Mid-Winter 2017 Anime Ranking

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Sukeroku Futatabi-hen 05
01. Descending Stories: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (Sukeroku Futatabi-hen) (ep. 1-10) – It may have seemed like an unwanted burden to raise someone else’s child, and Yakumo may have wondered what he was thinking when he took Yotaro in on a whim, but without them, he would have nothing now, nothing but rakugo and his personal demons.

Other than Konatsu and Shinnosuke, none of the members of their family unit are blood-related. Konatsu and Yotaro’s marriage appears to be platonic even. Yet the affection, loyalty, and respect they all feel for each other is obvious. To Yakumo’s chagrin, it’s this family that keeps him tethered to this earth; and even if he thinks he’s ready, it won’t be easy to take rakugo to the grave with him in a lovers’ suicide. (At least that’s what I wrote last week. Some of that is brought to the forefront in the emotionally rewarding ep. 10.)

It’s a rare treat to see this kind of grown-up anime. The characters are realistic and have so much personality. I continue to be blown away by Ishida Akira’s performance in the lead role, too. He is voicing Bon/Kikuhiko/Yakumo as an aging master now, one whose body is failing, and who still performs rakugo. Just wow.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

GUNDAM IBO 40
02. Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS (Tekketsu no Orphans) (ep. 39-45) – After the unfair attack on Turbines, Tekkadan had ample reason to fight back in retaliation. No, there didn’t need to be an additional loss of life to spur them to action. However, I really liked that Orga intended to honour the wishes of his lost friend and take the high road. It took the secondary attack to prove that Jasley was not about to take no for an answer and that a battle was unavoidable after all.

Rarely have I ever had it in for a character as I do for Iok Kujan. This guy needs to die. I even blame Julieta for saving his life last cour. She should have allowed that stupidity to be nipped in the bud. Look how many good people have gone to their deaths because he lived!

So, Tekkadan basically have no choice now but to go all in with that snake McGillis. The death flags are all but smacking us in the face. It’s depressing, and I hope I’m wrong, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we have a huge Shakespearean tragedy in the works.
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)

ACCA 05
03. ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept (13-ku Kansatsu-ka) (ep. 1-9) – In this stylish, but rather simplistic-looking anime, major revelations are treated with the same gravitas as casual discussions about food.

Considerable intrigue is swirling around beneath the surface. A lot of higher-ups have the idea that someone is planning a coup against the kingdom, and that our main character Jean is involved. He doesn’t seem to think so, but whatever. After all, there are more pressing matters, such as how to find the best place to buy the local specialty dessert for his little sister. Truly a unique show.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Masamune-kun no Revenge 04
04. Masamune-kun’s Revenge (Masamune-kun no Revenge) (ep. 1-10) – Teenager changes his name, pretties himself up, and schemes to get revenge on the childhood crush who rejected him years ago.

This could have been pretty dark and ugly, since it’s based on such a mean-spirited premise. However, Makabe is actually a friendly and reasonable guy, apart from his vendetta. And, he’s worked hard to become the good-looking specimen he now is.

I really like the way the music is utitlized in this show. It is intentionally just a little bit more exaggerated than you would otherwise expect during certain scenes, effectively evoking ominousnous or drama – and humour, since the disconnect is noticeable.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

yowamushi pedal new generation 08
05. Yowamushi Pedal: NEW GENERATION (ep. 1-9) – It’s a new year, and the senior members of Sohoku Cycling Club are passing the torch. The next generation faces the pressure of defending the school’s standing as the current reigning champion after winning the last Inter-High.

So glad it’s looking like underdog Sugimoto is going to get some development. Yeah, he’s not as good as his teammates and he’s arrogant beyond his abilities (probably to hide his insecurities), but he seems to have good intentions, so it wasn’t nice to see him treated as the show’s running joke.

On the Hakone Gakuen side, I didn’t really pay any attention to Kuroda before. I like him; he’s a riot. I hope to see more of him messing with new guy Ashikiba, whose confidence combined with cluelessness is pretty funny too.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Fuuka 08
06. Fuuka (ep. 1-10) – I definitely had some reservations going into Fuuka, as romance stories aimed at male audiences frequently have elements that bother me, such as violently tsundere heroines, extreme milquetoast protagonists, and tacky fanservice.

