Jacquie’s 2016 Year in Review – Music

BEST FULL-LENGTH ALBUM:

lynch. AVANTGARDEA-PHOTO-RED-FIX
AVANTGARDE, by lynch. – When it comes to lynch. albums of the past few years, it seems like it’s every other release that meets with my approval. Sure enough, after my disappointment at 2015’s D.A.R.K. -In the name of evil-, AVANTGARDE continued the pattern and earned a wholehearted thumbs up from me.

Let me first go back to D.A.R.K. -In the name of evil- and try to explain what I thought was lacking about that album. Some of the songs were just not to my taste, which happens. But even the ones I tended to like didn’t go in the direction that I wanted them to. For example, several of them started off well and sounded good, but at some point I felt the music needed to evolve, and instead, the melodies just repeated.

Happily, I can report that I had no such issues with the tracks on AVANTGARDE. While it still might not be up to the standard set by GALLOWS (2014), I enjoy listening to AVANTGARDE all the way through without wanting to skip anything. PLEDGE and UNELMA are standout tracks.

My favourite, though, is PHANTOM, which is gorgeously melodic and comes complete with some beautiful guitar solos. Heavy metal ballad-style songs such as this are one of the reasons I’m so glad I have Japanese hard rock bands like lynch. to listen to.
(Available on iTunes internationally)

BEST MINI-ALBUM:

UROBOROS - ZODIAC
ZODIAC, by UROBOROS – This sophomore release from Kamiki Aya and Kurose Keisuke’s band further showcased their gothic-flavoured hard rock sound.

Favourite tracks: Infection and Lunar Eclipse
(Available on iTunes internationally)

BEST SINGLES (A-sides & B-sides) in order of release date:

GALAXY STANDARD - BE MY STEADY
Be My Steady, by GALAXY STANDARD (Be My Steady, RUSH, You’re My Courage)
GALAXY STANDARD is the idol-group incarnation of the Saisei Stride Club from the PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE anime. The singing is performed by the members’ voice actors, namely: Miyano Mamoru, Toyonaga Toshiyuki, Hirakawa Daisuke, Eguchi Takuya, Suzuki Tatsuhisa, and Ono Yuuki.

All 3 of these tracks, composed by R・O・N, made my Top 20 Anime Songs list for 2016.

GazettE - UNDYING
UNDYING, by the GazettE (UNDYING, MALUM, VACANT)
The third and final audio release of the GazettE’s PROJECT: DARK AGE, which also included a world tour that brought them to 4 continents across the globe. As an avid concertgoer and a fan of Japanese music, I end up doing a lot of travelling in order to see my favourite artists perform live. Excitingly, the GazettE came right to my neck of the woods and I got to experience them live in Toronto on the day of this single’s release, definitely one of the highlights of my 2016.

The title track seems to make some lyrical references back to the first single, OMINOUS, from DOGMA, which makes sense. I really love the part where RUKI sings “God, entomb my hate.”

Favourite track: VACANT.
(Available on iTunes internationally)

coldrain VENA II
VENA CHAPTER : II, by coldrain (Born to Bleed, Undertow, Gone (Acoustic), The Story (Acoustic))
The new recording of Gone is now, to me, the definitive version of the song. The vocals, instrumentation, and slower tempo are absolutely perfect. Now when I hear the original version, it actually seems too fast.

Favourite tracks: Undertow and Gone (Acoustic).
(Available on iTunes internationally as part of VENA II, a re-release of VENA (2015) which includes these 4 new tracks.)

VAMPS - INSIDE-OF-ME
INSIDE OF ME, by VAMPS (INSIDE OF ME (feat. Chris Motionless), RISE OR DIE (feat. Richard Z. Kruspe))
I was really excited for this single after seeing the advance PV for INSIDE OF ME. The month-long delay between the Japanese release and the international release date felt like forever.

The tracks, which are both excellent, are the result of VAMPS’s collaboration with western talent, including American producer Howard Benson.
(Available on iTunes internationally)

scribble and beyond cover
Scribble, and Beyond, by OLDCODEX (Scribble, and Beyond, Calling, The Experience)
This single collects the main themes from the two Kuroko’s Basketball compilation movies, along with a coupling song, Calling.

Favourite track: Calling. This is another one of those OLDCODEX songs that I think might sound complete and amazing as just an instrumental. Ta_2’s sexy low range vocals are the icing on the cake. Yum.

Other Notable Tracks:


TAKING OFF, by ONE OK ROCK – One of my favourite recordings by ONE OK ROCK in recent memory. Some fans complained that it was too much of a departure from their usual sound. I would argue that ONE OK ROCK actually have a pretty wide range stylistically, to the point that I only consider myself a casual fan of their work. They have certainly made darker-sounding rock songs before.

