had some potential, but managed to disappoint despite already meagre expectations.

Tokyo Ghoul √A (12 episodes) – This continuation of the conflict between humans and ghouls inexplicably introduced a ton of new characters and featured even more clumsy storytelling than its predecessor. In the end, lots of people died, yet nothing of consequence happened.

Uta no Prince-sama Magi LOVE Revolutions (13 episodes) – My introduction to UtaPri was in 2011, when the first season was streaming on Niconico. I had heard that it was hilarious to watch with the scrolling user comments on. Indeed, that was good advice. The second season came along 2 years later, and it was actually respectable. I counted myself a fan.

Magi LOVE Revolutions… would have been better with scrolling user comments. Most of the dialogue and story arcs were pretty lame. Not only that, this third season did something even the previous ones didn’t: it actually ended on a cliffhanger.

Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider (11 episodes) – A murder mystery which cannot be comprehended by a normal human being.

Your lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso) (22 episodes) – Cloyingly manipulative tearjerker about middle school-aged musicians in love probably did right by its target audience. However, I was not that target audience, not by a long shot. We weren’t supposed to hate the girl at the end, were we?

________________________________________________________________

Here’s some more random retrospective stuff. This section includes anything that came out in 2015, not just the completed shows.

Memorable Quotes:

– We recently saw the GARO: CRIMSON MOON special episode. In one of the segments, the voice cast showcased their favourite lines from the show so far. That reminded me that there were not many notable lines in CRIMSON MOON of one quote that I did enjoy.

In many love stories, one partner has to make a great sacrifice for love and it’s beautiful and inspiring. It played out a little differently in ep.5. When Yasusuke told his ex-thief love interest Kosode that he intended to relinquish his name and status in order to be with her, she had this to say: “You want to step down from the good life you were born to? Who wants to be with a fool that doesn’t know the meaning of his actions!”

Well, the rest of the episode went to crap, but that one line was memorable for me.

– The quote that I think made me laugh the most last year came from ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM ep. 8. In response to his colleague apologizing for asking a prying question about his past, Koro-sensei said, “You’re a wise man, Karasuma-sensei. Even while traveling, it’s crude to ask after the number of one’s appendages.”

Favourite Seiyuu of 2015:
Akatsuki Jaeha 17 2015 Kuroko no Basuke 3 Suwabe 2015 Kamisamahjimemashita 2015 Fsn UBW Suwabe 2015 JoJo 2015 uta no prince sama revolutions Suwabe 2015 Food Wars 2015 Gangsta 2015 Gate 2015 Starmyu
That’s right: Suwabe Junichi. The above is a sampling of the roles performed by Suwabe-san last year. So many memorable characters. In at least two instances, his characters appeared mid-season and proceeded to steal the show; I’m thinking of Jae-ha, the Green Dragon in YONA OF THE DAWN, and Terence T. D’Arby in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: STARDUST CRUSADERS Egypt Arc.  He was also perfectly cast as Worick Arcangelo in GANGSTA. and as Ootori Itsuki, the charismatic mentor and muse in STARMYU.

Anime Songs Countdown:

And finally, in advance of the music retrospective post, which will go up next, I now present a list of the best anime songs of 2015 according to me. The songs are evaluated primarily on the music, not the accompanying visuals of the shows they’re associated with. And it’s the full songs that are being considered – that’s especially relevant to my top 2 picks, both of which have so much more to offer than what can be heard in their TV-size versions. Here we go.

15. Lantana, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball S3 ED3)

14. One Light, by Kalafina (THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN ED2)

13. Black Swallowtail, by UROBOROS (Rokka –Braves of the Six Flowers- OP2)

12. Feed A, by OLDCODEX (GOD EATER OP)

11. Aching Horns, OLDCODEX (High Speed! -Free! Starting Days- Main Theme)

10. Renegade, by STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION (GANGSTA. OP)

09. FOCUS, by Showtaro Morikubo (GARO THE ANIMATION ED2)

08. Yoru no Kuni, by Annabel (GANGSTA. ED)

07. Brave Shine, by Aimer (Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] S2 OP)

06. Akatsuki no Hana, by Cyntia (YONA OF THE DAWN OP2)

05. Limited sky, by Tsukigami Kaito (CV: Lounsbery, Arthur) (STARMYU insert song)

04. X.U., by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Gemie (Seraph of the End OP1)

03. scaPEGoat, by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Yosh (Seraph of the End ED1)

02. Last Theater, by NoisyCell (Death Parade ED)

01. physical, by OLDCODEX (Q Transformers: Kaettekita Convoy no Nazo OP1)

That was really long! Thank you for reading.

Mid-Autumn 2015 Anime Ranking

One Punch Man 05
01. ONE PUNCH MAN (ep. 1-10) – Well, I don’t know where to start. This super hero anime is simply really good. The humour is great, the action is great. I love Saitama and Genos and their interactions with each other. There are lots of great characters with distinct and amusing personalities.

If you want, it’s possible to read into the material some social commentary about work culture, the way institutions evaluate individuals, and what it means to be a hero. But you don’t have to think about any of that stuff. Above all else, OPM is just super fun to watch.
(streaming at DAISUKI)

Gundam Iron blooded orphans 04
02. Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS (Tekketsu no Orphans) (ep. 1-10) – As expected from GUNDAM, the newest series features a complex narrative which develops on multiple levels. The pacing is good and there is some nice mecha action, of course. Beyond that, what I really appreciate is how well the characters are written. Even minor supporting players have clearly defined personalities and the antagonists are not simple villain types, either.

Recently, we’ve started to see some of Orga’s insecurities and vulnerabilities, whereas previously, he seemed so smart and confident in his role as leader of Tekkadan. It really brings home just how young he and his gang all are.
(streaming at DAISUKI, Crunchyroll, and FUNimation!)

Seraph 2 Guren Shinya
03. Seraph of the End: VAMPIRE REIGN (Owari no Seraph) (ep. 13-21, or BATTLE IN NAGOYA ep. 1-9) – This second season started off a bit slow, but the momentum is definitely building up now. Things are getting complicated; it’s still a mystery how Guren, Kureto, Ferid, and Krul figure into the plot and what their motives are.

Previously, I criticized the poor action animation of the first season. Let me just say I have no complaints this time around. Episode 21 in particular was stunning! I do think it would have been easier for Mika (and Seraph’s animators) if he had decided to attack the Demon Army group from behind; but if he had done that, we would have missed out on a spectacular fight sequence!
(streaming at FUNimation)

Noragami aragoto 06
04. NORAGAMI (ep. 13-22, or ARAGOTO ep. 1-10) – I am one of those people who wasn’t really a huge fan of NORAGAMI when it first aired in 2014. But, I’ve been pretty impressed with this sequel.

The principles that were laid down in the first season explaining the complicated relationship between Yato, a god, and his human regalia, Yukine come to fruition here. In this installment, those same ideas are applied to a very different god, Bishamon, in a way that thoughtfully explores the complexity of her situation and the consequences of her actions. Along the way, we also learn the source of her conflict with Yato. Bishamon’s arc is terrific.

The second half of the cour is taking another dark turn, with Yato regressing to his toxic roots with Nora. It’s still good, but ultimately, I think I was more interested in Bishamon than in the Yato/Ebisu story and Yato/Hiyori’s relationship.
(streaming at FUNimation)

STARMYU 06
05. STARMYU High School Star Musical (ep. 1-10) – Well, there’s no shortage of otome trash titles this season, and God help us, we’re watching all of them! The best of the bunch is STARMYU, about a group of cute boys enrolled in a musical academy. It has been likened to Uta-Pri, except with fewer (haha) female characters.

At first the cast seemed pretty unlikeable, but gradually their personalities have gotten fleshed out and their rapport with each other is good. And yes, this is actually a musical, so there are performances and the guys will regularly just break out in song, which is awesome.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

06. Mr. Osomatsu (Osomatsu-san) (ep. 1-9) – A new gag anime based on the Osomatsu-kun manga from the 60s, which last had an anime adaptation more than 25 years ago. The identical sextuplets are under-employed adults in this iteration, with A-list seiyuu providing their voices. Honestly, I still have trouble telling the brothers apart, but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying the random, subversive humour of the show.

You might expect Osomatsu-san to be old-school and innocent, but it has turned out to be the most scandalous show of the year. The first episode has been removed and will be completely remade for the home video release as a result of making unauthorized references to various other anime. Episode 3 also caused a stir (and necessitated revision) over a particularly vulgar parody of Anpanman. Who knows what trouble they’ll get into next? Watch it while you can!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) SECOND SEASON (ep. 26-35) – Not much new to say at this point. If you’ve been enjoying Ace of Diamond so far, as I have, you won’t be disappointed by the current offering.

Seido is facing Seiko in the current arc. Their strange but talented relief pitcher, who sometimes sings the Anpanman song while on the mound, is putting the brakes on Seido’s offence. Meanwhile, Furuya and Sawamura are feeling the heat from Seiko’s powerful batters.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

K RETURN OF KINGS 09
08. K: RETURN OF KINGS (ep. 1-11) – It’s rewarding the way RETURN OF KINGS has built upon the ideas presented in the first season and in the “MISSING KINGS” movie. Because of that, I’m enjoying this sequel even though I was not a big fan of the original series.