The first episode seemed to feed into that stereotype; it had its panty flashes and the main guy got assaulted for no reason. Thereafter, though, the anime seemed to break out of the mold. Fuuka acknowledged that her behaviour was inappropriate, which in turn made her friendship with Yuu believable.

I like that they are taking the band practice stuff very seriously, even if their rate of progress would be considered miraculous. The earlier coincidences in the show were also pretty laughable – let’s just get that out of the way.

I totally don’t mind the direction they’ve taken with the romance; but I am concerned about where they might be going from here, as the show’s namesake is surprisingly not currently part of that equation.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. Marginal#4 Kiss kara Tsukuru Big Bang (ep. 1-9) – This season’s idol group / high school anime is pretty stupid. Thankfully, there is usually a touch of something twisted or unexpected, either in the boys’ personalities or their behaviour, or in the events themselves. It goes a long way toward keeping the show from feeling generic.

I probably laugh out loud at least once every episode, including every time the dense redhead brings up his lucky underpants.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08. ONIHEI (ep. 1-9) – Episodic tales about Hasegawa Heizou, a legendary fictional law enforcement officer feared as a demon by criminals. Some of the stories are lighthearted, while others can be pretty dark and dramatic. Often, they follow a fairly predictable course.

More and more we are seeing that Heizou is not entirely the monster that is his reputation. He has a gentler side to his personality too, and a sense of humour.

Crime stories aside, it’s a treat to see the lovely historical scenery and costumes in this late Edo period-setting anime.

Gabriel DropOut
09. Gabriel DropOut (ep. 1-9) – Once an honour-student angel, Gabriel succumbed to earthly temptations during her placement in the world of humans. She’s now become an unmotivated slacker and online gaming addict. You know I find these types insufferable, so it’s a good thing there are 3 other girls to round out the main cast.

The one who frequently steals the show is Satania, a demon (obviously) who serves the Demon Lord. She’s so harmless, though, that everyone thinks she just has chuunibyou. Try as she might, she’ll never be Gabriel’s equal in depravity.

Gabriel DropOut is reasonably funny and enjoyable, but like most shows that are not part of my Top 3 this season, I think I might forget to watch it if it wasn’t on a viewing list.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. ALL OUT!! (ep. 13-21) – While I’m still not terribly invested in the characters, ALL OUT!! is shaping up to be a decent sports drama at least.

The soundtrack, by Naruto Shippuden composer Takanashi Yasuharu, continues to impress. At times I have hit rewind, not to re-watch the game play, but to hear the music again!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. KONOSUBA –God’s Blessing on this wonderful world! 2 (Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2) (ep. 1-9) – I got a few laughs out of the earlier episodes, when the group was facing off against the slimy toad-creatures and when Darkness made her return. In general, I don’t feel like I’m enjoying KONOSUBA! 2 as much as other viewers are. It just isn’t super funny to me. The current arc, which takes place in a town populated by aggressive proselytizers, is even kind of tedious.

The artwork continues to be hit on some episodes and miss on others. Apparently it’s not even a budget or timing thing. One of the directors really just doesn’t give a damn whether the characters appear on-model or not!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon) (ep. 1-9) – KyoAni’s latest series is an innocuous little comedy about an office lady who gets involved with fantastical (and yet rather mundane) creatures after inviting a dragon to live with her. The animation is good and the production is smooth and competent overall.

Personally, I find the slice-of-life stuff to be played a bit too straight for my liking. I wouldn’t say the show is unfunny, exactly, but both my sister and I can easily sit through entire episodes completely straight-faced. Even though they’re cute and sweet, the characters just don’t charm me the way it seems they’re supposed to.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

blue exorcist kyoto saga
13. Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga (Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen) (ep. 1-10) – I was looking forward to the return of Blue Exorcist since I remember enjoying the 2011 series quite a bit; but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to really engage with this sequel. Part of the problem is that it’s been so long since the first anime that I’ve forgotten a lot of the details. And also, the last chunk of that series was anime-original material that we have to pretend doesn’t exist now, so that doesn’t help either.

It’s taken until ep. 8 to get me a little interested in the show. Finally, we are seeing some humorous interactions between the crew, mostly thanks to Suguro and Rin talking to each other again. I still wish Rin and Yukio would have some better scenes together, though.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

14. Scum’s Wish (Kuzu no Honkai) (ep. 1-8) – An uncomfortable tale of two teenagers in the midst of unrequited love for someone unattainable who find solace in each other’s company. The anime attempts to explore the dark side of romantic and sexual relations, and obsessive love.

