Winter 2012 Mid-season Impressions

The advent of 2012 seems like it was but yesterday, and already we’re halfway into the first season of the year. Coming off a resurgent year for the anime industry in terms of quality, my fellow elitists at NHRV have had high hopes that the promising titles of Winter 2012 signify a continuation of the industry’s winning streak, although the season came with its potential stinkers as well. Now that we have reached the halfway point of the current season, we pose the question once again; how did the first crop of the new year fare?
Introduction by: Ascaloth

Shinmaru on Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou after 6 episodes
I’m very prickly when it comes to anime comedies, but this series won me over long ago and has continually delivered with each episode. Whether it’s Hidenori trying to deal with Literature Girl’s contrived romantic set-ups, or the overmatched student council attempting to placate Ringo, the student council president of a nearby all-girls school, Daily Lives of High School Boys almost always finds a way to make me laugh. The skits never overstay their welcome, either; they set things up, execute the punch line and they’re out of there.

What’s also impressive is how the series depicts the girls. They’re loud, rude, obnoxious, and overbearing — in short, everything young women in anime (and most other mediums of expression) aren’t supposed to be unless it’s a deliberate charm point. For me, the girls running roughshod on the boys provides some of the funniest moments in the series. The fear in Motoharu’s eyes as his sister and her friends abuse him killed me. But the true highlight is the High School Girls Are Funky trio, who are utterly ridiculous, crazy gals. I love ‘em.

Ascaloth on Nisemonogatari after 7 episodes
Long, rambling dialogue is par for the course when it come to a Nisio Isin work, and the sequel to the 2009 runaway hit Bakemonogatari has proven itself to be no different in this regard. However, while its predecessor used the sheer amount of words for world-building and introducing the supernatural elements of the setting, the sequel has used the same resources to dig deeper into the psyches and quirks of the individual characters instead.

While this does shed a light on each of their motivations, the flip side of this approach is the glacial pace of the plot, and the way Nisio overlooks the plot in favour of digging deeper into his characters is reminiscent of how gamers engross themselves in the side quests of Skyrim in lieu of pursuing the main storyline. Character development is usually not a bad thing in itself, but this does border on overindulgence at times, and makes one want to shake the author by the shoulders, just to get him to advance the damned plot already. And that’s not even getting into the way the current arc eventually did resolve itself, which switched the pacing from “snail-like” to “abrupt concrete wall collision” at the end.

Shadowmage on Zero no Tsukaima F after 7 episodes
For an anime compared to Harry Potter, Zero no Tsukaima certainly hasn’t matured with its audience over the years. Just to remind everyone, the first Zero no Tsukaima came out in 2006. Assuming that the average viewer was in his teens back then, he will be college age or well into his twenties by now. So, this begs the question “why in the world has the show not changed?”

It’s not like Louise beating up Saito or Saito grabbing Siesta’s breasts have gotten funnier over the years. And it’s not like the show has a formula that is anything close to timeless. Everything that Zero no Tsukaima F has to offer has been done a minimum of 3 times already, and I’m glad that this has been announced as the final season since this horse needs to be put to rest.

Ano Natsu de Matteru

TypicalIdiotFan on Ano Natsu de Matteru after 6 episodes
Now that the romantic drama wheels are turning, we’re getting to see what it is Ano Natsu is supposed to be about. Sorrow-kun already put out his thoughts on the levels of frustration that accompany young love, which has become a staple of Nagai Tatsuyuki‘s works. How tangled these relationships are going to get remains to be seen. Right now, the interests seem fixed, but they could evolve. They do need to steer away from too many more episodes like six, which added in two plot devices that were so obvious that it became frustrating instead for the audience to put up with it. Still, they seem to be on the right track with a more “love is rough” motif than your typical vomit inducing “love is beautiful” romantic crap.

What this show isn’t supposed to be about at all is space aliens. Aside from Ichika breaking the rules with some technobologna every so often, there isn’t any reason at all for her to be a space alien. She fits in so well with Japanese society, as the (almost) perfect yamato nadeshiko, that she might as well have just been a Japanese national with red hair and a weird hamster pet thing.