My biggest complaint overall is that there are really only 3 female characters among the rather large cast; and the 2 of them who aren’t children seem to exist almost solely for fanservice, with boobs and butts randomly plastered in front of the camera at every opportunity. Fortunately, this isn’t all the time, since they are so vastly outnumbered by the guys.

For me, the highlight so far was ep. 9. I loved seeing Awashima and Kusanagi all dressed up. Okay, so I like this kind of fanservice; it’s nice to see regular characters wearing clothes and hairstyles so different from their usual. Plus, there was plot development, foreshadowing, and get this: a break dance/gunfight in an elevator! Colour me impressed.

09. Haikyuu!! Second Season (ep. 1-9) – The Karasuno guys are finding that they can learn new things by practising with other teams.

The production quality remains high with this sequel. Manager trainee Yachi is a great addition to the cast. I only wish Asahi would stop wearing his hairband like that; it’s weird and doesn’t look comfortable at all. He should take a hint from his coach – there’s a guy right in front of him who knows how to rock a hairband!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Dance with Devils
10. Dance with Devils (ep. 1-10) – The second of 3 shows in our Otome Trash lineup, Dance with Devils is yet another musical. Ritsuka, who is surprisingly smart and strong-willed for a protagonist in this type of anime, finds herself targeted by vampires and devils (in the Student Council) because of her family’s connection to the coveted Grimoire.

While the first episode greatly exceeded my expectations, the characters’ songs since then have been laughable for the most part. Not to be missed: the Pomeranian gets his turn to sing in ep. 7; and in the latest episode, the Student Council members collaborate to accuse their President of being an “Emo Liar”!

Just so we’re clear, I’m not saying the show isn’t good. On the contrary, I think it’s pretty fabulous.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

AoT Jr High
11. Attack on Titan: Junior High (Shingeki! Kyojin Chuugakkou) (ep. 1-8) – If you go into this expecting new insight on the Attack on Titan story, you will be disappointed. This half-length spin-off is basically a self-parody of the series. The setting is completely changed, but the jokes are all just exaggerated takes on the original material, and they’re not even that funny. The main thing that sells this? Cuteness. The characters appear in chibi form and they are ridiculously cute.

Unfortunately, I will be putting this on hold as of now since the content seems to have veered into possible spoiler territory for the main series.
(streaming at FUNimation)

12. Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider (ep. 1-9) – A murder takes place in a research facility on a remote island. Nishinosono and her mentor Saikawa happen to be visiting when it occurs.

This is a dark, locked-door mystery, but sometimes I have trouble taking it seriously. Everyone seems to just take things in stride and come and go as they please even though there’s been murder! And the killer is almost certainly on the premises! No one’s suspicious of our protagonists, either, despite the fact that they just happened to show up on the night of the crime.

It’s kind of unfortunate that other shows this season have inadvertently served as parodies of this particular story; Osomatsu-san especially (the “Calming Detective” segment of ep. 8 was hilarious), and also some parts of Beautiful Bones (the uncanny parallels between the 6th episodes of each series).
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. Chivalry of a Failed Knight (Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry) (ep. 1-10) – The basic premise of this anime sounds like any number of other magic school shows where the hero is branded as weak but in actuality is very strong, and all the girls desire him. Think: Mahouka (The irregular at magic high school). Fortunately, this show seems to be a bit more self-aware and operates with a modicum of restraint.

It helps that even though there is obviously a harem set-up, the romance is mainly with just one girl. And that girl isn’t the protagonist’s sister! Of course, that doesn’t mean Ikki’s sister isn’t in love with him; naturally a show like this has to have an incestuously-inclined little sister. Naturally. Even I have to admit that it is somewhat amusing as satire. Nevertheless, the brocon stuff is still not actually very funny.

There are times when I’ll be rolling my eyes at the fanservice and contrivances, but then the anime will just as often turn things around and show its good sense. For instance, I had started to feel apprehensive of the misunderstanding between Ikki and Stella in ep. 5, but to my surprise, the two of them actually hashed things out honestly and resolved the issue by episode’s end! That’s pretty unprecedented!
(streaming at Viewster)

GARO CRIMSON MOON Seimei 07
14. GARO: CRIMSON MOON (Guren no Tsuki) (ep. 1-9) – This is the second anime of the GARO franchise and it has virtually nothing in common with the first series. Here we have a whole new set of characters and a new Heian-era Japanese setting, which I thought was a unique idea. Unfortunately, CRIMSON MOON is also a whole new beast in terms of depth of character, narrative flow, and maturity in subject matter; those elements do not measure up to GARO THE ANIMATION at all.

The storytelling is rather slow and strangely episodic; it’s taken a long time to reveal the overall plot. I can appreciate what they were trying to do in re-imagining classic tales from the Heian period and tying them in to the Garo world. Unfortunately, the way these stories get connected to the main characters is kind of amateurish and contrived.

Seimei is actually an interesting and eccentric person and I’m relieved that we are finally getting to see some of her story. I’m glad that both of her companions will call her out on her questionable behaviour at times as well.

One thing I still like about this production is the eclectic musical choices, which I also mentioned in my (unrelated) review of “Miss Hokusai” earlier. The artwork is often quite pretty too.
(streaming at FUNimation)

15. Beautiful Bones –Sakurako’s Investigation- (Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru) (ep. 1-9) – Another show featuring a beautiful and eccentric leading lady with a taste for bizarre collectibles. This one has a young male sidekick too. The topic here is modern day mysteries, with a leaning toward forensics.

It bothers me how much this series relies on contrived coincidences to connect the main characters to the cases and often to solve the mysteries too. Sakurako is somehow more knowledgeable than police detectives, microbiologists, and physicians. I can be convinced that she might be well-studied and have an amazing memory, but there’s no way she can know absolutely everything – even what people she doesn’t know were thinking!

Objectively, Beautiful Bones looks great and it’s not a terrible show, not worse than GARO: CRIMSON MOON, anyway. But more and more I’m feeling bored and cynical toward it, while at the same time GARO has been trending up a bit at last.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. Utawarerumono: The False Faces (Itsuwari no Kamen) (ep. 1-9) – The show got off to a decent start by introducing the 2 main characters and having their community face the truly terrifying threat of giant centipedes and super-giant centipedes (shudder). As the cast expanded, though, I found myself losing interest fast. Episodes 5-7 felt like a slog. It’s true I have not seen the first series, but I suspect that wouldn’t have made much difference aside from recognizing a few recurring characters who appear in ep. 6.

All the females in this anime look the same to me! And there are so many of them now. I’m sitting here staring at the screen thinking, “Who are these girls again? Please let there not be a test!”
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

DIABOLIK LOVERS MORE BLOOD 07
17. DIABOLIK LOVERS II: MORE,BLOOD (ep. 1-9) – I’ll never understand what’s so good about this rapey piece of trash anime, the final and definitive title in our Otome Trash lineup. But somehow, the franchise has been successful enough to warrant a second anime season, and furthermore, I’m watching it! What the heck.

There is another family, consisting of 4 brothers, that takes Yui captive this time around. They have been added to the cast in order to further torment our brainless heroine. I think I harboured a tiny shred of hope that at least one of them would turn out to not be another abusive asshole. Ah, what was I smoking?
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Summer 2015 Anime Ranking


01. GANGSTA. (ep. 1-9) – Expert storytelling and exposition; GANGSTA. shows us how it’s done. It reveals just enough information to pique your interest and keep you on the hook for more. Every once in a while, there’s a touch of humour – sufficient to endear you to the characters and to keep the story from being completely bleak.

Worick and Nicolas are not your typical anime leads. Not only are they in their 30s, but one of them is blind in one eye and the other is deaf. The show features gangs and violence and prostitution. Distastefully, Worick and Nic do murder, among other things, for money. And yet, I was invested in them from the very first episode.

It seldom happens that the show I’m most hyped about before the season starts actually ends up being my favourite. That’s definitely been the case for GANGSTA. this summer, and by a wide margin too. Episode 8 marked the first time that I felt even a little disappointed and really noticed the animation shortcomings. Otherwise, week after week, I have been absolutely floored by just how good this show is!
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)


02. PRISON SCHOOL (ep. 1-9) – GANGSTA. may have its share of objectionable content, but it’s got nothing on PRISON SCHOOL!

Here’s what you can expect: ridiculously crude, gross-out humour, gratuitous boob and crotch shots (censored), absurd situations which may variously involve things like incontinence, hemorrhoids, and bleeding canker sores.

I’m not usually into bathroom gags or fanservice, but this shit is funny as hell. Perhaps surprisingly, there actually is a smart, substantial plot; and it helps that the humour is not particularly mean-spirited either.
(streaming at FUNimation)


03. THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN (Arslan Senki) (ep. 14-21) – Most of this cour has been about Arslan’s group getting involved in the royal power struggle of nearby nation Sindhura. While this arc may not be directly relevant to the main plot, it has been fairly enjoyable anyway. The Sindhurian princes and their father, the king, were compelling, flawed characters.

I was really affected by ep. 17, which had Daryun in a death match against a monstrously strong opponent. As a viewer, of course I am aware that Daryun is protected by all kinds of plot armour. But this episode was successful in getting me to see things from Arslan’s point of view. I was worrying right along with him. What if Daryun should fall? And for such a reason, which had nothing to do with their cause, even!

Also worth watching: ep. 16’s war elephants!
(streaming at FUNimation)

04. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) SECOND SEASON (ep. 14-21) – Other than some conflict between Miyuki and Zono, this has been more of what we know and love. Seido has to face increasingly tough teams and, sometimes, tough crowds too.