Even though I don’t necessarily relate to the message of the song (addiction), I do appreciate that the lyrics are really well-written. But can you imagine us boarding our overseas flight last fall with this song playing in our heads? “We’re taking off together / even though we always crash and burn / tonight you and I will fall from the sky” is kind of inappropriate and unsettling, to say the least! I wonder how many other ONE OK ROCK fans have had this very same experience? Great song, though.
(Available on iTunes internationally)


Deal with, by OLDCODEX – It’s the second year in a row that I have chosen a super-heavy theme song created by OLDCODEX, one that was used in a relatively obscure anime that got no other mention in my review post, as my number one anime song of the year. (For 2015, it was physical from Q-Transformers.) Deal with, which served as the rather jaw-droppingly heavy OP of SERVAMP, features an excellent balance of screamy death vocals and a catchy melodic chorus; the accompanying music is dark and intense but it is also offset by a couple of quieter guitar interludes. I love complicated songs like this!

For the complete list of my Top 20 Anime Songs of 2016, please see the “Year in Review – Anime” post.

Jacquie’s 2016 Year in Review – Anime

As I sat down to contemplate the series that I felt were the best of 2016, at first I thought I might be looking at a 3-way tie, maybe even 5-way. Only after checking my scoring on MyAnimeList did it become apparent that one series received a higher grade than everything else. The other shows settled in behind it then. The top shows were really close, though; and it doesn’t help that they were all so different in terms of setting, genre, tone, and subject matter.

In the end, the top 4 were basically my highest ranking picks from each season. I’m not actually going to rave about these series again right now; please follow the links if you wish to see the previous write-ups.

☆ Top 10 Anime:

#1. 91 Days (12 episodes)
91-days-wallpaper
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#2. Yuri!!! on ICE (12 episodes)
yuri-on-ice-06
Aired Autumn 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#3. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (13 episodes)
shouwa-genroku-rakugo-shinjuu
Aired Winter 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#4. ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) SECOND/FINAL SEASON (25 episodes)
Assassination Classroom
Aired Winter 2016 and Spring 2016
(First season of 22 episodes aired Winter 2015 and Spring 2015)
(streaming: FUNimation)

#5. AJIN (26 episodes)
ajin-season-2
Aired Winter 2016 and Autumn 2016
(streaming: NETFLIX)

#6. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan) (24 full-length episodes)
saiki-k
Aired Summer 2016 and Autumn 2016
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

#7. KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS (Koutetsujou no Kabaneri) (12 episodes)
Kabaneri - Mumei
Aired Spring 2016

#8. Thunderbolt Fantasy (13 episodes)
Thunderbolt Fantasy - Lin Xue Ya
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#9. ERASED (Boku dake ga Inai Machi) (12 episodes)
ERASED
Aired Winter 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll and DAISUKI)

#10. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! LOVE!) (12 episodes)
cute-high-earth-defense-club-love-love
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Favourite Guilty Pleasure Anime:

Scar-red Rider XechS (12 episodes)
scared-rider-xechs
Aired Summer 2016

I watch most of my anime with my sister. Scar-red Rider XechS was bad or boring enough after 3 episodes that she dropped it. I persevered however; and before long, I found myself looking forward to each new episode with an enthusiasm that was out of proportion with my generally low opinion of the production’s quality.

One of the reasons was that I started to love the characters. Yosuke and Takt (more on him later) in particular were well-written and well-acted, but the rest of the cast were also entertaining and endearing in weird ways.

The other reason was my gradual belief that the absurd plot developments and dialogue were intended to be comedy, and weren’t just bad writing. Just as how The Lost Village didn’t make it clear to its audience if the plot was supposed to be funny or not, SRX sometimes presented a similar predicament. Well, I like my personal interpretation of these shows; after all, I seem to have found a lot more enjoyment from both of them than most viewers did!

Anyway, I will always remember the “western-style restaurant” conversation of ep. 5. It literally had me giggling for days, maybe weeks, afterward whenever it came to mind.
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

☆ Sequels that significantly outperformed their predecessors:

Active Raid 2nd – With all the goofing around they did in the first cour, and much of the second too, who would have imagined that Active Raid was in actuality laying down the groundwork for a serious, even thought-provoking, storyline all along? But that was what we got! The payoff was a whole lot better than I expected, infinitely better, since I don’t think I ever considered that a show like this would arrive at such a coherent, meaningful outcome.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2 – Even those of us who were not won over by the meandering first cour of BUNGO STRAY DOGS had to sit up and take notice when this second season started. Suddenly we had a brand new protagonist and a mature, plot-heavy flashback tale. I, for one, was in no hurry to return to the present timeline. When we did, it was predictably a bit of a disappointment, but by then the show had secured my interest and my goodwill.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Biggest Regrets:

Dimension W and KIZNAIVER. These shows had some potential, but managed to squander it completely and go in the opposite direction. I ended up hating them.

