Jacquie’s 2015 Year in Review – Anime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anime of the Year:

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

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

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

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

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

My Favourites, with Flaws:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Fun:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sequels Made with Love:

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

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

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

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

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

The Worst Ones:

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

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

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

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

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

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

________________________________________________________________

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Anime Songs Countdown:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was really long! Thank you for reading.

Mid-Autumn 2015 Anime Ranking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-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)