PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE

PsychoPass-movie

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2015 (in Japan)

Inspector Akane Tsunemori gets a lead on Shinya Kougami’s whereabouts from the Chief and leaves the country to look for him. PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE further expands on the benefits and risks of the mental-state profiling Sibyl System, including ways of misuse, as Japan exports the technology to a corrupt, war-torn nation known as SEAUn.

There are many great action sequences throughout the film. Cinematography and sound effects are on par with those of a Hollywood movie as well.

The theatrical version is English-dubbed. At the time that I ordered my ticket, however, the screening was listed as Japanese with subtitles, and I haven’t completely forgiven the switcheroo. To be fair, Funimation really did an excellent job with this English edition. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had already seen 2 previous seasons of PSYCHO-PASS with the Japanese voices, I would have had zero issues with the dub.

You don’t need to watch PSYCHO-PASS 2 before seeing this film. (In fact, don’t watch season 2 – it was terrible.) You don’t even need to watch the first season, apparently. We saw the film with several people who only had basic knowledge of Psycho-Pass and the Sibyl System and they were able to follow everything with very little difficulty. Obviously, you can get more out of the interpersonal dialogue if you’re familiar with the events of season one, but it isn’t essential to the enjoyment of the film.

I can pretty much recommend PSYCHO-PASS: THE MOVIE for anyone, even non-anime fans, who appreciates dystopian sci-fi with a serving of action, intrigue, and exploding criminals.

Mid-Autumn 2014 Anime Ranking

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Notable Drop:

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

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

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

Mid-Summer 2014 Anime Ranking

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

I’ll just leave you with this:

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

Jacquie’s 2013 Year in Review – Top 10 Anime

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Mid-Winter 2013 Anime Ranking

It’s late enough in the season that I considered doing a season-end post instead.  I decided against it, since unfortunately, endings are frequently disappointing and don’t necessarily reflect my feelings about the show during its run.  Also, a number of shows will be continuing and it’s a bit easier to compare impressions of ongoing programs.


01.  PSYCHO-PASS (ep. 12-20) – I’ve written about PSYCHO-PASS before, so obviously I’ve been enjoying it from the start.  However, even through the often shocking, disturbing events in the first half, I felt a certain disconnect with the show.  It wasn’t until the horrifying development in episode 11 that it really grabbed me in the gut.

I don’t think PSYCHO-PASS has budged from the top of my list since its return this season.  Although the ideas it presents may not be entirely original, the execution has been very effective.  Now, the true nature of the Sibyl System has been revealed; and Kougami is walking a path apart from the MWPSB, as foretold in the current OP.  Only 2 more episodes remain!

I have mixed feelings when it comes to Makishima.  On the one hand, I love how complex he is; on the other, it often happens in anime that when the villain becomes a sympathetic character, his previous crimes get swept under the rug, and I hope that doesn’t happen here.  A couple of recent examples of bad-guy-turns-good that come to mind are Aki in “Kamisama Dolls” and Hitomi in “CODE:BREAKER”.  I remember being bothered by those shows’ failure to address the issue; albeit both series were pretty shallow compared to PSYCHO-PASS.

I’ll admit I have been rooting for Makishima – in the fight against the chief, and also when his associates turned on him at the end of episode 14, but it always felt wrong.  I have not forgotten about the heinous crimes he’s committed, even if he’s now playing the hero against a corrupt system.  I do have reasonable hopes, though, that a show of this calibre might just be able to handle the situation with appropriate delicacy.
(streaming at Funimation)


02.  Chihayafuru 2 (ep. 1-9) – After the introduction of the new members, it’s mostly been about gameplay.  Otherwise, we’ve seen plenty of character development for the new kids, but less for the core cast so far.  Probably because of that, I don’t feel as hooked on the show now as I did the first series.  Regardless, Chihayafuru continues to be solid: funny, exciting, and endearing.  And now at long last, Arata is back!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03.  Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) (ep. 14-22) – Although the actual settings and characters are very different, both Shin Sekai Yori and PSYCHO-PASS involve a future society that ostensibly achieves peace through the restriction or removal of individual freedom.  At this point in both series, the dystopian societies are coming under attack from outside.  That is, our protagonists are mostly on the side of status quo, while the villains are the challengers.  Increasingly, it’s hard to tell who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong.  Shin Sekai Yori has lost some of its lustre for me due to the current focus on the Monster Rat attacks.  I enjoyed it a bit more when the spotlight was on Saki and her group.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04.  Space Brothers (ep.39-48) – This was trending higher in my ranking in January during the Hibito-on-the-moon arc.  While those episodes didn’t have the usual amount of humour, the storytelling was gripping and it gave the feeling of watching a NASA-themed Hollywood movie.  Now that we’re back down to earth with Mutta and his training, Space Brothers continues to be entertaining, but at a less lofty level.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