BATTERY the Animation similarly went completely off the rails and turned into a huge disappointment. However, it didn’t incite the contempt that those two shows did.

Other shows that were simply a waste of time: GARO: CRIMSON MOON, Bloodivores, Utawarerumono: The False Faces, OZMAFIA!!, and Sekkou Boys. It was my own damn fault for continuing to watch most of them, though.

☆ Favourite Characters:

srx-05-takt
#1. Kirisawa Takt (cv. Miyano Mamoru), Scar-red Rider XechS

Obviously, the leader of LAG’s 6th combat unit and frontman of Odd I’s is pretty and has a nice voice. And it’s easy to sympathize with him as the straight man in a show full of eccentrics.

Beyond that, I like him partially because I can relate to him on a personal level. That sort of thing doesn’t happen often for me, but as a fellow skinny, height-challenged, long-haired idealist with a discerning taste for rock music and a preference for black platform boots as everyday footwear, I guess this anime character and I have a few things in common! Naturally, I also share Takt’s opinion on the topic of shiitake mushrooms as an ingredient for food preparation.

bungo-stray-dogs-odasaku
#2. Oda Sakunosuke (cv. Suwabe Junichi), BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2

He was only in 4 episodes, but those 4 episodes, which told a dark, tragic prequel story, were so good! I loved Odasaku in the lead role; he was badass, principled, and extremely sympathetic.

As mentioned, that early segment of season 2 totally blew me away and changed my opinion of the whole series up till that point.

days-kimishita
#3. Kimishita Atsushi (cv. Ono Daisuke), DAYS

Abrasively bossy characters with a habit of pointing out other people’s faults because they themselves are so smart and/or skilled are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. I seem to have a soft spot for these types, though. MACROSS DELTA’s Messer had this kind of personality as well, albeit with less anger than Kimishita, and I liked him a lot too.

There are the rare occasions where Kimishita reveals that he is actually a nice guy. However, those moments of kindness could also be interpreted as a backhanded way of expressing his impatience at others’ incompetence, whereas normally he is just way more upfront about it.

It is entirely thanks to Kimishita and the other senpai, especially Ooshiba and Mizuki (ie., not the main characters), that I made it through all of DAYS and ultimately gave the show a somewhat decent score. I even intend to return for the sequel.

☆ Best (Funniest) Single Episode:

Osomatsu-san 16 Osomatsu-san 16a
Osomatsu-san episode 16: “Matsuno Matsunan / The Ichimatsu Incident.” As if the “Mad Max” parody featuring F6 wasn’t gratuitously over-the-top enough, it was then followed up by an incest sketch!
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Best Finale:

TSUKIUTA. THE ANIMATION – I can’t actually recommend most of this idol anime. But if you’re inclined to watch, make sure you continue to the end, because the last part of that concert-themed final episode was the most stunning and feel-good finish of any series that I watched in 2016.
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

As far as shows I do recommend go, I applaud ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM for its emotional yet heartwarming and hopeful ending.

I was also very satisfied with 91 Days’ ending, including the way it left some things open to interpretation.

☆ Best OP/ED Sequence (music & visuals):

BUNGO STRAY DOGS season 2 OP: “Reason Living” by SCREEN mode, version 2, which appeared in the middle of the third episode (or overall ep. 15). It occurred once only, but we may have watched it more times than we do most regularly occurring OPs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link to share here; if you’re interested, you can find it at 11:52 to 13:22 of ep. 15.

Honourable mentions: Yuri!!! on ICE ED “You Only Live Once” by Hatano Wataru, and 91 Days OP “Signal” by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure.

☆ Anime Songs Top 20 Countdown:

As with last year, this is a list of the best anime songs of 2016 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, not the TV-size versions, that are being considered.

20. old revelation, by Mutsuki Hijiri (cv.KENN) (Scar-red Rider XechS ED)

19. RUSH, by GALAXY STANDARD (cv: Miyano Mamoru, Toyonaga Toshiyuki, Hirakawa Daisuke, Eguchi Takuya, Suzuki Tatsuhisa, Ono Yuuki) (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE insert song)

18. Shounen no Hate, by GRANRODEO (Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS 2 ED)

17. The Experience, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball Winter Cup Soushuu-hen: Namida no Saki e Main Theme)

16. Kaze wa Yokoku Naku Fuku, by WALKURE (MACROSS Δ ED8)

15. Reason Living, by SCREEN mode (BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2 OP)

14. Be My Steady, by GALAXY STANDARD (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE ED)

13. Kokoro no Arika, by Heshikiri Hasebe(cv:Shingaki Tarusuke), Souza Samonji(cv:Tai Yuuki) & Yagen Toushirou(cv:Yamashita Seiichirou) (Touken Ranbu -Hanamaru- ED2)