It’s nothing earth shaking, but all said, Ace of Diamond remains one of the shows we look forward to and enjoy the most each week.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Aoharu X Machinegun (Aoharu x Kikanjuu) (ep. 1-9) – A girl who is often mistaken for a boy gets involved in the world of survival games. Ultimately, the plot is pretty thin, but the show is consistently fun to watch anyway.

I like how the main character just happens to be androgynous and comfortably wears boys’ clothes. I fervently hope she doesn’t end up having to dress like a girl to try and get the guy, or for any other reason!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06. Food Wars! Shokugeki no Souma (ep. 14-21) – Somehow, this culinary battle anime is getting better and better.

Can you believe we’ve actually planned our meals around this show? After having to sit through the first karaage episode fried-chickenless, we made sure to have some karaage dinner at the ready the following week.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. Snow White with the Red Hair (Akagami no Shirayuki-hime) (ep. 1-9) – This anime shares a name with and makes some casual references to a much-reviled (according to yours truly) fairy tale. Fortunately, this Snow White (Shirayuki) is nothing like that other one. Shirayuki is a hard-working herbalist who is dedicated to her craft and her studies. One of the main reasons Prince Zen seems to be attracted to her is because she is determined to make a useful contribution to society and has no interest in pandering to royalty.

The show has had its ups and downs for me; but a definite highlight was ep. 4, which covered Shirayuki’s court herbalist exam and featured some great interaction between her and Zen.
(streaming at FUNimation)


08. Rokka –Braves of the Six Flowers- (Rokka no Yuusha) (ep. 1-9) – Every few hundred years, six powerful braves are chosen to prevent the rise of the Demon God. When seven braves show up at the meeting this time around, all bearing the mark, something is obviously amiss. Since the fourth episode, when all of the braves had assembled and found themselves trapped within a barrier, it’s pretty much been a whodunit to discover the identity of the fake.

The mystery aspect works well for Rokka. It’s also a good-looking anime, most of the time. And despite his tiresome habit of constantly declaring himself “the strongest man in the world,” our main guy Adlet comes across as an earnest and likeable hero.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. DURARARA!! X2 Ten (The Second Arc) (ep. 13-21) – This is the middle cour of DURARARA!!’s planned 3-part sequel. The final cour will air in January next year. There are still way too many characters (and more being introduced all the time!), but so far, I’m enjoying Ten a lot more than the first arc, Shou.

My favourite episode has been #14, which awesomely dispelled the notion that Mika and Seiji were nothing but a couple of single-minded, love-struck idiots.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)


10. Baby Steps 2 (ep. 14-21) – Eiichirou’s been getting a taste of the types of players he might have to handle if he goes pro, including a really likeable opponent who is strongly favoured by the crowd, as well as a sneaky player who utilizes dishonourable tactics.

Yukichi, the guy from STC who calls Ei-chan “Aniki”, has been really cute lately. He’s usually sweet and easygoing, so it’s great seeing him all riled up and pouring the hate on Ei-chan’s recent opponent.

Unexpectedly, there’s actually been some development on the romance front too, though it hasn’t had any huge impact so far on Ei-chan’s goals or performance.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. MY love STORY!! (ORE MONOGATARI!!) (ep. 13-21) – Takeo and Rinko’s wholesome romance continues. Some of their friends are getting infected by the love bug too.

The current arc covers the new addition to the Gouda family. I have intimate knowledge of what that’s like, as my family also welcomed a new baby when the older kids were almost grown. However, I don’t recall my baby sister being even half as well-behaved as the new little Gouda!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12. SCHOOL-LIVE! (Gakkou Gurashi!) (ep. 1-8) – Novel concept of cute schoolgirls plopped into a zombie apocalypse thriller. It is actually very effective and genuinely frightening. Well, horror and moe are not really my thing, which is the reason for my personal lack of adoration for the show; but for anyone who goes for this stuff, I give SCHOOL-LIVE! a very high recommendation.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. CLASSROOM CRISIS (ep. 1-9) – The first 5 or so episodes were pretty underwhelming. It’s only recently that the characters have started to grow on me and I’ve developed some interest in their personal dynamics and back stories.

If you’re going to watch this, it’s necessary to not think too much about the pseudo-science it presents. Don’t question the space travel and the colonized-every-planet stuff. Just let it go.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)


14. GOD EATER (ep. 1-6) – Because of its sporadic release schedule, apparently due to frequent production delays, there have been fewer episodes of GOD EATER compared to the other summer shows. It’s still hard to tell if it’s good or not. The main premise of a gifted kid fighting monsters for the sake of saving humanity is nothing special.

On the plus side, the action scenes have been spectacular and the oil-paint-like visuals are nice to look at.

I do question the feasibility of that Aegis project they’re working on. Unless they figure out a way to safely and efficiently farm for cores, it seems very likely all humans might be extinct before they are even half done building the thing.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)

15. WORKING!!! (WAGNARIA!!3) (ep. 1-9) – This series has always been mildly amusing and it’s easy to watch when you’re busy with other things, like eating dinner, so I’m back onboard with season 3. This is supposedly going to be the last installment and we can expect things of import to really happen this time around.

How much one enjoys WORKING!!! probably hinges a lot on how much one likes or tolerates Yamada. I think I’ve made no secret of the fact that I just don’t. I have to admit I was amused when, in ep. 5, she showed surprising self-awareness by actually stating that her presence could feel like a punishment to others.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)

16. GATE: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (ep. 1-8) – For whatever reason, most anime seem to feature teenaged protagonists. It’s a novelty when we get a show about college students or young adults entering the workforce. This season, however, we are fortunate enough to have not one, but two, series with 30-something main characters: GANGSTA., of course, and this one, GATE.

When a portal to an alternate world opens up and monsters attack Tokyo, the Japanese Defense Force fights back by sending a team through the gate. On the other side, they encounter humans as well as fantastical beings.

GATE’s not bad when it focuses on the politics and military strategy taking place in both worlds. I also like that Itami takes his job seriously, though he works primarily to support his otaku habits. I am notably less interested in the fantasy girls that the team has picked up.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


17. Seiyu’s Life! (Sore ga Seiyuu!) (ep. 1-8) – The sort-of sister show to SHIROBAKO, this slice of life anime follows the exploits of 3 young voice actors trying to make it in the entertainment industry.

While the girls have a number of positive experiences, where they get a chance to learn and grow, a lot of what they go through is quite unglamorous. They sometimes don’t know when or if they’ll be offered another gig; they work second jobs to make ends meet; even when they get the opportunity to form a musical unit, they basically have zero say in the direction of the project.

Seiyu’s Life! provides an informative inside glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes, but unfortunately, I just don’t care that much about these characters.
(streaming at FUNimation)

Notable Drops:

Ushio and Tora (ep. 1-4) – I’d heard some good things about Ushio and Tora, so I gave it a try for 4 episodes. I found it to be a competent production, but felt pretty meh about it overall. I think I was hoping for a little more depth or some adult humour; instead, it was largely predictable.

If you happen to be a fan of old-school shounen, you can certainly do a lot worse than this show. But outside of that, I don’t think there’s much crossover appeal.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

AQUARION LOGOS (ep. 1-2) – If the first episode had not been prefaced by an Aquarion EVOL special, I don’t know if I would have tuned in at all to this show.

The many characters are poorly introduced and I just found it impossible to connect with them. Especially when the premise is stupid, it’s important to have likeable characters to carry the proceedings. Although, it’s uncertain whether any amount of quality characters or interactions could actually make up for something this stupid.

The word-monster of the week concept actually manages to be more lame than the intentionally lame adversaries in Cute High! With that show, and EVOL, what both had in spades was a self-aware and over the top sense of humour, something LOGOS sorely seems to lack. Wish I hadn’t wasted my time on this.
(streaming at FUNimation)

Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace (ep. 1-2) – Based on the first arc, mystery anime Ranpo Kitan seems to want to be edgy and provocative, but to me, the story was just so completely out there that it strained all credulity. Sure, it’s not uncommon for people to want to be immortalized as furniture after they die, even if they have to die prematurely. Yeah, happens all the time.
(streaming at FUNimation)

Mid-Spring 2015 Anime Ranking


01. THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN (Arslan Senki) (ep. 1-10) – The Kingdom of Pars falls to Lusitania’s attack during Prince Arslan’s first sortie on the battlefield. Arslan is left to marshal his limited resources and find a way to save his nation and his people.

It’s not only about the good guys vs the bad guys, though. Time and again, I’m impressed at how well the show conveys the motivations of each of the players. We see the merits of their beliefs as well as the failings. Even people who are supposed to be allies might have differing opinions from each other.

There are a lot of little ongoing mysteries, including the cold way both the King and Queen seem to regard their son. It’s also not clear at this point who is really pulling the strings in this conflict.

To be honest, I’m not crazy about the character designs, but this is an action-adventure anime that I can appreciate cerebrally.
(streaming at FUNimation)


02. Seraph of the End: VAMPIRE REIGN (Owari no Seraph) (ep. 1-11) – There’s a kind of shocking, practically systemic, outward lack of respect for comrades and superiors at all levels of this Japanese Imperial Demon Army organization. It almost takes me out of the show. Almost. It’s actually well-written enough that I’m firmly onboard still. Part of what makes the nastiness amusing, as opposed to annoying, is that the characters do manage to work together when it counts and there’s no question that they are all on the same side.