Honestly, it’s a bit of a challenging watch. It’s supposed to be edgy and deep, but virtually every character is selfish and unlikeable. I personally can’t relate to any of them. I especially can’t get over the openly promiscuous teacher; how does she carry on like that without fear of nasty rumours and job loss?

15. NANBAKA (ep. 14-23) – It seems like we’ve been stuck inside dreary Building No.5 for a long, long time. What happened to all the sparkles? It’s true that there’s an actual plot now, but I don’t really care about these side characters. I’d prefer to see more focus on our main quartet of prisoners. And Hajime. Needs more Hajime.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Also watching 3 seriously cute but twisted shorts:

Koro-sensei-Quest-02
KORO SENSEI QUEST (ep. 1-12) – Assassination Classroom re-imagined as a chibi fantasy game narrative featuring Koro-sensei as the Big Bad.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

nobunaga no shinobi 18
Ninja Girl & Samurai Master (Nobunaga no Shinobi) (ep. 14-23) – The history of Oda Nobunaga re-imagined as a chibi gag comedy continues from last season.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Chiruran nibun no ichi
Chiruran 1/2 (Chiruran: Nibun no Ichi) (ep. 1-9) – Shinsengumi-themed Chiruran re-imagined as a chibi slice-of-life comedy, except there hasn’t even been a Chiruran anime yet! I hope this means we’ll get a proper adaptation in the future. I’d like to see it happen.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Jacquie’s 2015 Year in Review – Anime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anime of the Year:

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

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

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

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

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

My Favourites, with Flaws:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Fun:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sequels Made with Love:

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

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

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

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

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

The Worst Ones:

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

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

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

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

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

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

________________________________________________________________

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

Memorable Quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Anime Songs Countdown:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was really long! Thank you for reading.

Mid-Winter 2015 Anime Ranking

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Jacquie’s 2014 Year in Review – Top 10 Anime

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

Mid-Autumn 2014 Anime Ranking

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Notable Drop:

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

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

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

Mid-Spring 2014 Anime Ranking


01. KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA (Sidonia no Kishi) (ep. 1-8) – Really loving this show! Far and away my favourite of the season so far. This frequently brutal and thrilling space opera, about humanity’s struggle for survival thousands of years after aliens, called Gauna, destroyed the Earth, had me hooked by the 3rd episode.

One of the biggest initial challenges was that everyone kind of looks the same. I’m sure it’s completely intentional given the amount of genetic engineering that has occurred, but man, did it ever make it hard to keep track of who’s who, especially in the beginning. The monochromatic colour palette was no help either.

I’m normally not a fan of computer animation, but I have to say it actually works pretty well here. The movements do look a bit stiff occasionally, but really, the narrative is so immersive that none of that bothers me; there’s just no opportunity to dwell on it. I’m really glad I didn’t dismiss this one just because of the CGI.

Anime storylines featuring a boy who shows up and mysteriously has the ability to operate a special mecha are a dime a dozen (eg. Captain Earth, DAIMIDALER, and Dai-Shogun from just this season alone). This show had maybe the most plausible explanation I’ve ever seen – Nagate was raised apart from the population but he practised extensively on a VR simulator all his life. It’s looking like there might be more to it than that, too.

At the close of ep. 8, a Gauna sample has been brought onto Sidonia. I would have done the same thing. Not just because of its familiar appearance, but also because it’s important to study the enemy if you ever hope to understand or defeat them. On the other hand, after all their efforts to keep the Gauna from making physical contact with Sidonia ever again, they now have one on board…

Incidentally, SIDONIA also gets my vote for best OP/ED of the season with its closer “掌 -show-” by Kitamura Eri.
Edit: (streaming on Netflix starting in July)


02. YowaPeda (Yowamushi Pedal) (ep. 26-33) – Onoda has spent the series training and learning about cycling from his peers and his sempai. It’s finally come full circle in ep. 33, as Onoda gets a chance to help Tadokoro by showing him his own special riding technique – and we finally get to hear the Hime Hime song in its entirety!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. Ace of Diamond (ep. 26-34) – In the current arc, Seido is facing off against Yakushi, a formidable opponent, and it’s coming down to a battle of wits between Miyuki and Yakushi’s coach. Furuya, too, is called upon to rise to the challenge. Episode 34 had no shortage of awesome plays. We actually went back and watched several of the scenes over again so we could appreciate them fully!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. Blade & Soul (ep. 1-9) – This show seems to be under the radar for most viewers. Is anyone else watching this?