12. ninelie, by Aimer with chelly(EGOIST) (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS ED)

11. You’re My Courage, by GALAXY STANDARD (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE insert song)

10. Through My Blood <AM>, by Aimer (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS insert song)

09. Scribble, and Beyond, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball Winter Cup Highlights -Shadow and Light- Main Theme)

08. Yoru Ha Nemurerukai?, by flumpool (AJIN OP1)

07. Ao to Aka no Forzato, by Komae Christoph Yosuke (cv.Suzuki Tatsuhisa), Kirisawa Takt (cv.Miyano Mamoru) (Scar-red Rider XechS OP)

06. HOW CLOSE YOU ARE, by Miyano Mamoru (AJIN ED1)

05. The Birth, by Miyano Mamoru (AJIN: Shougeki Main Theme)

04. Signal, by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure (91 Days OP)

03. Hikari aru Basho e, by May’n (Izetta, The Last Witch ED)

02. Warcry, by Sawano Hiroyuki feat. mpi (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS insert song)

01. Deal with, by OLDCODEX (SERVAMP OP)

☆ In closing, some Notable Quotes:

“If you look even half-decent, you’re considered hot.” – Choromatsu, considering the voice acting profession, in Osomatsu-san ep. 20.

“Your stupidity can’t be cured even by your death. So you might as well live.” – Julieta to suicidal Iok, in Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS ep. 37.

“Well don’t lose heart. Girls are as plentiful as stars in the night sky… and just as unreachable for you.”
– Saiki to freshly rejected Toritsuka, in The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. spec. ep. 50, or full ep. 10.

“There’s only one carbonara!” – Yosuke to dumbfounded Takt, in Scar-red Rider XechS ep. 5.

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.

Mid-Winter 2014 Anime Ranking

Can I just make a list of my favourite theme songs this season? Because that would be so much easier:

1. AXIS, by STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION (NOBUNAGA The Fool ED)
2. Respect for the dead man, by Pay money To my Pain (NOBUNAGUN OP)
3. With You / With Me, by 9nine (MAGI: The Kingdom of Magic ED2)
4. Goya no Machiawase, by Hello Sleepwalkers (NORAGAMI OP)
5. FANTASTIC TUNE, by Ono Kensho (Kuroko’s Basketball 2 ED2)

Guess not, eh? The thing is, fully half the shows I’m following currently were middling carryovers from last season. The other half debuted in January; and it seems like practically every one of these new shows is taking forever to get moving plot-wise. So I find myself in a position where I’m not particularly enthusiastic about anything on my watch list. Anyway, here goes.


01. MAGI: The Kingdom of Magic (ep. 13-21) – After a seriously underwhelming first cour, MAGI has gotten back on track in a big way. We’re now familiar with the 3 main nations (the Kou Empire, the Leam Empire, Magnoshutatt) that have begun to clash. While the main focus has been on Aladdin’s experiences in Magnoshutatt, we’ve seen that all 3 of the factions have grand and worthy ideals. And true to MAGI fashion, we’ve also seen that each side can be criticized for transgressions they are willing to make in the name of those ideals. To top it off, there exists some discontent within each group as well. These kinds of complex and balanced portrayals are what impress me the most about this franchise.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. YowaPeda (Yowamushi Pedal) (ep. 13-21)
03. Ace of Diamond (ep. 14-22)
04. Kuroko’s Basketball 2 (ep. 38-47) – In a stronger season, these 3 sports anime probably wouldn’t rank so highly. None of these shows really explore the characters’ personal lives or their interests/relations outside of the sport, which is something I’d like to see. For what they are though, with the focus on training and competing/playing games, the stories are competently told and each episode is consistently enjoyable to watch.
(all 3 streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. NORAGAMI (ep. 1-9) – NORAGAMI is generally well put-together; the 3 leads are interesting characters, especially Yukine. However, I can’t help but feel the show is being excessively cryptic about Yato’s past. It’s hard to feel the intended impact of current events when we know so little of why they are significant relative to the character’s history and present situation.
(streaming at FUNimation)

06. TOKYO RAVENS (ep. 13-21) – This second cour has the story moving out from the core group to expand on the greater story. Unfortunately, it’s pretty convoluted. And it isn’t easy to keep track of the growing cast, especially as some of them are reincarnations of other characters.
(streaming at FUNimation)

07. SPACE DANDY (ep. 1-9) – Completely episodic. So far it doesn’t matter what order you watch the episodes in since the show doesn’t even pretend to have any continuity concerns. Of course, that allows for a lot of creativity and it is frequently pretty fun and amusing to watch. My favourite episode of what I’ve seen is the ingenious fourth one, with the zombies. They really went all out with that one; every time it seemed like it had to be all over, they found a way to take it further!
(streaming at FUNimation)


08. NOBUNAGUN (ep. 1-10) – I’m enjoying the primary characters, including lead girl Sio/Nobunagun, who is quirky in an appealing way. That makes the series fun to watch. However, the main Pacific Rim-like plot line is not very inspiring. The Evolutionary Invasion Objects seem so powerful that I don’t see how DOGOO has any reasonable chance of defeating them, even with their E-Gene Holder forces.