05.  MAGI (ep. 12-21) – I was impressed with Alibaba’s display of political wisdom during the Balbadd arc at the start of the season.  The fights that followed didn’t really hold my attention, though.  Recent episodes involving Sinbad have upped the humour content, and I am actually surprised at how funny the current Zagan-dungeon-capturing arc is proving to be, thanks in no small part to Hakuryuu, of all people!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06.  THE UNLIMITED (ep. 1-9) – I’m enjoying THE UNLIMITED, and I like the characters well enough, but somehow I don’t feel invested in it the way I do the returning programs.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07.  Blast of Tempest (ep. 13-21) – Now that the identity of Aika’s boyfriend has been revealed, and the mystery of her murder is seemingly solved, the main outstanding issues have been addressed.  All that’s left is to figure out how to save the world.  Theatre of the absurd at its finest!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08.  Tamako Market (ep, 1-9) – Cute and sweet and appropriately inoffensive, but there’s not much substance here.

09.  IXION SAGA DT (ep. 13-22) – This show.  Just when I think it’s getting tedious, it reveals that the feeling is completely intentional.  Anyway, I’m glad the marriage rituals are over, and that Kon didn’t really have to stand in for the princess on her wedding night!  Looking forward to Erec-sama playing a bigger role in the current arc.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10.  JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (ep. 9-21) – It took a while for me to get caught up on JoJo, since I didn’t enjoy the first season all that much.  But then they went and killed off the main characters in episode 9, and it’s been so much better ever since!  Episode 20 featured some of the best fight sequences in the series so far.  The death scene was fairly moving too, although I don’t think it affected me as much as it did most viewers (yes, I’m really that cold.)

11.  Hakkenden (ep. 1-8) – I think I’m glad I made it past the first episode, since that was the lowest point so far.  Still, I’m not really sure what to make of the show as a whole.  Hakkenden does manage to be amusing in unexpected ways sometimes.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12.  AMNESIA (ep. 1-9) – Wow.  This heroine gives new meaning to “personality-less”.  Even if she appears blank to the other characters because of her memory loss, at least we, the audience, should see some wheels turning in her head as she tries to figure out what’s going on; but sadly, no.  This girl has so little energy, I wondered if the writers had confused “anemia” with “amnesia”.  (I laughed when the doctor actually suggested anemia as a diagnosis in episode 8!)  That said, the anime continues to provide entertainment value from the colourful outfits and vague mysteriousness.  Plus, we can make constant disparaging remarks while watching, which is fun.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13.  Senyu. (ep. 1-9) – Unfortunately, each episode is only about 3 minutes long.  If there were more content, this might have rated higher, because, of the 2 demonXhuman-relations anime that I’m following (see MAOYU at the bottom of the list), I’m liking this one a lot better!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

14.  Love Live! School idol project (ep. 1-9) – Initially, Honoka’s sheer enthusiasm in forming an idol group to represent/save her school was fun to watch.  Now, the anime is just kind of boring.  It is neither as sweet nor as charming as Tamako Market, and I can’t even say it’s completely inoffensive.  What’s with that student council vice prez?  She seems like a wise and thoughtful person most of the time, but her boob-grabbing antics are certainly not being appreciated by her victim.  That looks like assault; and it’s not even remotely funny, so why…?
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15.  MAOYU (ep. 1-9) – First of all, economics-themed anime and me are a bad combination.  I already knew this from my experience with “Spice and Wolf”.  Anyway, I think MAOYU dwells on economics and agriculture too much.  I would prefer to see more quality action scenes and more detailed explanations of their war strategies.  Also, the romance between demon-queen Mao and human-hero Yuusha is too cutesy and forced.  The way I see it, their relationship is more like a marriage of convenience than a whirlwind love affair, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  I could have appreciated seeing their efforts at making the relationship work, at finding common ground despite different upbringings.  Instead, when they’re together, Mao behaves like an insecure schoolgirl and Yuusha is like a clueless milquetoast harem lead.  Disappointing.