On the other hand, I really like Mika, too. You know I’m a sucker for these cool, silently suffering types. Not only does he inhabit a different world from these other goons, it’s practically like he’s from an entirely different show altogether.

I guess I should mention that there was a very noticeable drop in production quality in ep. 10. I’m usually pretty forgiving of animation shortcuts. As long as the storytelling flows well, they don’t really bother me. That first battle scene, though, was too egregious to ignore. It looked more like coloured storyboarding with voiceover than anything resembling finished animation. No music, even. It was a big fight, but there was no tension at all. Also, Yuu and Shinoa’s services were needed at two different battle grounds. They shouldn’t have been taking their sweet time!

All right, after having seen ep. 11 as well, I can confirm that it doesn’t look quite as bad as last week. However, it is pretty clear by now that action sequences are not Seraph of the End’s forte. Conversely, what is impressive is how even minor characters seem to have personality (and attitude) to spare. I totally wouldn’t mind if they dispensed with the physical fights going forward, and just have everyone wield their tongues instead of their swords!

Finally, a positive note about the music: Seraph’s OP “X.U.” and ED “scaPEGoat” by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] are easily two of the best theme songs this season. They have recently been released together as a double A-side single, and it’s so good! The instrumental versions are included, and even without the vocal tracks, both of them sound like complete songs. It’s almost a shame to cover them up with singing. This is real music, folks, not the generic pop that’s commonly used for anime music or heard on mainstream radio. (I’m not biased at all no way.)
(streaming at FUNimation)


03. KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA: Battle for Planet Nine (Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki) (ep. 1-9) – There were already a slew of mysteries remaining from season one. SIDONIA 2 hit the ground running with a number of shocking new developments and even more unanswered questions. This stuff works for me and I’m definitely intrigued to know what’s going on.

The reason SIDONIA 2 is not number one on my list is that I feel it is wasting too much time on harem antics and fanservice, and that has got to be my least favourite aspect of the series. During the first season, the fanservice was certainly there as well, but it accounted for very minimal screen time. The rest of the production was so exceptional that I could easily overlook such indiscretions.

After watching ep. 8, I have to say I’m unimpressed. I suppose a lot of viewers are amused at the way these otherwise intelligent girls are trying to get close to our harem lead, but to me, it’s just ugh. The first season was so much more subtle with the romance! Tanikaze and Hoshijiro never openly acknowledged the romantic nature of their relationship, but when he kept going to see “her”, it strongly implied how connected to her he felt. What passes for romance this season is so clumsy by comparison, partly because it is all about what the girls want, with not enough input from the main character, which is typical of harem setups. It’s just, I don’t come to SIDONIA expecting some cheap harem anime! Can we get back to the Gauna please?

Anyway, to clarify, my quarrel is only with the sexual fanservice in the show. I have no problem whatsoever with the rice ball fanservice.
(to stream on NETFLIX starting July)


04. Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] (ep. 13-22) – Ah, I was happy when Illya agreed to have a chat with Shirou and Rin. But alas.

It’s so hard to rank this one. When it’s good, it is really good. Take episodes 17 and 18, for instance, when our protagonists went to take on Caster. We found ourselves instinctively hitting replay for parts or all of those episodes.

But sometimes, it’s just not good. Like the subsequent showdown between Archer and Shirou. They have now spent several episodes talking and saying the same things over and over again; and both of them are stubbornly determined to follow the paths they’ve chosen. Um, there is an obvious middle ground here, isn’t there? Meanwhile, Rin is in danger and Saber is doing a whole lot of nothing!
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)


05. MY love STORY!! (ORE MONOGATARI!!) (ep. 1-9) – The shoujo romance with a male lead. But what really makes this refreshing is how likeable all the main characters are. Too many shoujo romances rely on mean people (or “good” people who behave in a mean way) to produce manufactured drama. When the setup and characters are interesting enough, as they are here, the show is naturally funny and entertaining without the usual gimmicks.

At this point, the relationship between the best friends is more compelling than the romance, though. Yamato is maybe a little too perfect.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06. ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) (ep. 12-21) – The 3-E class have worked hard for their accomplishments. Now it’s time for them to put their skills to the test as they stage an elaborate attempt on their teacher’s life and also work together to save their fellow classmates.

AssClass features a great ensemble cast and it’s easy to root for these kids’ success. At the same time, I wish Koro-sensei wouldn’t have to die! Is it just me, or does it seem like Karasuma-sensei isn’t really all that into the assassination either?
(streaming at FUNimation)

07. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: STARDUST CRUSADERS Egypt Arc (ep. 38-46) – The clock is ticking as the Joestar party approaches their goal. There’s still been plenty of stupidity and hilarity along the way. I especially loved the ending to the T. T. D’Arby arc.

Things are getting more serious now, though, as it’s time for the final showdown with DIO.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) SECOND SEASON (ep. 1-9) – This effectively got off to a late start due to the airing of 3 recap episodes at the beginning of the season. Since then, the anime has resumed its usual riveting gameplay, with a current emphasis on personal growth through competition for Sawamura and Furuya, and others.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


09. Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches (Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo) (ep. 1-8) – This supernatural high school comedy features lots of equal-opportunity kissing and likeable characters. I really appreciate that it routinely manages to avoid the most obvious types of rom-com tropes and fanservice that are common for the genre.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. BLOOD BLOCKADE BATTLEFRONT (Kekkai Sensen) (ep. 1-10) – BLOOD BLOCKADE is packed with over-the-top, larger than life characters. I’m particularly amused by Zapp and Klaus and I enjoy the dynamic they share with Leonardo. The overarching plot is harder for me to get a grasp on; though we’re probably not expected to understand a lot of the story yet.

It’s unfortunate I’m a busy girl, and I have lots of other anime to watch, so I can’t commit to multiple viewings of this one show. Because I do believe it warrants repeat viewings. There is A LOT going on visually in every scene, and especially since I also have to be preoccupied with reading subtitles, it’s very easy to miss a lot of details.

That is exactly what is so great and not so great about this series. If you have the inclination to give it your full attention and then some, I think it can be a really rich experience. The flip side is that it sometimes feels like work to watch it; it’s not something you can simply sit back and enjoy when you just want to relax.
(streaming at FUNimation)

11. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! (Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku) (ep. 1-9) – I was never in love with this pretentious series and even considered skipping this sequel. So I watch with a fair amount of cynicism. However, I’m actually enjoying it more than I expected to. Even though there is still that much-ado-about-nothing issue with the plot, I find I am able to appreciate some of the characters and the humour regardless.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12. Food Wars! Shokugeki no Souma (ep. 1-10) – Frequently amusing, although there is not that much plot. Souma and the other students don’t seem to do that much actual learning at this elite school that they go to. Shokugeki no Souma is always reliable for its food porn. Quite literally, in this case, foodgasms and all.

Totally didn’t expect that JoJo’s reference in ep. 10, complete with voice narration and onscreen sound effects! Awesome. It was especially perfect because the 2 programs air on the same day and we happened to watch JoJo’s immediately prior. “You thought you were getting a cooking anime, but it was me, Dio!”
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. Baby Steps 2 (ep. 1-9) – Eiichirou’s path to pro tennis continues in this second installment of the series. First is a 2-week session at a Florida academy. Then he returns home to train and play some more, with his future riding on his performance at the All-Japan Junior Tournament.

This is a well-written show, and very realistic. The reason I’m not more excited to watch it each week is that it’s maybe too realistic. Ei-chan has to work very hard for his successes, and we feel it – it’s not always fun to watch. Also, the slightly cross-eyed character designs have not gotten any more attractive since the first season, despite improvements in animation quality otherwise.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

14. Kuroko’s Basketball S3 (ep. 63-72) – It’s Seiren vs Rakuzan for the Winter Cup. But first, there was a 3-week delay at the start of the cour while the show did a flashback to Kuroko and Akashi’s time with the Generation of Miracles. So this sports anime took a while to get going as well.

I’m still not fond of Akashi. The more screen time he has, the less I tend to enjoy the show. The best thing this cour has going for it right now is a strong pair of OP and ED themes by regular contributors GRANRODEO and OLDCODEX, respectively. Animation-wise, I also don’t recall any previous opening sequence looking quite as good as this one does. Granted, it could be that I didn’t really watch them all because the music wasn’t good…
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)

15. Ghost in the Shell: ARISE – ALTERNATIVE ARCHITECTURE (ep. 1-10, complete) – Mostly a cut-for-TV rebroadcast of the ARISE OVA movies. If you have already seen the OVAs, there’s apparently no need to watch the first 8 episodes of this series. I still think it’s curious that they decided to start with part 4, though, before going back to the beginning. It seems like a questionable choice since that was probably also the weakest part.

The remaining 2-episode arc is new content; and it’s okay, kind of more of the same. Predictably, loose ends are not tied up, since there’s still a movie sequel to follow.

The movement animation and camera-work look great in this series. I can’t say the same for the character designs. That’s one ugly pixie cut the Major’s sporting; and seriously, they couldn’t do something about Togusa’s mullet? The best characters were the Logicomas; they were adorable.
(EVS streaming at FUNimation)


16. Uta no Prince-sama Magi LOVE Revolutions (ep. 1-9) – Episode 7 put the spotlight on Kurosaki Ranmaru, who I think of as prick #2 of QUARTET NIGHT. He’s all angsty because he decided to give up his “love for rock” (even though no one asked him to) in order to concentrate on his current boy band career. I mean, that’s just wrong on so many levels.