One of the giggle-inducing highlights for me was the random swimsuit dream sequence from ep. 8, in which Jack (Suzuki Tatsuhisa) threw his arm around Gandhi (Shimazaki Nobunaga) after declaring their relationship as lovers. Too funny! (edit: Sorry, it might not be obvious that I interpreted this as a MakotoXHaru Free! reference.)
(streaming at Crunchyroll and FUNimation)

09. KILL la KILL (ep. 13-21) – Thankfully the various battles and power-ups are done and we are finally into the meat of the story starting with episode 16. The revelations since then have been meaningful and the fights have felt consequential. I’m pretty impressed with the novel theory of evolution that KILL la KILL is adhering to – I’ve definitely never heard anything like that before. More and more, it’s becoming evident how smart the series is and how it’s been consistent with its internal logic from the start.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


10. Witch Craft Works (ep. 1-9) – The best thing about Witch Craft Works is how crazy funny it frequently is, right down to the irreverent ED sequence which moe-fies the historical persecution of witches for laughs. The atypical roles (the guy is the “princess”, while the girl is the strong protector) are also refreshing. Unfortunately, both the main characters are pretty bland otherwise, and that keeps me from really getting into the series. That, and they’re constantly throwing in too many new players, and I can’t keep them all straight.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai) (ep. 88-97) – I haven’t been all that interested in Mutta’s experiences with his grating new team members. The touching episode about Eddie Jay, hit the mark, though. Now, Hibito is finding himself being stigmatized for having suffered a psychological disorder; I give the show credit for how realistic that is.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. PHI BRAIN – Kami no Puzzle Season 3 (ep. 14-23) – After two and a half seasons of Kaito and company tackling killer puzzles and emerging largely unscathed, it came as a surprise that there has now been a fatality – a welcome surprise, because come on!

If Kaito’s friends end up dying one after another now, and he obtains the ultimate power and turns back time to bring everyone back to life, I’m going to be really, really disappointed. Dead people should stay dead or it’s cheap storytelling.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


13. NAGI NO ASUKARA (Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea) (ep. 14-22) – So the sea kids are waking from their slumber after 5 years. There is still a threat of global catastrophe somewhere in the future. And the mildly melodramatic polygonal romantic angst continues.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

14. The Pilot’s Love Song (ep. 1-10) – The darker, more serious flashback sequences are pretty good, but the lighter present story… leaves something to be desired. This is another show that’s not forthcoming enough with its basic setup. What is Isla’s goal? Where are they going exactly? Why are they even at war?
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. BUDDY COMPLEX (ep. 1-9) – I can understand that there’s going to be some mystery about how and why Aoba got transported to the future, but I would think that by now there’d be some explanation of the conflict that’s currently going on. Who are the Free Treaty Alliance and the Great Zogilia Republic and what are they fighting for? Never mind the audience, why doesn’t Aoba ask?
(streaming at FUNimation)


16. NOBUNAGA THE FOOL (ep. 1-9) – What I don’t like: Tarot cards. It’s fine if they’re just used for artistic effect. But when a character actually pulls out the cards and that’s what regularly passes for plot advancement, forgive me if I’m a little skeptical of the narrative integrity.

The two-worlds plot is so nonsensical, or at least so insufficiently explained, that even though da Vinci delivered that lengthy infodump in ep. 8, I still feel we didn’t learn anything!

It also bothers me that all the women are useless. Especially Nobunaga’s sister. She just stands there like a non-player character in a game, singing, until approached, at which point she’ll divulge a little information and then go back to singing.

What I like: Mitsuhide’s hair, which is almost a character on its own. It’s great the way the animators lovingly render every strand that falls across his eyes, and every lock that’s casually brushed away from his face. It’s so absurd, it’s awesome.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. Samurai Flamenco (ep. 12-19) – Episode 18 was surprisingly, hilariously crack and actually offered an explanation of the events so far. It may not have been the best episode to date (probably ep. 2 would take that honour), but it was certainly the funniest. That said, it still doesn’t make up for all the time-wasting, plot-twisting dreck I was suckered into watching for the preceding 11 episodes! Well, it’s not over yet; let’s see what they have in store for us in this final stretch.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

18. Wizard Barristers (ep. 1-7) – This show is about lawyers who try to protect the rights of magic users in a society where the use of magic is against the law. The unintended irony is that these lawyers can’t seem to get anything done without resorting to magic themselves! What are they trying to say exactly?

