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!

#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.

#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.

#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.

#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.

#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.

#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.

#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-Winter 2014 Anime Ranking

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

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)

Mid-Summer 2013 Anime Ranking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-Spring 2013 Anime Ranking

“It hurts you don’t think of me as a friend.” The issue of trust is a common theme that has come up in several of the titles that I’m currently following. Without getting into too much detail, another frequent theme is: “I have seen the enemy, and he looks a lot like me.”

More than halfway through, this has been a season where a huge divide exists between the shows I’m keenly interested in (the top 5 or so) and most of the others, which I’m just watching anyway.

01. The DEVIL is a Part-timer! (Hataraku Maou-sama!) (ep. 1-9) – Yet another demon X human anime, this time the demon king is a guy and the human hero is a girl. Satan and his General Alsiel, as well as Heroine Emilia, must adapt to their new surroundings after being magically transported to modern-day Tokyo. It’s a simple premise, but the characters are immensely likeable, and it’s just been hugely funny in the small details.

Incidentally, I really like this hard-working demon lord, Maou, for the same reason that I conversely loathed lazy-ass Yamada from “Working!!.” Any employer would be lucky to have someone on staff with such excellent work ethic. Even I, myself, can only aspire to give as much to my company as he does to his!
(streaming at Funimation)

02. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) (ep. 1-9) – Mikasa the Giant Slayer! Now this is more like what I wanted from “JACK THE GIANT SLAYER”: terrifying, super-strong, man-eating giants!

The first 2 episodes of this intense and graphic anime were completely grim. Then suddenly, ep. 3 introduced some humour as well, which was a surprising and welcome addition to an already outstanding show.

It’s likely Attack on Titan intentionally took its time developing the characters; that way, we would get a sense that anyone is expendable. I’m glad to see now that Armin is not just a useless sidekick and Jean is evolving beyond the jealous rival role.

And now that we’ve seen some of Mikasa’s background, motivations and vulnerability, I’m admiring her more and more. It’s not often that we get to see such truly strong female characters in anime, and she’s just one of several in this show!
(streaming at Crunchyroll and Funimation)

03. Gargantia on the Verderous Planet (Suisei no Gargantia) (ep. 1-9) – It’s the far future, and humans are embroiled in an endless war with space aliens known as Hideauze. After one battle, Ledo and his A.I./mecha, Chamber, find themselves marooned on the legendary planet Earth, long thought to have been destroyed. He encounters the people of Gargantia, a community made up of ships which have been joined together. They know nothing of the war in space, while Ledo knows nothing about non-military life.

The first 4 episodes handled narrative and character development exceptionally well. The themes presented were understated and thought-provoking. Unfortunately, the following 4 episodes were mostly disappointing and used up the good will that I initially felt for the series.

Similarly, I had been trying not to be annoyed by the canker-sore-like blushes on the bodies of Amy and her friends, but after a while, I could no longer ignore that they serve as a mark of cheap fanservice in a show which should really have more dignity than that.

That said, Gargantia still features probably the sharpest and brightest animation of the season, and things appear to be heating up finally, with the major revelation in the latest episode, so I’m eager to see where it goes from here.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

04. Chihayafuru 2 (ep. 14-21) – Continues to focus exclusively on the Karuta tournament rather than advancing the stories of the main cast. Remarkably continues to be riveting nonetheless.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

05. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199) (ep. 1-10) – An updated remake of the 1970s anime, which I have not seen. The crew of the Yamato is tasked with the responsibility of finding a way to save humanity as Earth sits on the brink of destruction by alien forces. So far, the story has been compelling and the characters sympathetic.

06. Uta no Prince-sama: Maji LOVE 2000% (ep. 1-9) – UtaPri 2 is just a light confection, but it’s been pretty consistently over-the-top fun, more so than its predecessor. I like how most episodes manage to incorporate some action scenes even though this isn’t an action anime. Overall, it exceeds one’s expectations of an idol/reverse harem series. Well, the music could be better, but the awfulness can be funny too.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. Valvrave the Liberator (Kakumeiki Valvrave) (ep. 1-8) – With its huge cast of characters, the plot is sometimes hard to follow, and the motives of the various groups are unclear. Increasingly, it’s become fun to just enjoy the characters’ antics anyway. Valvrave is almost as convoluted and absurd as “GUILTY CROWN”, although this show is clearly more self-aware and intentionally ridiculous.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08. Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai) (ep. 52-60) – Mutta and his team are training in Houston, currently working on their entry for the Comeback Competition. The narrative continues to be solid, though still a bit slow-paced. This is a really good show, and I would have ranked it higher if it wasn’t for the tedious 3-episode recap at the start of the season.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince (ep. 1-9) – About a team of promising mecha pilots (ridiculed by their peers as “Fail Five”) who are struggling to meet the demands of their new roles in the military during a conflict with, you guessed it, aliens. The show displays a curious blend of humour and irony and seriousness.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san. Z (ep. 1-9) – As vulgar, violent, subversive, ugly as the first series. The first 2 episodes were awesome, partly because I “get” the Moloch fanservice. While I wouldn’t say that subsequent offerings have been terrible, I did think they were less inspired and also occasionally crossed the line between irreverently funny and genuinely offensive.
Also, there hasn’t been enough of Akutabe – or Beelzebub, for that matter. The two of them finally made their return in ep. 9, along with the introduction of a super-pervert villain. It was sooo vulgar, and yet so hilariously over-the-top that I had a huge grin on my face throughout… now I’m actually looking forward to the next episode!

11. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabucome wa Machigatteiru) (ep. 1-8) – This anime about social misfits in a high school service club retreads some ground previously covered by shows such as Hyouka, Chuu2byo, Toradora, SKET Dance, Medaka Box…
It does manage to provide some amusement most of the time, even though it pretty much has no plot. I had trouble accepting the misfit gimmick initially, but the characters are getting more fleshed out and I find I’ve been enjoying them better recently. How is it the recurring, random gag about Hachiman’s strange attraction to effeminate Totsuka is funny every time?
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. Karneval (ep. 1-9) – If only Yogi were the main character of this series. He’s fabulous, quirky and endearing and the scenes with him are always the best. The actual leads, Gareki and Nai, pale by comparison. Gareki has very little outward personality, and Nai, who seems to get by on cuteness alone, isn’t even that cute (to my eyes, anyway).
So what are Circus and the other factions after and what does it have to do with the players involved? Couldn’t tell ya.
(streaming at Funimation)

13. DEVIL SURVIVOR 2 The Animation (ep. 1-9) – Frequently unintentionally funny. For instance, the way the characters have to hold their cell phones toward the battles, so they can use their apps to fight monsters, is laughable. It probably doesn’t help that I have no familiarity with the game this is based on, but I have only a vague idea of what’s going on. And I feel nothing for the characters, even when they die.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

14. Arata the Legend (Arata Kangatari) (ep. 1-8) – At first, I was cutting this show some slack since it’s based on a seemingly well-liked manga. I wonder if maybe this adaptation has pared down the original story significantly, thereby retaining the main plot, but losing much of its heart? Either way, the result has been mediocre, at best. Ah well, there’s not much on on Mondays, and the OLDCODEX ending song is pretty good.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. RDG Red Data Girl (ep. 1-9) – I just don’t get this. RDG takes itself very seriously, but it meanders all over the place and I don’t understand what it’s about most of the time. And, I can’t fathom why other viewers recommend it so much. I can acknowledge that it’s a nice looking series, though; that’s about it.
(streaming at Funimation)

Mid-Winter 2013 Anime Ranking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-Autumn 2012 Anime Ranking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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