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-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”.

Jacquie’s 2013 Year in Review – Top 10 Anime

Better late than never, here are my favourite anime shows of the past year, selected from the 45 or so titles I watched in entirety which finished airing in 2013:


#1. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) – This was the anime that really did capture my imagination. I looked forward to it week after week and it rarely disappointed. I was inspired to think about the mystery of the titans and to understand the motivations of the characters long after watching each episode. It also provided an ideal vehicle to showcase soundtrack composer Hiroyuki Sawano’s epic score, which was a perfect complement to the show.

The downside was that there was no conclusive ending; all the big questions remained unanswered at series-end. Also, at times the pacing was rather slow as some plot segments dragged on a little longer than necessary.

No sequel has been confirmed yet, but Attack on Titan enjoyed enough popularity, even beyond the usual anime fanbase, that we’ll certainly see one someday.


#2. The DEVIL is a Part-timer! (Hataraku Maou-sama!) – The series that got my highest rating of the year over at MAL, for its sharp humour, well-paced storytelling and lovable characters. The premise was pretty simple: Satan (Maou) and his subordinate found themselves magically stranded in modern-day Tokyo. They had no resources left to get home, so they had to do their best to make a life for themselves in the big city, including getting a job at MgRonald’s. It was brilliantly funny stuff.

The comedy wasn’t based on crazy hijinks, either. Instead, it was found in the day-to-day details that anyone who’s had to get used to a new environment or who’s had to work hard to make ends meet could relate to, with the added absurd spin that our protagonist was the devil himself, of course.

The negatives: no conclusive ending here either; also, the humour might work better on an audience with some prior familiarity with modern working class Japanese culture, with its references to 100yen shops and UNIQLO, for instance.


#3. Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club – My choice for the most rewatchable anime of the year. My sisters are Free! fangirls, so I have seen each episode several times, and you know, it really does stand up to repeated viewings.

Free! didn’t have the epic storyline of Attack on Titan, or the clever humour of Maou-sama, but it was very nicely animated, it had extremely well-developed characters and great execution overall.

Season 2 has now been confirmed and I couldn’t be more pleased.


#4. Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) – An intriguing story featuring a novel future setting, Shin Sekai Yori started strong in its first half. I felt it lost some focus during the second cour, but then the series came to a satisfying conclusion in its impressive final episode.

Along the way, the series’ faults were considerable: slow pacing in parts, inconsistent character art, weak main protagonist – I kept waiting for Saki to become the great, enlightened leader she was chosen to be, but it never happened.

Despite all that, the depiction of the darkness of human nature was a compelling theme. And this was a rare instance where an anime’s ending actually elevated my overall estimation of a show.


#5. PSYCHO-PASS – Some of the grotesquerie from the first cour was a bit of a turn-off for me. The show really picked up in the second half, though, offering interesting ideas and complex characters, including female lead Akane. All in all, the storytelling and pacing were good; and in spite of the dark theme, it was a fun series to watch.


#6. Chihayafuru 2 – I admit, I was not as enamored with this season as I was the first, but I found it solidly entertaining regardless. I loved the characters, and the series never bored me, even with the greater focus on Karuta gameplay.


#7. The Eccentric Family (uchouten-kazoku) – uchoten-kazoku featured a close-knit family of tanuki still coming to grips with things in the wake of losing the father, who died unceremoniously before the events of the series. Simultaneously magical, quirky, charming, and darkly humorous, the narrative was strongest and most heart-warming when the focus was on the very human characters (even though they weren’t human) of the main tanuki family.


#8. Valvrave the Liberator (Kakumeiki Valvrave) – Valvrave started out as an over-the-top action anime featuring a crazy mash up of mecha, high school, political intrigue, and vampire elements. It got away with a lot of ridiculousness by being clearly self-aware. But the story was never a joke. I think the show managed to achieve a good balance between the silliness and the seriousness.

In general, the large cast had impressively well-defined personalities. And L-elf was particularly entertaining, with his freakish smarts and unhesitating brutality, providing a good foil for main character Haruto’s earnest idealism.