Fortunately, none of this third season has been as lame as the episode that started it, but overall, it just hasn’t been as much fun as season two.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. Sound! Euphonium (Hibike! Euphonium) (ep. 1-9) – KyoAni’s high school band anime. As expected, the art and animation are beautifully rendered, and okay, it’s a “better” show than UtaPri. But for me, Sound! Euphonium is too realistic and solemn most of the time. I even took music in high school, so I can relate to this stuff; but being more of a quitter than a band geek, I have little interest in it now. At least Baby Steps has some humour; this just bores me.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Winter 2015 Anime Ranking

Let’s start the year off by highlighting some theme songs – just like last year. The best current OP/ED songs according to me are as follows:

1. Last Theater, by NoisyCell (Death Parade ED)
2. Akatsuki no Hana, by Cyntia (YONA OF THE DAWN OP2)
3. FOCUS, by Showtaro Morikubo (GARO ED2)

We’re watching less than usual this season, only 15 series, attributable to a shortage of free time and a shortage of patience. Nearly half of those 15 are continuing shows, so you’ll notice some repeat from the mid-autumn ranking. Five are sequels (more déjà vu); and we’ve picked up only 3 completely new series.

Unlike last winter, though, there’s actually a lot of good stuff this time around.


01. GARO THE ANIMATION (GARO: Honoo no Kokuin) (ep. 13-21) – After a moving season opener, GARO proceeded to give us 3 episodes of filler. Well, the stories were still relevant to the theme of the show, but there just wasn’t enough of our 3 main characters in them. Fortunately, things are getting back on track now.

Twenty episodes in, we finally got the spotlight on Mendoza’s right-hand woman Octavia. Seeing what she’s been through and what she’s capable of, I can’t help but feel some respect for her. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from hating her too. Her cleverness and deceitfulness make her a dangerous adversary for our high-minded heroes. Regarding the whole Mendoza deal, though, I can’t say I understand at all why Watchdog Center would ever cooperate with him; it doesn’t seem to make any sense.

GARO is still the series that I look forward to the most each week. That’s why it’s here at the top, even though it could easily be argued that some of the anime below have been displaying even better plot progression of late. I continue to admire the mature writing in GARO and I genuinely care about what happens to Leon, Alfonso, and German.
(streaming at FUNimation)


02. Parasyte –the maxim- (Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu) (ep. 13-20) – The conflict is heating up as the humans begin to mount an offensive against the parasites. Innocent lives are lost with little consideration during the assault. The message seems overly simplistic maybe; but it resonates with me anyway. How do you defeat a monster without becoming one yourself? If there were easy answers to that, real-life monsters such as Islamic State militants would not still be terrorizing the world…
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. ALDNOAH.ZERO (ep. 13-20) – This second part of ALDNOAH.ZERO is shaping up to be even better than the first. The narrative turns have been riveting and unpredictable. Whereas season one focused on the Earth side, the current attention to the Vers forces and Slaine’s development is a welcome change.

It’s hard not to see this heading toward a tragedy, though.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)


04. ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) (ep. 1-8) – The E Class of a prestigious school is given the task of killing their teacher, the tentacled and super-fast Koro Sensei, who has threatened to destroy the Earth at the end of the school year, should they fail to murder him first. Not only is he really hard to kill, though, he also happens to be a damn good teacher.

The episodes tend to be stand-alone stories, so there hasn’t been a lot of progress overall. Regardless, AssClass is very amusing in its absurdity and it consistently gives off a feel-good vibe.
(streaming at FUNimation)

05. Yowamushi Pedal GRANDE ROAD (ep. 13-19) – Still riding the Inter-high, though we’re on the last climb to the finish line now. Can’t wait to see what Onoda can pull off at this point. And I’m rooting for Imaizumi’s success even though it’s obvious that his early lead in and of itself is a flag that everything is not about to go so smoothly for him or Team Sohoku.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


06. Akatsuki no Yona (YONA OF THE DAWN) (ep. 13-20) – Some viewers may have considered ep. 16 to be filler, but I really enjoyed the brief focus on Soo-won. I think he’s way more interesting than our heroine. Fortunately, Yona’s side of things is picking up with the introduction of the Green Dragon, Jae-ha. All the other Dragons are transfixed by Yona. It’s nice to see Hak getting some attention for a change!
(streaming at Crunchyroll and FUNimation)

07. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: STARDUST CRUSADERS Egypt Arc (ep. 25-32) – Our heroes have made it to Egypt, but there are still a bunch of baddies standing between them and Dio. The series continues to be crazy and dumb and funny, maybe funnier than it’s ever been, actually.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. Death Parade (ep. 1-9) – Upon dying, people show up in pairs at Decim’s bar to play a game that will determine their fate in the afterlife. The stories are often rather unpleasant, and the fairness of the judging system is suspect. Where Death Parade succeeds is in how thought-provoking the scenarios can be. Long after the episode is over, you might still be thinking about the characters and wondering whether or not Decim and co. made the right decisions.
(streaming at FUNimation)

09. SHIROBAKO (ep. 12-20) – Even though I’m not that invested in the characters individually, this show has been really effective at portraying the process and challenges involved in delivering weekly episodes of an anime series. Not only that, but it manages to be entertaining and easy to follow too.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) (ep. 64-71) – I was glad to learn there’s to be a second season for this. Because right now, things are going so badly for Sawamura that it’s actually been kind of painful to watch the show; and it’s not likely his problems will be completely resolved in just the few episodes we have left.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


11. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!) (ep. 1-8) – We’re all familiar with magical girl anime; how about a magical boy anime? Evil aliens are trying to take over the world and it’s up to 5 guys in a school club, along with their own alien mascot, to counter the menace – with love. Add to that a dash of Weekend at Bernie’s humour too.

Like JoJo’s, the material is pretty stupid, but the result is often funnier than it has any right to be.
(streaming at FUNimation and Crunchyroll)

12. Kamisama Kiss (Kamisama Hajimemashita) S2 (ep. 14-21) – I wasn’t that crazy about season one, but I didn’t not like it enough to avoid the sequel, so here I am. When all is said and done, I’m not that into the romance plotline. Otherwise, Kamisama Kiss is decent enough as a light distraction to enjoy after a hard day at work.
(streaming at FUNimation)


13. Kuroko’s Basketball S3 (ep. 51-59) – The special powers of the elite players are getting more and more ridiculous. I actually took issue with godlike Akashi, who caused opposing players to lose their footing and fall down in his presence. It wouldn’t be fun for any of them to play like that! And who would even want to watch such a game?

KuroBas can still be a fun show to watch, mind you, but you can’t take it seriously, at all.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)

14. Your lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso) (ep. 12-19) – I’m still having trouble buying that these kids are middle-schoolers and younger with the way they talk and act! Lots of suffering in this show.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. Tokyo Ghoul √A (ep. 13-21) – Another sequel that I ultimately couldn’t not watch, although I did hesitate. As expected, this pretty much continues the ham-fisted storytelling of the first season. I will say that Root A has gradually been getting better recently, for whatever that’s worth.
(streaming at FUNimation)

Also planning to watch: DURARARA!! X2 Shou. But we’ve decided that it’s been too long and we really need to re-watch S1 first.

Jacquie’s 2014 Year in Review – Top 10 Anime

When I started thinking about the anime that I enjoyed the most this past year, I realized it would be challenging to make a realistic year-end best list. A vast majority of my favourite shows remain officially unfinished, either being ongoing, or with a continuation announced around the airing time of the season finale episode.

Usually, I only consider series which finish airing in the given year, without the immediate promise of a sequel. This time, any shows I watched in entirety that came to a clear season end in 2014, will be eligible. (Ongoing and designated split-cour series will be considered for next year.)

Below are my top picks of 2014, chosen from about 55 eligible titles. The top five were easy to decide; those were the series that received an 8 or 9 rating from me at MyAnimeList. The next five had to be selected from the nearly 20 shows which scored a 7, and it was no simple task.


#1. KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA (Sidonia no Kishi) (Season 1, 12 episodes)
There’s not much I can add that I haven’t already said in the mid-spring writeup.

I’m not much of a fan of computer-generated animation normally, but this show really made the most of it. With its engrossing sci-fi story and great world-building, KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA was smartly written and very exciting to watch.

Definitely looking forward to season 2 come springtime!
(NETFLIX)


#2. Free! Eternal Summer (Season 2, 13 episodes, complete)
In season one, the boys grew together as a swim team and as friends, while coming to terms with their past experiences. Eternal Summer, on the other hand, focused more on their personal development, especially as Haru, Makoto, and Rin needed to start thinking about their futures.

I had high expectations of Free! from the very beginning, and also confidence that the creators knew what they were doing and where they were going with the series. I felt that my faith was rewarded throughout, but particularly in this second season, including the satisfying finale.

The ending was conclusive enough that it seems fairly certain there will not ever be a season 3, never mind a season 10. Which is too bad, because I will miss having this series to look forward to. The animation was gorgeous, the music was evocative, and I came to care about the characters as if they were real people.
(Crunchyroll, FUNimation)


#3. YowaPeda (Yowamushi Pedal) (Season 1, 38 episodes)
This entertaining cycling anime was in my top 3 practically every week that it aired. Even though the storyline was quite simple and focused entirely on bike racing and training, it was always fun to watch. I liked how we gradually got to know each character in the huge cast as it came time for them to play their part for their team. It helped me empathize with their goals and it gave context to their successes and failures.