Alright, I have to make an exception for the latest episode.  In episode 9, our main characters were relegated to the sidelines while the elder sister maid took center stage, and it was by far the best MAOYU offering to date.  No eyeroll-inducing romance, no fanservice.  If Meido Ane had followed the plan and waited for Yuusha to rescue her, she might have been beaten to death first, so she saved herself!  With words.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Autumn 2012 Anime Ranking

How I feel about the anime on my current watch list.  The most recent episode watched is in brackets.  The order of the first four is kind of arbitrary…


01.  Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) (ep.11) – I’m liking the dark, dystopian future setting.  It took me a while to tell the kids apart, but now that I know them better, I’m really interested in their actions and what the consequences of those actions will be.  There’s a lot of artiness and intrigue, and it remains to be seen whether things will come together or make any sense at the end.  For now, I’m happy to be patient and see how things unfold.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02.  Jormungand (ep.21, or PERFECT ORDER ep.9) – Not many anime will reference quantum physics and super computers, but that’s what the current arc of Jormungand is about!  So far, the show is doing a really good job of fleshing out the members on Koko’s team.  We didn’t get to know them much during the first season, but now their backgrounds are getting some good attention.  Ep.19, about William Nelson’s past, achieved a near-perfect balance between dark, violent material and lighter, comic relief.
(streaming at Funimation)


03.  PSYCHO-PASS (ep.9) – Another brainy anime.  The storytelling is good and I’m enjoying the dark, psychological themes that are being presented.  However, the indignity-to-a-dead-body stuff makes me uncomfortable.  It is meant to be horrifying, but I just have trouble reconciling it with “entertainment”.
(streaming at Funimation)


04.  My Little Monster (ep.11) – This shoujo anime has its share of the usual tropes, but it works because the characters have believable, well-defined personalities.  Also, the textured backgrounds are some of the nicest I’ve ever seen.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

05.  Blast of Tempest (ep.10) – The characters are interesting, as are their interactions with each other.  The show works best when the characters are not quoting Shakespeare, and the music is not overwrought.  Some episodes have been overly expository.  They’re also throwing out a lot plot threads and it remains to be seen whether things will come together or make any sense at the end.  As with Shin Sekai Yori, for now, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06.  IXION SAGA DT (ep.10) – Deceptively stupid, but actually quite clever, this show often displays more common sense than some of the serious-themed anime that I’m watching.  So far, my favourite character is the villain, Erecpyle Dukakis (yes, ED for short).  Although, after having had his ass kicked twice already by the main character, he’s somewhat more of an underdog than a villain now.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07.  MAGI (ep.9) – Nice animation; the characters are likeable, complex, and genuinely strong.  Morgiana is a so-much-better female role model than Asuna from SAO, for instance, and new character Sinbad is awesome.  The current story arc is surprisingly balanced and thoughtful, especially considering that the anime seems to be aimed at a younger audience.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08.  Muv-Luv Alternative: TOTAL ECLIPSE (ep.23) – Looks like the meat of the story is happening.  I won’t mind if there’s less attention on Yuuya’s multinational harem now.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09.  K (ep.10) – Stylish and nicely animated, but the quality of the story is questionable.  Many of the large cast of characters are not very interesting.  Still, I’m curious to see where they’re going with this.

10.  Space Brothers (ep.36) – Good show overall, but lately it’s been dragging.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11.  CODE:BREAKER (ep.10) – So bad, it’s good.  And make no mistake, it really is bad: sloppy storytelling and plot developments, annoying and unlikeable protagonists, overdramatic score.  And yet, at the end of the day, it’s kind of fun, even if unintentionally.
(streaming at Funimation)

12.  BTOOOM! (ep.10) – Disturbingly exploitative at times, but otherwise, the battle-royale survival theme works.  This show also has some pretty hard-to-like main characters.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13.  Kamisama Kiss (ep.10) – Not terribly engrossing, but fine as a light distraction.  Unfortunately, I thought it was a bit more enjoyable before the romantic storyline began.
(streaming at Funimation)

14.  Chu-2 byo demo KOI ga shitai! (ep.10) – I find this show to be tedious and sometimes overly sentimental.  Maybe I’m too far away from my own eighth-grader syndrome phase to properly appreciate it.  Plus, I don’t buy the romantic sub-plot, even though I knew it was coming.  I do give the show credit, though, for being fairly straightforward about the romance instead of dragging it out unnecessarily.  Supporting character Isshiki is the best thing about this anime.  (Dekomori is the worst.)

Recently dropped:  Say “I Love You” (ep.7) – I tried to give it a chance, really I did; otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten this far in.  But I was complaining so uncontrollably after every episode, my family would probably have to take me out back and put me out of my misery if I were to watch any more of it.  Even now, when I see similar tropes used in My Little Monster, but executed so much better, I realize I’m still not done trashing this anime!  Bottom line: I don’t like Mei, I don’t like Yamato, and I’m not rooting for them to get together.
(streaming at Crunchyroll, but who cares?)