#9. Kyousougiga – What made this series work were the great characters and their relationships with each other. Even though the setting and happenings were crazy and surreal, the show was grounded in the sympathetic members of the central family. The end result was a positive, life-affirming, feel-good experience.


#10. Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince – This anime had a fair amount of satire and goofiness, much of it at the expense of the main characters, the members of Team Rabbits, AKA Fail Five. In particular, lovably dorky leader Izuru and boy-crazy Tamaki led the way for much of the humour. The show also featured a very convincing portrayal of GERD, and I felt for Asagi whenever his stomach acted up.

Ultimately though, Majestic Prince functioned reasonably well as a serious story about the protecting of humanity from alien threat. And finally, I can’t not mention the frequently impressive mecha battle sequences this show had; even a mecha-ignorant viewer such as myself could appreciate how good they were.
____________________________________________________________________

Biggest Regrets: Series that, in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have bothered watching from beginning to end. Listed in approximate broadcast order with brief comment.

  • MAOYU (groan)
  • Love Live! School idol project (yawn)
  • RDG Red Data Girl (incomprehensible)
  • DEVIL SURVIVOR 2 The Animation (groan)
  • Arata the Legend (Arata Kangatari) (yawn)
  • GATCHAMAN CROWDS (incomprehensible)
  • BEYOND THE BOUNDARY (Kyoukai no Kanata) (whatever)
  • Galilei Donna (groan)

Cherry Blossoms (from Ever Blue Sounds ie. soundtrack from Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club)

Free! Ever Blue Sounds Cover

Okay, this is how obsessed I am with this anime.

The soundtrack from Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club has some achingly gorgeous piano pieces and unfortunately, sheet music is not available for it.  So, I picked out the notes for Cherry Blossoms (a painstaking process with my tin ears) and here it is, in case there are other fans itching to play it:

Cherry Blossoms – Free! anime piano sheet music

Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club

Free! promotional image 1.jpg

4 stars (out of 4)

Released 2013

I wasn’t that impressed by this single-season anime on first viewing – yes, the animation is beautiful and the characters are appealing, but I felt the story was not as poignant as the direction/musical swells seemed to imply.

But after I finished watching it, I just kept finding myself thinking about it – how original some of the characters are and how nuanced their relationships with each other are. I even dreamt about it!

On second (and third and fourth) viewing, I’m blown away by the character detail (they’ve managed to animate distinctive mannerisms, like Haru’s habit of frowning and looking to the side when he wants to shut down emotionally).  The characters have undeniable chemistry with each other, because of the excellent voice acting as well as the skill of the animators.  And now I see the subtlety of Haru’s personal change over time as he is affected by his team-mates in different ways.  Blown away!

(12 episodes, streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Summer 2013 Anime Ranking

I’ve been working on this post for the past few weeks, in preparation of going on vacation. Unfortunately, I expect to fall behind on my watch list while I’m away.

Anyway, here’s the current ranking, including a more extended look at BROTHERS CONFLICT. In retrospect, I should have maybe made it into a separate entry. Oh well.


01. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) (ep. 14-21) – There are only a few episodes remaining, so it is a bit worrisome that Shingeki seems to be taking its time with the storytelling. Regardless though, every episode has been satisfying nonetheless. There’s always some reveal or intrigue or character development, and I’m left amazed at how good the show is, even while wondering when we’ll actually get some answers to the questions at the heart of the story.

Just to add a word about the latest episode: It was so intense, I was on edge and filled with dread throughout the whole thing. Seriously, it’s important not to get too attached to these characters! On the plus side, Mikasa’s back. And she and Levi are finally on the same page!
(streaming at Crunchyroll and Funimation)


02. Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club (ep. 1-9) – Obviously a fanservice show for girls, but it’s also a school-setting sports anime. The comedy is right on target and it is just really fun to watch. The characters all have well-developed personalities, making their interactions amusing and convincing. The animation is beautiful. The OP and ED themes are catchy. Sure, the guys are easy on the eyes, but that’s just the icing on the cake here.