Also, I can’t relate to Cecil at all. Even her character design is annoying. It should be a really cool thing that an anime protagonist is Canadian, but instead, it’s disappointing at best, mortifying at worst. I was only following Wizard Barristers because my sister was still watching it; now that she’s sufficiently exasperated and also ready to drop, I doubt I will stick around see if this incompetent narrative actually goes anywhere.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Also watching:

Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time (ep. 1-10) – A 6-minute (without credits) short about a schoolboy who continually goofs off in elaborate ways during class. The girl who sits beside him struggles with feelings of disapproval and fascination at witnessing his antics.

Every once in a while, they change things up a bit by involving another student, which is good.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


Pupa (ep.1-9) – Since it’s a 3-minute short, you’d expect things to move at a brisk pace. Not so with Pupa. It just takes its time unraveling its horror story as if it were a full-length show, only to end abruptly. One episode consists solely of the brother being slowly devoured by his sister; another is all him howling in pain off-screen as he is undergoing surgical evaluation.

We initially put Pupa on hold after 2 episodes, then returned to marathon up to ep. 9 all at once, which is definitely a better way to approach this. We will finish watching – it’s a very small time commitment after all – once it is complete.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Autumn 2013 Anime Ranking

Ah, the season’s almost over! Anyway, here’s the ranking. Spoilers up to the episodes indicated.


01. Valvrave the Liberator (Kakumeiki Valvrave) 2nd Season (ep. 13-22) – When the first season aired during the spring, this was a middling show for me, fun to watch, but it was hard to get a grasp on the plot. Gradually, this installment has inched its way up in my ranks. It’s becoming apparent that there is a plan after all and that this crazy show knows what it’s doing.

It’s amusing how everyone, especially Haruto and Renbokouji, is so reliant on L-elf’s leadership and intelligence. (Every time Renbokouji stubbornly says he’s going to wait for L-elf, I think of Inigo Montoya’s “I am waiting for Vizzini”!) Although episode 21 offered a sudden, violent plot turn, I thought it also suffered from L-elf’s absence – both in terms of lack of resistance by JIOR to enemy attack, and in terms of lack of enjoyment by this viewer.

Poor Saki, though. It’s bad enough she had to suffer a sexual assault in season one. Then, separated from her team and at the mercy of her enemies, her situation was triggering traumatic memories for me of what happened to the doctor’s wife in “Shiki”. Horrifying.

In the latest episode, Haruto and L-elf found themselves stranded in space and running out of oxygen. Faced with a similar scenario earlier this year, the astronauts in “Space Brothers” tried to help each other survive and go out with dignity. But this is Valvrave. These guys decided to spend their final moments having a fight. Gotta say, I enjoyed seeing them get bounced around in their chubby CG spacesuits; it was pretty funny.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. Samurai Flamenco (ep. 1-10) – Well, I was really enjoying this series. For the first few weeks, before Valvrave became so awesome, this was sitting firmly at the top of my list. I love the two main characters as well as the realistic setting. And having previously been a victim in a stolen umbrella incident in Tokyo, episode 2 was of personal relevance to me.

My interest in Samumenco waned a bit when the cast expanded to include Kaname Joji as Masayoshi’s mentor, and Flamenco Girl. And now, our heroes are fighting actual monsters? What happened to my realism? They’d better be going somewhere good with this!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. YowaPeda (Yowamushi Pedal) (ep. 1-10) – Not much happens in this cycling anime outside of, well, bike races, but as far as sports shows go, this one does it right. The comic timing is good and it’s hard not to root for our hardcore otaku/novice cyclist main character Onoda.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. Tokyo Ravens (ep. 1-10) – The initial story arc impressed me the most. There were a couple of times when I questioned possible inconsistencies, such as characters seeming to know more that they should, but eventually, those things actually were explained! I also appreciated that Harutora was tempted to just let the villain die at the end.

The use of CG scenes in this show is pretty glaring most of the time. On the other hand, I’m really liking the characters, for some reason, especially brooding, trolling Touji and lovably idiotic lead guy Harutora.
(streaming at FUNimation)


05. Kyousougiga (ep. 0-9) – There’s a lot I still don’t understand about Kyousougiga, not the least of which is pretty basic stuff like “who are some of these people?” So, it took me a while to develop an appreciation for this perplexing show.

It was probably episode 6, with its revelations about how Myoue (Yakushimaru) came to be part of the family, that turned things around for me. On the surface, Inari and Koto saved a boy’s life and gave him a loving home. But Yakushimaru was despairing and wanted to die! By making him immortal, they forever took away his ability to die. They meant well, of course, but seen in that light, their actions were also terribly cruel and selfish.