Well, season one officially ended in June and the sequel, GRANDE ROAD, started in September with a renewed numbering system, but there was really no ending to season one, as it stopped right smack dab in the midst of the gruelling Inter-high race.
(Crunchyroll)


#4. GUGURE! KOKKURI-SAN (12 episodes, complete)
When I first heard of this, I thought it was just yet another fox spirit anime; there seem to be so many of them! But one glimpse of the female protagonist and I was convinced it was not going to be just one of those shows.

I didn’t love everything about the series. Inugami and Tama, for instance, were not especially funny to me. But Kokkuri and Kohina, and even Shigaraki, were loveable enough to make up for it.

Overall, I enjoyed the absurd, irreverent humour a lot; and the balance of drama and comedy added some surprising depth to the material.
(Crunchyroll)


#5. ALDNOAH.ZERO (Season 1, 12 episodes)
The second of 3 mecha series on this list, ALDNOAH.ZERO had a strong start, featuring a war of worlds storyline, inventive plot developments, and an atypical lead character in soft-spoken, inexpressive Inaho.

The Martian Kataphrakt-of-the-week format of the middle section reduced the appeal of the show somewhat, however. It also didn’t help that Inaho always seemed to dispense with his enemies a little too effortlessly.

Regardless, the detailed animation, powerful soundtrack, and strong early episodes were enough to get me hooked and looking forward to the new season, which has just started.
(DAISUKI, Crunchyroll)


#6. NOBUNAGUN (13 episodes, complete)
For most of its run, this was a middling series for me. I really liked awkward, tomboyish Sio as the lead protagonist, and I enjoyed the episodes where her group, the Second Platoon, was featured in the plot. But it was considerably less fun whenever the focus was on other characters.

What raised my opinion of NOBUNAGUN was the final story arc, in which Sio got to display her character development and a truly inspired twist regarding the identity of one of the E-Gene Holders was revealed.

I’ve said before that it’s fairly uncommon for an anime to have a great ending, so I really appreciate it when it happens. NOBUNAGUN resolved not only its battle storyline, but its romantic subplot as well, even though the love triangle was mostly imaginary and played for laughs up till that point. This is more than can be said for most shows with romance as the theme!

There is still room for a sequel, but the series ended in a satisfying way.
(Crunchyroll)


#7. Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai) (99 episodes, complete)
An all-ages-appropriate, realistic portrayal of what it’s like to apply for the space program and the process for becoming an astronaut.

Self-deprecating Mutta made for a sympathetic hero; and the underlying story of brothers with a shared passion was touching.

The first half of the series definitely had the better material, climaxing with Hibito’s moon mission arc. The remaining episodes were more slow-paced and less riveting. But overall, I still give the show a strong recommendation. It’s well-informed and well-written, and it’s entertaining too.
(Crunchyroll)


#8. Shirogane no Ishi ARGEVOLLEN (24 episodes, complete)
This mecha/war anime suffered a weak start full of tropes: predictably hotheaded protagonist and grossly out-of-place fanservice, just to name a couple of the problems.

But along the way, the characters, including the lead, grew and became fleshed out and believable. Fanservice fell by the wayside. It was a joy to see the military strategy play out, as well as the interactions between the cast. All in all, it was not a predictable show at all; and it’s a shame that many viewers probably dropped it, for understandable reasons, before it got good.
(Crunchyroll)


#9. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: STARDUST CRUSADERS (Season 2, 24 episodes)
The third part in the JoJo timeline, once again featuring a huge time skip from the previous arc. Happily, Joseph is still around, and although he’s a grandfather now, he’s still as much of a redneck a-hole as ever. This time, it’s all about special powers called stands and it’s a race against time to reach Dio and stop him from destroying the Joestar family.

Basically, Jotaro and company are trying to make it from Japan to Egypt in one piece, but at every step, Dio’s followers are there to thwart their progress. This results in a stand-of-the-week horror story format most of the time. But that’s okay, because it’s so much fun just watching these lovably flawed characters interacting with each other. You can’t help but laugh at the crazy situations they find themselves in.
(Crunchyroll)


#10. Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji): Book of Circus (Season 3, 10 episodes, complete)
I never actually finished season one, and I didn’t watch any of the second season, but I checked out this third installment of Kuroshitsuji anyway. And I liked it!

Who is a victim and who is a villain in a world that isn’t black and white? Book of Circus was pretty dark and explored some of the same themes as Tokyo Ghoul (which also aired in the summer) clumsily attempted to, but executed on them so much better, in my opinion.
(FUNimation, DAISUKI)

Mid-Autumn 2014 Anime Ranking

It’s more like a late-season review again. I took a break from work and anime for a couple of weeks early on, and it’s taken a while to get caught up, more or less. There are still a few shows on my watch list that I will not be covering here, since I have not seen enough of them to rank them.

It has been an exceptionally strong season, in my opinion. I’m really happy with just about everything in the top 10.


01. GARO THE ANIMATION (GARO: Honoo no Kokuin) (ep. 1-10) – I’m new to the GARO franchise, so I didn’t really know what to expect going in. I started watching because it seemed like it was an adult-oriented, medieval-setting anime, which is right up my alley. Fortunately, they seem to be presenting a stand-alone story which doesn’t demand much prior knowledge of previous works.

The interactions between sullen Leon and his libido-charged dad, German, have been amusing to watch. It’s a believable relationship. I can see how teenaged Leon would constantly feel annoyed at his father’s behaviour, and also how German would be frustrated at his withdrawn and uptight son.

Even though he hasn’t had much screen time until recently, I’ve been impressed with how Prince Alfonso is depicted as being a lot more capable and worldly than your average runaway royal. It’s obvious the King’s money bought him a good education, as one would expect, and it’s clear he paid attention in class, too. Of course he’s going to be a bit uncomfortable as he attempts to navigate his new surroundings, and he is physically weak compared to all the other guys in the show, but he is never useless or completely defenceless, either. I’ll bet Princess Yona (from currently airing Akatsuki no Yona) wishes her overprotective father had had as much foresight as Alfonso’s parents did!

This show proves that it’s possible to have mature content, including sex and violence, without being cheap and exploitative.

My one real complaint is that the super-shiny CG battle suits are a bit jarring compared to the restrained colour scheme of the 2D animation. I definitely prefer the fight scenes when they are not suited up. The only plus is that the CG suits are easier to see in the dark.
(streaming at FUNimation)


02. Parasyte –the maxim- (Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu) (ep. 1-10) – A thriller in which alien beings take over human bodies and turn them into shape-shifting cannibals. Our hero, Shinichi, fortuitously prevents his parasite from reaching his brain when it attacks him in the middle of the night. However, it permanently ends up in his right arm and they are forced to work together in order to survive.

I almost gave Parasyte the number one spot, as it has been the most consistent in effective storytelling, but the musical score is sometimes incongruous to the events on-screen, and GARO is just closer to my heart at the moment.

The narrative unfolds at a well-measured pace. It kind of reminds me of Death Note, with how it starts with the focus on the personal dynamic between Shinichi and Migi, then gradually expands the view to more and more of the outside world as the story progresses.

Even though it’s understated, we get a good sense of Shinichi’s feelings of discomfort at what is happening to his body. It’s fascinating to see Migi’s development too.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] (ep. 0-9) – Easily the best-looking series of the season, Fate/stay night offers top-notch action animation and detailed characterization.

Because this is being re-made as a direct sequel to Fate/Zero, it comes with a layer of context that elevates the material possibly above what it actually is. As such, I was invested in many of these characters before the show even began. Really subtle things, such as the way Saber stared at Illya, when they first encountered her, just for a moment, before casting down her gaze, can make me wonder at their meaning. Was Saber remembering the young child Illya used to be? Did seeing her standing there remind her of Illya’s mother Irisveil? Did she possibly feel regret that Illya was now to be her enemy?

I’m hoping they will eventually delve into the past events which many of the current Grail War participants have limited knowledge of. Rin seems to remember Sakura. But it’s hard to read her actions. Sakura doesn’t seem to be aware of their previous relationship at all. I also think it’s interesting that Illya, Shirou, and Saber each seem to have vastly different impressions about the kind of person that Kiritsugu was.

Rin is a great character. I love her interactions with her Servant Archer and with Shirou.

This version of Fate/stay night has done an extraordinary job of making Shirou out to be a likeable guy. He’s naïve and idealistic, but it’s clear he has a lot of potential for becoming a stronger Master. So far, he has not displayed any of the chauvinistic behaviour toward Saber that really irked me in the original Fate/stay night. Fingers crossed that there will be no mid-war “date” episode this time around.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. LAUGHING UNDER THE CLOUDS (Donten ni Warau) (ep. 1-10) – This one got off to a rocky start; it didn’t bode well for things when the main characters were running around in drag for no reason in the very first episode. Fortunately, the show took a more serious direction fairly quickly.

Tenka, the eldest Kumoh brother, reminds me of Headmaster Cross (from Vampire Knight) with the way he constantly puts on a goofball façade, while keeping his burdens to himself. I thought he took the act too far with his little brother, though, especially as it seemed obvious that Sora was mature enough to handle some reality. Gotta say, I was surprised and impressed by the gutsy yet logical conclusion to episode 6.