Ascaloth on Moretsu Pirates after 7 episodes
For a series with a premise which looks like a cross between the mindless, trashy fun shows of the 90s and the mindless, cute-high-school-girls-doing-cute-things shows of the 00s, Mouretsu Pirates has been unexpectedly impressive with its in-depth take on the technical details of a near-future spacefaring human civilization. Although the pace has been moving quite a bit slowly than one would think a space pirates story would expect, it comes across as more deliberate than contrived, and is clearly taking pains to ground the science fiction setting in as much hard science as plausible.

The series’ depiction of space warfare, in particular, manages the impressive feat of looking realistic, stylistic quirks aside; when a show like this can manage to impress soldier-boys with intense focus on tactical details like (space) terrain effects, misdirection, and command cycle timing amongst others, it becomes clear that there has been more thought put into the production of this series than it looks. The last couple of episodes may have felt rushed and undeveloped by comparison to the first arc, but Mouretsu Pirates remains a title with much potential going for it.

Shinmaru on Another after 6 episodes
You know you are long past the point of taking a show seriously when a daydream sequence involving two morose lead characters dancing merrily is your favorite scene in the series. Another actually has a decent conflict at its core: at times, the story is able to make the alienation Mei and Kouichi feel truly palpable and somewhat sad. Another piles on the gravity a bit thick, but as a longtime fan of horror, I’m used to that.

Unfortunately, the way that alienation manifests in the plot is beyond stupid. The system for ensuring that each student makes it through alive in his or her year in this malevolent class is such a mind-blowingly idiotic story idea. It’s hand-waved a bit with the statement that it works maybe half the time, but the fact that it works at all is so silly and convoluted. Add some hilariously contrived deaths to the mix (umbrella!) and what you have is a show I’m enjoying for the pure dumb of it.

Reckoner on Area no Kishi after 7 episodes
Area no Kishi may bear many similarities to Adachi Mitsuru‘s works (Cross Game, Touch), but it is definitely lacking several defining qualities of Adachi’s craft whether it be his mastery of subtlety, execution, or just his basic know how of the sports genre. For all those that hoped for a sports anime akin to an Adachi classic, this is probably not going to live up to those expectations. However, this should not be a strike against this anime since really that is much too unfair of a standard to ever place on it.

This is not to say that there is not anything to rightfully take issue with in this show, sometimes you have to live with nonsense like a player losing something like fifty pounds in ten days, but that there is still plenty to like about what Area no Kishi has accomplished in its early goings. It has established a clear emotional hook, provided an endearing character dynamic between the main character Kakeru and his female friend Seven, and has already legitimized itself as a sports anime with its first game episodes. Personally I think Area no Kishi has definitely more than earned a fair shot to impress.

Ascaloth on Aquarion EVOL after 8 episodes
Despite being the brainchild of the same man who created the Macross franchise, Aquarion has never been synonymous with ‘good storytelling’, and the sequel is little different in that regard. Indeed, there may be many hilarious reasons to keep following Aquarion EVOL — schizophrenic technology, incomprehensible posterior-derived spiels that explain nothing, and barely concealed sexual innuendo — but ‘logical plot’ is not one of them. If nothing else, Aquarion EVOL is certainly not a show for anyone who lacks an ‘off’ switch for their higher-order mental faculties.

That said, when it comes to the wholly illogical premises of Super Robot shows, the one sin such shows cannot afford is to become boring. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is plaguing Aquarion EVOL at the moment; it is starting to play out as a series of high school hijinks, meaningless spiels, unique villain robots, and Aquarion powers and transformations of the week. This is perhaps unavoidable, given Aquarion EVOL‘s need to build the setting all over again for those who never saw the original Sousei no Aquarion, but the series could stand to advance the plot progression a bit faster than it is now.