All the powerful characters in this action-fantasy, be they gang leaders, village chiefs, bosses, good guys or bad, are all female. And why not? Sure, they are all busty and barely dressed, but that doesn’t matter to me, because they are shown to be genuinely strong.

I have nothing against shows with predominantly male characters – check out all the sausagefests in the rest of the top 6 right here – that’s just the way fiction comes. But there’s no denying how refreshing it is to see something with this many strong females in it. Ironically, this program was not made by women, for women. If anything, I think it might be the opposite. Regardless, the creators’ respect for women is very evident in the production.

Maybe that’s part of the reason why this show struggles to find an audience, though. Female viewers see the revealing outfits and assume it’s a show for guys. Meanwhile, many guys have little interest in a show full of warrior women with not even one male for them to fawn over.

Blade & Soul is perhaps also not well-suited for viewers who expect major characters to be overtly expressive. Alka, the lead, is like a killing machine and shows no emotion. As someone who has previously sympathized with strong, silent types in anime, I can personally tolerate Alka just fine; and I’m enjoying the series so far.

Actually, if there’s one thing I could really do without, that would be Karen’s dancing, in the show and in the appalling ED sequence. Now that is some really horrid-looking CGI.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

05. Haikyuu!! (ep. 1-9) – I seem to be enjoying quite a few sports anime recently. This one’s about volleyball. It took a while for me to warm up to the 2 main guys. Good thing their sempai were so likeable from the start. Especially Tanaka; he’s the best.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


06. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (ep. 1-9) – Between the elder and the younger JoJo, it’s hard to tell who is the bigger asshole. One is kind of a racist, the other is quite the misogynist, and yet, incredibly, they both manage to come across as funny and endearing!

I never had much interest in the fight sequences (that’s just the way I’m hardwired), so the best part for me is how these creatively over-the–top characters interact with each other. And that’s enough to keep me looking forward to JoJo’s week after week.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. Chaika – The Coffin Princess (Hitsugi no Chaika) (ep. 1-8) – I was really impressed with the first 2 episodes. It seemed like a lot of thought went into the action and the fights. Plus, there was that exploding unicorn, which is definitely not something you see every day, even in anime!

After that, the show has settled into more of a routine action fantasy thing. The execution is still above average, but I find the characters, especially Toru, to be a bit wanting in the personality department.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) (ep. 1-8) – Princess Nike of the Principality of Rain moves to the Sun Kingdom for an arranged marriage to young King Livius. Naturally the two butt heads in the beginning, but soon find a common understanding.

I thought the recent episodes involving romantic rivals were a bit tiresome; fortunately they moved on from that fairly quickly.

The series has been a generally pleasant experience, with a couple of notable exceptions. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks Nike’s rain-summoning song is horrendously cringe-worthy. And I don’t even remember what the ED sounds like because we skip the sequence every time. It’s too awkward to ogle images of the boy king sleeping in the buff. That just feels wrong.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. Baby Steps (ep 1-9) – The tennis anime. Eiichirou is new to the sport and he approaches it in a highly technical and mathematical manner. It’s rewarding to see his gradual progress.

The drawback: the character designs are ugly. The way Ei-chan’s hair sticks out like a mohawk in the middle of his bangs is really weird. And “pretty girl” Natsu’s super wide eyes sometimes look empty and crazed. It’s kind of scary.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


10. NO GAME NO LIFE (ep. 1-8) – Legendary brother and sister gamers Sora and Shiro try to take over an alternate world in order to save humanity. This wildly colourful show has its share of pandering and overpowered protagonists, but it frequently succeeds at being imaginative and fun.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. Captain Earth (ep. 1-9) – Insofar as being another anime about a young man and giant mecha, this one is fairly competently made, though far from engaging.

I’d say it’s not in the same league as Star Driver or Eureka Seven, although it is definitely a cut above last season’s Buddy Complex.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12. The irregular at magic high school (Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei) (ep. 1-9) – I enjoy reading other people’s (disparaging) post-episode commentaries of this terrible anime so much that there’s no way I’m going to drop it.