And then, the shocking twists in episode 9 left me reeling! I’m really enjoying Shirasu’s very nuanced portrayal. There’s a difficult scene between Soramaru and Shirasu in the latest episode, and I was blown away by the heartbreaking and compelling way in which it was handled.
(streaming at FUNimation)


05. Shirogane no Ishi: ARGEVOLLEN (ep. 13-22) – The story’s gotten really good. It’s now less a question of who is winning this war between Arandas and Ingelmia, and more about the disagreement within Arandas ranks on whether or not to stop fighting. The characters have become fleshed out and believable. The animation has been impressive as well, including the mecha fights. I’ll choose to forget the mostly off-model season opener episode 13; if anything positive came out of that, it’s that it made me appreciate how good the show usually looks!

And they really did stop with the random fanservice which marred the first half. Fanservice is now limited to the ED credits, and I, for one, am grateful the creators were able to use that to get it out of their systems so they can treat the actual show seriously.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) (ep. 51-59) – It’s the final game leading to Nationals and our main character Sawamura finally gets the spotlight as he takes the mound for Seido in the last few innings.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. Gugure! Kokkuri-san (ep. 1-10) – Emotionally-stunted Kohina inadvertently gets herself haunted by 3 spirits. It’s not as if she can easily get rid of them, so they sort of become her family. Long-suffering, vain fox spirit Kokkuri is remarkably endearing. And our cup-noodle-obsessed lead girl Kohina is no angel, but she is totally adorable.

I like how the show doesn’t feel obligated to produce a gag every minute. Some of the best episodes are the ones where the comedy takes a back seat for a while and allows the show to explore a more thoughtful storyline. The music used in these segments tends to be really pretty, too. Of course, the jokes and punchlines are never far behind.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san is silly and absurd and charming. It also has no qualms about making light of potentially touchy subjects such as suicide, stalking, or pedophilia, so sensitive viewers may wish to steer clear; but also know that you’ll be missing out if you do, because this is funny stuff.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08. Yowamushi Pedal: GRANDE ROAD (ep. 1-10) – Continues right where we left off before the break, in the middle of the Inter-high race. Yes, it is more of the same of what we’ve come to expect from YowaPeda, and it’s just as fun and exciting as ever.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


09. Akatsuki no Yona (YONA OF THE DAWN) (ep. 1-10) – This was one of the series I was most looking forward to before the season began. For the most part, I’m pretty satisfied with the way it’s turned out. Many of the characters exhibit some depth, including the antagonists, and that’s a big draw for me. In fact, I’m eager to know more about traitor and pretender to the throne Soo-won; he’s a conflicted villain if I ever saw one.

I’m actually less excited about the current Dragon quest that Yona and Hak are on, but at least Yona is learning to be stronger and more independent in the process.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


10. ORENCHI NO FURO JIJO (ep. 1-10) – A four-minute comedy short in which blond merman Wakasa takes up residence in the bathtub of a young man named Tatsumi. Wakasa’s friends get involved and hijinks ensue. Frequently, the characters appear in chibi form and it’s super-cute!

The ridiculously dark and angsty OP sequence featuring Matenrou Opera music serves as a perfect counterpoint to the lightweight content of the rest of the show.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. PSYCHO-PASS 2 (ep. 1-9) – Maybe I had too-high expectations, but this sequel has proven to be a considerable disappointment to me thus far.

By the end of season one, we knew that Sibyl was flawed. I don’t recall Sibyl ever being so wilfully stupid or blatantly treacherous, though. Prisoners automatically get released the moment their crime coefficient goes down, no matter what they did to cause their incarceration? Is that even possible? A missing inspector, who is known to be acting suspiciously, is entitled to all her privileges as long as her psycho-pass is clear? I’m not saying they should fire her, but common sense says the MWPSB should have a way to prevent her from accessing police weapons until they can ascertain that she is safe and actually still on their side!

I’m not going to go so far as to call season 2 a train wreck, since they do seem to have a clear story in mind and they are telling it; and on its own, it’s probably fine. However, it’s difficult to ignore how the rules of the Sibyl System as established in the original series sometimes seem to be contradicted or changed to fit with the current production.
(streaming at FUNimation)

12. SHIROBAKO (ep. 1-9) – The overall story revolves around a group of friends beginning their careers in the animation industry. Most of the action (if you can call it that) is centered on Aoi’s experiences and the challenges she repeatedly faces in her role as production assistant for a company putting out a currently airing anime. Setbacks and deadlines abound and the fear of failure is sometimes palpable.

There is quite a bit of humour as well. I’m actually enjoying SHIROBAKO a lot; however, it’s just not the kind of show I find myself clamouring to watch each week.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


13. Rage of Bahamut: GENESIS (Shingeki no Bahamut GENESIS) (ep. 1-9) – This had a really promising start: nice-looking animation, medieval fantasy adventure setting. The men are likeable if rather needlessly unattractive; and single-minded Amira is an interesting heroine. Okay, to be fair, she’s interested in 2 things: food, and getting to Helheim some way somehow.

Anyway, I wanted to like this show more than I do. I kind of wish it remained more grounded in the human world, as I find the parts about the angels’ and demons’ realms to be somehow overwhelming and boring at the same time.

The best part of the show remains the kick-ass opening credits, featuring “EXiSTENCE” by SiM. In case anyone’s wondering, there is no need to watch episode 6.5; it is 100% recap and doesn’t shed any new light on the proceedings.
(streaming at FUNimation)

14. Wolf Girl and Black Prince (Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji) (ep. 1-10) – Erika gets caught in her lie about dating random hot guy Kyouya when he turns out to be a student at her school. To her surprise, he agrees to play her boyfriend; but only if she will be his dog. Yeah.

None of this is meant to be taken seriously, and honestly, the series is pretty fun and easy to watch. Still, I can’t help but have some reservations about the frankly abusive relationship at the core of this romance.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


15. Lord Marksman and Vanadis (Madan no Ou to Vanadis) (ep. 1-10) – For something that bills itself as a fanservice show, the gratuitous content is actually pretty mild. Sure, the way all the girls’ bodies are covered in canker sores is a turnoff, and the gigantic breasts on some can get ridiculous at times, but importantly, characters of both sexes get to retain their self-respect here.

The initial arc started things off well, but as the series continued, the execution has taken a tumble. After the fourth episode or so, things started happening at breakneck speed: characters were introduced and killed off before we learned their significance, Tigre wandered off and made a pact with some mysterious being, battles were fought and won with little regard for the human side of the story. It just seems a lot less focused now and I’m losing interest because of that.

tl;dr: Way better than expected; still not that good.
(streaming at FUNimation)

16. Your lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso) (ep. 1-9) – Former piano prodigy finds inspiration to take up his instrument again, and possibly romance, when a pretty and gifted violinist joins his group of friends. I find this stuff a tad melodramatic and, well, boring, but that’s just me. I would heartily recommend this anime to fans of Nodame Cantabile.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Notable Drop:

TERRA FORMARS (ep. 1-3) – The basic premise, with humanity possibly engineering its own demise when it attempts to terraform Mars by using cockroaches, sounds like a fascinating idea.

Problem is, the show is too obsessed with sensationalist violence. It’s just so hellbent on graphically depicting every beheading or dismemberment. Except you can’t show that stuff on TV, so at times up to 50% of the screen might be covered in black censor bars, making the show quite literally unwatchable.

It could have been so much better if they chose to suggest the gore artfully and if at least some clues as to what is going on on Mars were revealed earlier. If you’re looking for art or competent storytelling in a horror-thriller, best look elsewhere. Parasyte would be a good place to start.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Summer 2014 Anime Ranking

The trend this season seems to be… restrooms! Just kidding. But there have been a surprising number of shows that have had scenes set in a washroom or had one featured prominently in the background, which is weird, and funny.


01. Free! Eternal Summer (ep. 1-8) – If you didn’t enjoy the first season, there’s probably no reason to watch this sequel. However, if you connected with the characters as I did, Eternal Summer does not disappoint. So far it has delivered in spades to its established audience in terms of humour, character development, and thrilling swimming races.

Sousuke and Momotarou are welcome additions to the Samezuka swim team. Even though in some ways I can’t stand the guy, there’s no denying that Momotarou has been a great source of laughs for the show. Also, I love seeing how Makoto and Rin are developing as captains of their respective teams despite both of them having been reluctant to take on the leadership role initially.

It seems to me this season has been a bit more suggestive of BL compared to its predecessor. It’s never overt, though. More like the creators are aware of the fujoshi segment of the audience and are having fun with the material, but it’s all in line with the overall plot.

Maybe we’re a bit crazy, but we typically watch every episode two or three times in order to appreciate all the little details that make the series so much fun.
(streaming at Crunchyroll and FUNimation)


02. TERROR IN RESONANCE (Zankyou no Terror) (ep. 1-6) – Deliberate and intellectual. It’s like watching a chess match unfold between the terrorists and the disillusioned police detective.
(streaming at FUNimation)


03. ALDNOAH.ZERO (ep. 1-8) – Stunning start to this series about Martian humans waging war on Earth humans. Since the 5th episode, it’s tapered off a bit, but I’m still enjoying it a great deal.

My heart wasn’t really ready for the brutal interrogation scene in ep. 8, though. Poor Slaine must be the most hard-luck hero of the season. Despite his best efforts, the guy just can’t catch a break!