For that matter, the very creation of the Looking Glass City could be seen as a pretty arrogant act. Again, Inari seemed to have meant well and just wanted a peaceful place for his children to live in forever, but to play god like that… So we cheer on the younger Koto when she takes a stand to protect the place and its inhabitants, but is it really correct? Is it really advisable to threaten the existence of the other dimensions in order to save this world?

Will everything be explained when this is over? Somehow I doubt it. It wouldn’t surprise me if Kyousougiga ends the way it started, like an abstract artwork or poem, full of lovely provocative imagery, that makes you think and ask questions but won’t provide any easy answers. If you’re hoping everything will make sense at the end, it’s probably best to get used to disappointment.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06. KILL la KILL (ep. 1-11) – This series has plenty of style and confidence. Lately, though, it’s just been one battle after another, and it’s hard for me to feel much excitement about that. I still have faith that they’re going somewhere eventually, but for now…

Here’s hoping the new theme songs next season pack a bit more oomph. The current ones are too light and poppy and are the weakest part of the show, in my opinion.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. Kuroko’s Basketball 2 (ep. 26-36) – Still entertaining, but so far, this is not living up to the standard set by the first season. There’s a greater focus on the games this time around. That’s not necessarily a problem, though. The biggest drawback for me is that the new characters who are showing up in these games are nasty people with no redeeming qualities. Previously, Seirin’s opponents had likeable personalities, and it was believable that they would all eventually come to understand and respect each other. It’ll definitely be harder to buy this time around if they end up all friendly-like.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08. Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai) (ep. 76-86) – The current season has focused on Mutta’s astronaut training and Hibito’s private struggle with panic disorder, and it’s been pretty solid. I don’t like that Hibito hasn’t confided in Mutta yet, so I hope that changes soon. (Note: I did not bother to watch any of the Mr. Hibbit shorts at the end of the episodes.)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. MAGI: The Kingdom of Magic (ep. 1-10) – MAGI proved once again that it’s not a kids’ show with the public beheading of a criminal in episode 6, with one of the protagonists as the executioner! It might be possible to convince me that the victim deserved it, but what I found most shocking was that the whole incident took place in front of the watchful eyes of a group of children. It bothered me that the show failed to address how horrific that was.

In general, this second season of MAGI has been largely underwhelming. Episode 7, in particular, was exceptionally tedious and unfunny and possibly the worst episode of any anime that I’ve seen in a long time. To be fair, though, even that episode had a brief flash of brilliance in the introduction of Ren Kouha; the way he was able to wield his, well, unwieldy sword was clever and cool.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


10. PHI BRAIN – Kami no Puzzle Season 3 (ep. 1-10) – By episode 4, I was already tired of the “Makata Jin loved puzzles, no, Makata Jin hated puzzles” conundrum. Isn’t it pretty obvious he despised puzzles that kill but liked the warm fuzzy ones? They’re still going on about it, so maybe there’s more to it than I think?

Anyway, PHI BRAIN’s always been good fun for when you just want to sit back and relax and not think too much. That continues to be true for this season.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. NAGI NO ASUKARA (Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea) (ep. 1-11) – Apparently Nagi-Asu will be continuing for a second cour. I hope there’s going to be a huge time skip and the kids grow into adults. Right now, this show about the relationship between people of the sea and people of the land is a bit too sentimental. It’s also annoying that everyone chooses to play games instead of stating their feelings directly.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12. Galilei Donna (ep. 1-10) – This show seems to want to be a Da Vinci Code-like quest adventure. It’s good that the protagonists are all capable females. But the plot developments are worse than in a kids’ cartoon; the girls always happen to be in the right place at the right time, or clues fall into their laps out of nowhere. Also, all the important relics are right there with them on the ship, not, for instance, at the home they were forced to abandon without notice. It’s increasingly hard to suspend disbelief and muster the energy to watch each new episode.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. BEYOND THE BOUNDARY (Kyoukai no Kanata) (ep. 1-11) – Unpleasant main characters, with no chemistry between the leads. The story is starting to make a little more sense now, but it’s not enough to make me care about what will happen to Mirai or Akihito or anyone else.
Sigh. What a waste of pretty KyoAni animation.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


14. Diabolik Lovers (ep. 1-12 complete) – Totally trashy show that you can’t help but continue watching once you start. The only good thing I can say is that the heroine’s character design was really cute. Unfortunately, she was nothing more than a powerless, abused slave to a twisted family of vampires. Just about every episode included a “rape” scene… and not much else in the way of character development or plot. And it’s my opinion only, but I didn’t see anything appealing in any of the male characters; when they are this ugly on the inside, it totally obscures any attractiveness on the outside. What an absolute fail for a reverse harem title!