As an aside, I hope Samezuka captain Mikoshiba gets a chance with Kou. Normally, he’s authoritative and rather intimidating, but it’s so cute how he totally softens up when he’s with her. It’ll probably never happen though, since Kou hasn’t shown any interest and this show isn’t about him! But at the very least, it’s a testament to the amount of love and detail that went into the writing when even a minor character like Mikoshiba has multiple facets to his personality.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. The Eccentric Family (uchouten-kazoku) (ep. 1-9) – The only series I’m watching this season that has animation more stunning than Free!. In lesser shows, they just flash some fanservice during dialogue-heavy scenes and call it a day. In this one, the characters are constantly moving – and fluidly; even if it’s a dialogue scene, they’ll be eating something or tidying up the room while talking.

The anime is strongest when it focuses on Yasaburou, his brothers, and their mother. They have complex personalities and the family dynamic is engaging. Yasaburou and his youngest brother are also incredibly cute. Eccentric Family is full of dark humour, delivered deadpan. Not entirely sure where they’re going with this story-wise, but right now the journey is entertaining enough that I’m not concerned about the destination.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince (ep. 13-21) – Another show that shines because of its really well-defined characters. Majestic Prince continues to deliver ironic truths along with gentle humour. We’re in the home stretch now and the battle against the Walguru is heating up. Meanwhile, revelations about the team’s origins are coming to light.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Servant x Service (ep. 1-9) – Some episodes are really funny and creative, while others are less inspired and sometimes annoying. Charming slacker Hasebe is really great and steals every scene he’s in. His sister too – she’s the only person who can one-up him and I’d like to see more of her. Ichimiya’s sister Toko, on the other hand, is responsible for all the “annoying” and the show would be better without her, in my opinion.

Recent episodes have put the spotlight on Hasebe and his relationship with Lucy, and that’s definitely a step in the right direction.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199) (ep. 13-22) – The Yamato crew continues on its quest to save the Earth. Meanwhile, we’re seeing more of the workings of the enemy Garmillians. It’s interesting that the Earthlings actually come off as a pretty homogenous bunch, while it’s the Garmillans who have more complex issues involving politics, race struggles, and discrimination.


07. BROTHERS CONFLICT (ep. 1-9) – A teenage girl moves in with 12 of her 13 new step-brothers after her father remarries. It’s a pseudo-incest/reverse-harem anime and just hearing the premise was enough to make me groan and roll my eyes. However, since I am such an open-minded person, and because reverse harem shows can be fun for whatever reason, I checked this out anyway.

The animation is minimal and low-budget, but the guys’ personalities and appearances are relatively fleshed out and distinguishable, and not quite as stereotypical as they could have been. The main girl, Ema, is the blandest character – though after AMNESIA, this heroine seems positively perky.

I think it’s certainly possible that these boys, getting to know their new “sister” and spending considerable time together, could start to feel affection for her, which could be confused for romantic attraction. Realistically though, even a teenager, never mind a 20-something, would know to tread carefully in such a situation, wouldn’t they? I mean, this is a girl who’s going to be part of the family. If things go wrong, there could be a lifetime of hard feelings and awkwardness in store.

Therefore, going in, I expected that the romance would mostly be a tease. Usually these shows tend to invite the audience to ship various characters together, often without overtly promoting a pairing or having characters seriously confess their love.

This show goes there! Several of the brothers have already made their intentions clear; one has (laughably) practically proposed marriage! There has started to be some nastiness between them. Ema has not shown any particular preference for the boys, but she has not clearly rebuffed them either. All I can think is that she’s going to tear this family apart. How can this possibly end well?
(streaming at Funimation)

08. Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East S2 (ep. 14-21) – This anime, about a bunch of guys named Inu-something, resumes after a 3-month break and it continues to be a consistent and nice looking show, but it’s still not clear to me what the point of it is. Regardless, when it tries to be funny, it is surprisingly effective, so it remains an entertaining watch most of the time.