ALDNOAH.ZERO boasts another powerful soundtrack by the venerable Hiroyuki Sawano.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. Ace of Diamond (ep. 38-45) – Great ensemble cast for this baseball anime. It’s often not obvious that Sawamura is the main character. But it’s all good.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. NOBUNAGA CONCERTO (ep. 1-6) – The latest rendition of the modern-day kid finds himself time-slipped into the middle of the Warring States period storyline. Saburo encounters Oda Nobunaga upon arrival and when they realize that they are dead ringers for each other, Nobunaga asks him to take his place. Considering the premise, the show takes things a lot more seriously than I expected. Obviously, there’s going to be some culture shock humour. But mostly Saburo does his best to fulfill Nobunaga’s role in unifying Japan, while trying to preserve history, which proves to be a bit challenging since he sucked at History class. And wow, that plot twist in episode 6!

Biggest challenge for the viewer is the CGI. It is definitely not at the level of Sidonia no Kishi. The character movements and facial expressions are stiff and video-gamey. On the plus side, some of the background art is absolutely gorgeous, though.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (ep. 14-21) – Squalid toilets, a recurring source of torment for poor Polnareff as the Joestar group treks through Southeast Asia on their way to Egypt.

This show is a terrible offender when it comes to cruelty to animals – to the point where it’s pretty safe to fear for the life of any animal that has the misfortune to show up. They seem to draw the line at killing babies at least…

That aside, the characters continue to be amusing and the situations they end up in are frequently laugh-out-loud funny.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. Tokyo Ghoul (ep. 1-7) – In the conflict between humans and ghouls, it’s sometimes hard to tell which side is more inhuman. The most fascinating characters so far have been mild-mannered but scary-looking mask-maker Uta and flamboyantly creepy gourmet Tsukiyama.

Love the great atmospheric ED theme: “Seijatachi” by People In The Box.
(streaming at FUNimation)

08. Baby Steps (ep. 14-20) – Ei-chan’s hard work is starting to pay off as he racks up some wins on the tennis court. He considers taking things to the next level. Solidly entertaining, as always.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. Haikyuu!! (ep. 14-20) – Still enjoying the volleyball anime. At times the sport melodrama is laid on pretty thick…
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. LOVE STAGE!! (ep. 1-7) – Usually I can’t tolerate yaoi anime because I can’t stand the non-consensual sexual stuff. LOVE STAGE!! does have some non-con content, but it helps that the offender is aware of how his actions are inappropriate and shameful. I also like that Izumi is warming up to Ryouma because he appreciates how thoughtful the other boy can be, and not because he’s secretly turned on by the unwanted advances.

Most importantly, the show is actually very funny.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


11. Sengoku BASARA Judge End (ep. 1-7) – I have seen the previous releases in this franchise and this installment provides more of the same goodness. It’s a nicely balanced mix of serious historical material and ridiculous stuff.
(streaming at FUNimation)

12. SPACE DANDY 2 (ep. 14-19) – The continuing charismatic adventures of Dandy and his crew. Much of the content this season has been so random, and yet somehow smart at the same time. I actually suspect many of the references go right over my head. But it’s funny anyway, for the most part. There have been some duds; the Ghibli-influenced fishing episode #18, for example; but maybe that’s just a problem with me and my lack of interest in fishing stories.
(streaming at FUNimation)

13. Shirogane no Ishi ARGEVOLLEN (ep. 1-8) – This show is best when it’s focused on the war story plot. And I am interested in the characters, what their motives are, and how they might be connected in the past. Otherwise, the pacing is a bit slow, but the major strike against ARGEVOLLEN is the sexual fanservice. Fortunately, it is only sporadic, but it’s really out of place when it occurs and serves only to cheapen the show. They should really stick to the military/mecha stuff.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


14. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun (GEKKAN SHOJO NOZAKI KUN) (ep. 1-7) – Somehow, I don’t feel I connect with the characters in this comedy series as much as I should. Episodes 1 and 6 were lots of fun; the rest I found just mildly amusing.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. Captain Earth (ep. 14-21) – I’m grateful that the designer-child of the week episodes are over and that we don’t have to sit through that damn expansion sequence every time Daichi and/or Teppei deploy anymore. However, after 20-odd episodes of this, I still don’t feel I truly understand what each of the three main factions is trying to achieve. Planetary Gears’ attacks are increasing in frequency and the Midsummer’s Knights always manage to hold them off, but what is everyone’s endgame and what does it really mean if they fail? Lots of people will die, I suppose. I don’t know. The show just doesn’t make me feel the gravity of the possible outcomes.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. Samurai Jam – Bakumatsu Rock (ep. 1-8) – Nonsensical, but fun to watch as something that won’t tax your brain cells. Strangely, the government-sanctioned Heaven’s Songs are almost indistinguishable stylistically from the rebels’ rock music. At least they all had the right reaction to that girl group’s autotuned atrocity in ep. 8!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. AO HARU RIDE (Blue Spring Ride) (ep. 1-7) – Well, I don’t dislike male lead Ko as much as I hated Yamato from Say “I Love You”, but that’s not saying much. Ko isn’t all bad; he’s nice to people sometimes. When it suits him. The way he treats his brother is what ticks me off the most. I don’t think I can be satisfied with this show if he doesn’t eventually get his comeuppance or at least a good whack to the head. Yeah, he’s supposed to have his issues, but seriously, any guy who would show so little respect to such a thoughtful and patient brother cannot be a good catch romantically.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

18. The irregular at magic high school (Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei) (ep. 14-20) – The boring-ass Nine Schools Competition is over at long last. Now Tatsuya is enlisted to help with the Thesis Competition. Fortunately, the topic is something he’s really interested in: the technical feasibility of a Gravity Control-type Magic thermonuclear fusion reactor. This show.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


19. GLASSLIP (ep. 1-8) – Pretty much nothing happens in this. The visions of the future conceit is barely touched upon and poorly explained. The animation looks very sharp mostly; however, every episode includes random still scenes which are ostensibly for artistic effect but come off looking like cost-cutting. The characters often engage in inane dialogue. Why am I watching this?
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Also watching, as part of our Grimdark Funimation Thursdays lineup (along with TERROR IN RESONANCE and Tokyo Ghoul): PSYCHO-PASS new edit, a re-broadcast of last year’s series, cut into double-length episodes with a bit of new footage incorporated. Honestly, I wasn’t that keen on re-experiencing PSYCHO-PASS, as I really did find some of the material to be disturbing and even traumatizing. If perhaps I don’t feel as shocked the second time around, that’s balanced out by the dread I now feel at knowing what’s going to happen.

The new scenes do add a bit to the story, I think. Or maybe I just have a better grasp of what’s going on now. Regardless, the series really is well-written and this new edit is good preparation for PSYCHO-PASS season 2 this fall, especially for those who missed the original broadcast.
(streaming at FUNimation)

I’ll just leave you with this:

ALDNOAH.ZERO’s main character, Inaho, planning some strategy in his “office”.

Of Love and Arranged Marriages

(significant spoiler warnings for NOBUNAGA THE FOOL and The World is Still Beautiful, and a mild one for NO GAME NO LIFE ep.2)

In the current anime season that’s just wrapping up, three couples from two shows I happen to be watching are together because of political marriages.

Maybe it’s my age or maybe it’s just a sign of the times, but it’s been somewhat gratifying to see these pairs put in the effort to make their relationships work, and with a minimal amount of angst to boot.

Both Oda Nobunaga and his sister Ichihime in NOBUNAGA THE FOOL agreed to marry not for love, but for the betterment and protection of their province.

Nobunaga desired the power of the Regalia that Queen Himiko of Yamatai was offering. From what I recall, he made it seem like acquiring a wife in the process was just a fringe benefit. Regardless, he continued to value her as an ally and treated her with gentleness and faithfulness, even though he was obviously not particularly attracted to her.

When Ichihime accepted the marriage proposal from Gaius Julius Caesar, a foreign aggressor who had threatened their land and their people, it was as part of a deal so that he would halt any further attacks and offer his protection instead. In doing so, she left behind the man at home who loved her.

Ichihime was true to her vows and gave her all to the relationship. She worried about her husband when they were separated and even tried to save him when he seemed to lose his way.

In both cases, though, their spouses did not need to learn to love them back. Himiko was already in love with Nobunaga when she offered her Regalia in exchange for his hand in marriage. And Caesar was infatuated enough with Ichihime that he was prepared to alter his allegiances and potentially betray his own side.

The World is Still Beautiful featured a more traditional example of a politically-motivated arranged marriage, with the union of the young leader of the Sun Kingdom, Livius, and Princess Nike of the Principality of Rain. Neither of them knew each other beforehand. In fact, the Sun King didn’t even know which princess he was going to wed as Nike and her sisters decided it amongst themselves using a game of rock paper scissors!

Nike and Livius were both hard-headed and opinionated, so it predictably took some time for the two of them to get comfortable with each other. Before long, though, they started to trust and support one another. They even chose to stay together when offered an out.

Conversely, it seems as if romantic love has fallen out of favour nowadays. Stephanie Dola of NO GAME NO LIFE, upon realizing that she was inescapably in love, demonstrated the reaction of a contemporary anime girl by smashing her head repeatedly against a wall.

When she caught herself fantasizing about marrying the guy, she smashed her forehead again.

It’s understandable, really. I mean, any self-respecting girl would be wary to find herself trapped in such a vulnerable situation.

In a later episode of The World is Still Beautiful, Nike came to the realization that she was actually developing genuine romantic feelings for her husband. She responded by violently smashing her head against the wall.