Ultimately, I found some enjoyment in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way. I think you would have to be a total “M” to actually get off on this stuff.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Jacquie’s 2012 Year in Review – Top 10 Anime

My favourite anime shows of the year, selected from the titles I watched which finished airing in 2012:


#1.  Fate/Zero – This dramatic telling of the events of the 4th Holy Grail War was a far-superior prequel to the awful Fate/stay night anime. The grand storyline, epic cast of characters, and impressive action scenes made for a thrilling watch.  I found myself being very engrossed in the characters and the story, even though the final outcome was already known.  It was always an agonizing wait between episodes, tempered by the dreaded anticipation that any episode could be the last for characters that I’d come to love.


#2.  Chihayafuru – Endearing characters, great storytelling.  I really cared about Chihaya and Taichi and their team.  The anime even managed to make the old-fashioned card game of Karuta seem exciting.  Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the new season in 2013.


#3.  BEELZEBUB – Consistently funny, creative, and good-natured.  There were some duds during its 60-episode run, but they were remarkably few and far in between.  It’s a real shame that this is no longer airing.


#4.  Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi – The sort-of companion piece to Chihayafuru, UtaKoi featured the stories of the 100 poems from the Karuta game told in a way that was reverent and irreverent in equal measure.  The mature, bittersweet love stories really resonated with me.  I didn’t even mind the cart-race/talk-show episode.  Although I did find a few of the stories at the beginning of the second half to be weaker than the rest, the series came to a strong finish at the end.


#5.  Aquarion EVOL – I didn’t have any intention to watch this anime at first, due to the fact that I hadn’t seen the preceding Aquarion works and because I had seen supporting character Zessica’s fanservice-y get-up.  However, I was already watching the other 2 space operas (Moretsu Pirates and Rinne no Lagrange) to varying degrees of enjoyment, or not, respectively; and EVOL was often mentioned alongside those two.  EVOL turned out to be a blast!  Very over-the–top, with humorous fanservice and sexual innuendo (see, I don’t always hate on fanservice; I enjoy it when it’s funny) and a lot of heart.  And Zessica?  She became my favourite character.


#6.  Hakuouki Reimeiroku – I watched this because I also enjoyed the two previous Hakuouki series, of which this is a prequel.  It was a treat to revisit the Shinsengumi members and learn of the events of their early days.  The story as a whole may not have been amazing, and the new insert character was as useless as Chizuru from the original series; but the art, the recurring characters, the setting, and the way the events were based on actual history made the show really appealing to me, and I looked forward to watching it every week.


#7.  Kuroko’s Basketball – Watching this semi-fantastical sports anime reminded me of how I felt when watching the early seasons of BLEACH.  New characters were constantly being introduced as potential rivals for the main team, but they were interesting people, each with distinct personalities, and not necessarily “enemies”.  A new season was recently announced for 2013.  Looking forward to that too.


#8.  My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun) – Ostensibly a romance, but this show was really more about the interactions between a group of friends.  Every episode managed to be entertaining.  Although every character had definite flaws, they came across as likeable people that I wanted to root for.


#9.  Jormungand – A bloody, thought-provoking, action anime about a group led by Koko Hekmatyar, an arms dealer and visionary who dreams of world peace.  The mostly serious subject matter was balanced out by just the right amount of levity to make it an entertaining watch.


#10.  KIDS ON THE SLOPE (Sakamichi no Apollon) – If I never loved this show, I did respect it for the convincing portrayal of its 1960s setting, the jazz music, and the friendship of the lead characters.

Special Categories:

  • Best Comedy (intentional):  BEELZEBUB  (runner-up: Daily lives of high school boys (Danshi koukousei no nichijou))
  • Best Comedy (unintentional):  CODE:BREAKER  (runner-up: GUILTY CROWN)
  • Best OP or ED:  “Gekkou symphonia“, by AKINO & AIKI from bless4 (Aquarion EVOL ED1)

Notable Drops: Because I like to complain, listed below are the otherwise well-reviewed and popular anime series that were not considered for my year-end list because I couldn’t finish them.  Number of episodes watched is in brackets.

  • Rinne no Lagrange (12) – unnecessary fanservice detracted from the story; I just didn’t care about the characters enough to continue watching.
  • Tsuritama (5) – unlikeable characters; it was about fishing.
  • TARI TARI (5) – too sentimental, bad storytelling, bad music.
  • SWORD ART ONLINE (15) – so much wasted potential; wish-fulfillment pandering written with the mentality of a child.
  • Say “I Love You” (7) – irredeemably cliché-ridden; most of the characters were not the sort of people I would want to associate with; seemed to imply that sexual harassment/assault is okay, desirable even, as long as the offender is good-looking and popular.  (Maybe I’m overreacting and this is often sadly true, but I raged.)