I think the senseless mass murders in ep. 20 was a bit of a misstep, though. It did not fit with the usual lighter tone of the series. It’s true there have been dark turns in the past, but the violence here was particularly unnecessary and inconsequential.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


09. Blood Lad (ep. 1-9) – Blood Lad had a promising beginning, but quickly started to lose me in the following episodes. It’s been picking up again, and it certainly does have its funny moments, so I’m glad I didn’t give up on it.
The main girls are the weak point for me. Bell seems to be a popular character, but she doesn’t do anything for me at all. And Fuyumi is, by nature, nothing more than a fanservice blob.
The guys fare better: Otaku vampire lead Staz is frequently amusing, and I’m liking Wolf as well. I also hope to see more of Staz’s relationship with his brother.

Wait, there’s only one episode left? How are they going to wrap things up so quickly?

10. WATAMOTE-No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! (Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui!) (ep. 1-8) – I think Tomoko is cute and she is depicted in a realistic, if rather brutal, way. I feel sorry for her as a social outcast at school. However, I can’t sympathize with the terrible way she treats her brother. There is some humour in this uncommon anime, and also a lot of painful, ugly truth. WATAMOTE is very well written, but it can be pretty uncomfortable to watch.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. Genshiken Second Generation (ep. 1-9) – Not having seen more than a couple of episodes from the earlier seasons of Genshiken, I do feel a bit lost sometimes when past characters show up or they reference some previous event. For some reason, I never got into Genshiken, even though it’s a popular series for otaku.

This season has more emphasis on fujoshi characters and BL, and that part’s been pretty enjoyable so far. Hato, who is shaping up to be the main character of the bunch, is certainly about as unlikely and original a lead as I have ever seen!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai) (ep. 65-71) – I wish there was a condensed version of these episodes. The plot has been rather predictable lately and sooo slow-moving. I still believe Space Brothers is a decent show, but the pacing! At the end of that episode where Mutta met his flying instructor, I remember being torn between thinking “It’s already over? Nothing happened!” and “I’m so glad it’s finally over because nothing happened!”
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. Sunday Without God (Kami-sama no Inai Nichiyoubi) (ep. 1-9) – While the rules of this (literally) god-forsaken fantasy world are not well established, I think Sunday Without God might be trying to say something about the meaning of life, existentialism, or some such. The show was never exactly riveting to begin with, but at least it was throwing out some potentially thought-provoking ideas. Therefore, I found the sudden shift to a school setting in ep. 7 and 8 to be both jarring and disappointing. The tedious new characters and their uninteresting conversations just bored me.

There are still a few episodes remaining, so I shouldn’t write it off just yet. However, I don’t have much hope at this point that it will come through with any meaningful message by the end.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


14. GATCHAMAN CROWDS (ep. 1-8) – This anime is colourful and inventive. The main character is spunky and I admire how she encourages looking at things from other people’s point of view. So why can’t this show hold my attention?

I guess the wishy-washy world-building is kind of tiresome for me at this point. What I want to see is more development of the characters, and meaningful interactions between them.

Despite her outward airhead appearance, we’re supposed to believe that Hajime knows exactly what she’s doing. But we never get to see the method behind her madness. So while things “happen”, I don’t feel any weight from the possible consequences.

When it comes to stylish, quirky, brightly-coloured anime featuring super-chill protagonists who take everything in stride, I’ll take uchouten-kazoku over CROWDS any day.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. Senyuu. S2 (ep. 14-22) – The novelty is rubbing off. And random stuff is just random. For a show with such a short run-time, there are an awful lot of characters; and when you only see them for seconds at a time with a whole week in between, it gets hard to keep them straight. The main character is hardly even in it anymore, though that’s part of the joke too, of course.

Well, it’s still a small commitment time-wise, so I’ll continue watching. But recently, I’ve been putting it off until several episodes are available so I can watch them all at once.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)