It was recently put to me that I followed GUILTY CROWN to the end for the same reason; and that’s a pretty apt comparison, actually. In both cases, the art, character designs, and other superficial aspects are attractive. However, both have unappealing protagonists who expound questionable, rather off-putting social messages. And both series can be entertaining if you’re watching for the unintentional laughs, but otherwise, are quite painful if taken seriously.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. riddle story of devil (Akuma no Riddle) (ep. 1-8) – Unlike last season, in which many series took a while to hit their stride, several shows this time around hit the ground running. Riddle story is one example of a show that started out much better than expected.

However, it has since devolved into a fight of the week scenario. The ending is always the same, too, with the loser just conveniently disappearing. And unfortunately, that seems to be the trend this season, where series might start out strong but then utterly fail to keep up the momentum.

I suppose there will be some big reveal at the end after all the fights are over, but getting there could be a bit tedious. At least the main character is likeable; she’s also of the strong, silent variety, which I apparently admire.
(streaming at FUNimation)


14. ONE WEEK FRIENDS (Isshuukan Friends.) (ep. 1-9) – Hase is determined to be friends with his classmate Fujimiya even though she suffers from a memory disorder. It’s sweet and touching and the kids are cute. I think this anime deserves the praise that it frequently gets; it’s just that I personally find it to be a tiny bit dull. It’s the kind of show that I might forget to watch if I didn’t have it written down on my list.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. NOBUNAGA THE FOOL (ep. 13-21) – Well, if you enjoyed the first half, this cour continues to deliver more of the same. Da Vinci is still playing with his Tarot cards, Mitsuhide still gets an opportunity to flick his hair in practically every episode, and Jeanne continues to be useless and needlessly sexualized.

The OP and ED themes are decidedly not as good this time around, though.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. La corda d’oro -Blue Sky- (Kiniro no Corda: Blue Sky) (ep. 1-9) – Not sure why I’m watching this show. I didn’t even watch the first series. All I can say is it’s harmless and inoffensive. I find it somewhat amusing that they are music students taking part in a musical competition, but they use terminology usually heard in sports anime or war stories. Oh yeah: the best part is the Yokohama scenery.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


17. BLACK BULLET (ep. 1-9) – This has been pretty consistently mediocre. The visuals are nice, but the pointless monologues and out-of-place boob jokes betray the show’s lack of substance.

The showdown between Rentaro and Tina in ep. 7 was actually thrilling and well-animated. Too bad the resolution was so hokey. Well, it was obvious that Tina would eventually switch allegiances, but still. At one point Rentaro even thanked her for “saving” Enju’s life. Um, she shot her full of bullets and stopped just short of killing her; “spared” her life, I could see, but “saved” is preposterously generous. So in the end, Rentaro, Kisara and Enju, all of them targets of Tina’s prior assassination attempts, welcomed her with open arms. Meanwhile, Tina acted like she was completely guiltless; not even a, “I’m sorry I tried to kill you. It seemed like a good idea at the time.” I guess this is what you can get away with if you’re cute enough. Oh, anime.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

18. BRYNHILDR IN THE DARKNESS (Gokukoku no Brynhildr) (ep. 1-9) – The initial premise sounded interesting, but when I realized that all the secondary characters were girls, I thought it might be bad. So going in, I expected this show to be haremy and fanservicey. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that the first 2 episodes were fairly restrained and respectably plot-driven.

However, it’s just gone down from there, to the point where it seemed like 50% of ep 5 was juvenile, unfunny sexual pandering. And that, regrettably, seems to be the pattern that the show has settled into since then.

On the plus side, the other 50% is still decent, which is why I haven’t dropped it yet. And the anime boasts a surprisingly classy intrumental OP. I can’t recommend this show to anyone, though. Some of those icky parts actually make me cringe.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


19. The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior (Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou) (ep. 1-9) – I came close to dropping this head-scratchingly-titled anime several times. Pretty much nothing happens in it. There are a few funny moments here and there, but I could easily stop watching and not miss it at all, I think.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Notable Drop:

MEKAKUCITY ACTORS (ep. 1-4) – Clearly I am not the target audience for this series. I have virtually no prior familiarity with the Kagerou Project’s Niconico music videos. On top of that, I frequently have a very negative visceral reaction to SHAFT aesthetics and animation style.

If I wasn’t watching with my sister, who has a passing interest in Kagerou Project, I would never have made it through 4 whole episodes! I just couldn’t take it anymore after that.
(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)

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)