AC on Kill Me Baby after 7 episodes
I still think that this show is merely cute, in particular how Yasuna continues to tease Sonya over the most mundane and random of gags and how they continually engage in pointless conversations. The sheer cuteness of the series is almost enough to put a tiny grin on my face but the main pet problem persists: for a comedy, it’s just not funny at all. All the gags follow a similar pattern: Yasuna introduces a theme, Sonya refuses to entertain her but eventually does, Yasuna makes fun of Sonya and Sonya lastly hands Yasuna some form of corporal punishment.

Furthermore, the other two characters Agiri and the Unused Character don’t feel substantial to the show, thus making it feel like the only two character that matter are Yasuna and Sonya only. In brief, Kill Me Baby fails as a comedy. It’s more boring than funny, the gag style is a one-trick pony and the series doesn’t offer anything fresh to the audience. Sure, the OP/ED may still put a smile on the audience’s faces, but it means nothing when the main course itself fails to deliver.

Shadowmage on Black Rock Shooter (TV) after 3 episodes
One of these days I’m going to get on Final Cut Pro and split Black Rock Shooter into two separate shows. One will be a melodrama about two school girls becoming best friends. The other will be a series of anime style video game cut scenes. Neither will be particularly good but both will be far superior to what Black Rock Shooter is now. For some inexplicable reason, the anime tries to build a meaningful drama from unremarkable characters set in a generic plot with the “interesting” hook being that their internal emotions are somehow personified with fight scenes amongst their alter egos. The problem is that the core drama itself feels so rushed and so forced that the fight scenes fail to feel meaningful and just come across as confusing.

While underlying the concept of the project is ambitious, the presentation is not at the level it needs to be to make it look like anything other than pretentious. Much like Ordet‘s previous work Fractale, Black Rock Shooter needs to work out its fundamentals before it tries to be special.

Shinmaru on Senki Zesshou Symphogear after 7 episodes
This series is still duking it out with Guilty Crown for the coveted “Dumbest Show I Am Still Watching” championship belt. Occasionally the dumbness works in the show’s favor: the battles are all ridiculous and stupid, and the animation quality varies wildly among them, but at least they’re not boring. Nobody expects a series revolving around the Power of Song to be a shining beacon of intelligence with its fighting, anyway. The sheer excess and gravity surrounding the fights is a laugh riot, too.

What’s also a laugh riot is the friendship between protagonist Hibiki and her best friend and roommate, Miku. Everything comes to a head in the latest episode when Miku abandons Hibiki because Hibiki never told Miku that she was off fighting monsters and stuff when she cut off plans with Miku. But, love, we said no secrets! No secrets ever! If Miku doesn’t have some special powers and ends up as the new toy of the naked villainess who is definitely not Ryoko I don’t know where you would get that idea, I’ll be shocked. And when it does happen, I will be laughing all the while.

Amagami SS

TypicalIdiotFan on Amagami SS Plus after 7 episodes
Why in the fuck is this being made? I know, I said this with the First Thoughts for this season, but I can’t help but keep wondering. If the creators felt like they didn’t get all the story in they wanted, well that might be true but only for a couple of the girls. Kaoru’s original arc got kind of an abrupt ending with a lame still frame epilogue, so, yeah; and, of course, everybody hated Rihoko being “friend-zoned” at the end of hers, which has been corrected. But there’s nothing else that needs to be said with the others, and the arcs have reflected that.

Ayatsuji’s arc might as well not have had Junichi in it at all. He was a plot device for a feud between Ayatsuji and a heretofore unseen chick. This is beyond stupid since we got a rather nice ending, complete with love-child, for these two. I argue with S-K that Junichi has never hit Nanasaki, even in the hot springs when she was bucked nekkid. So we get two more episodes, set a year later, and he still hasn’t. Where’s my table? I gotta flip a fucking table just thinking about it! I hate this anime!

AC on Natsume Yuujinchou Shi after 7 episodes
I personally believe that all things should end while they’re still good, and Natsume Yuujinchou is no exception. It’s currently in the fourth season and it makes me wonder why the story hasn’t tackled the issue of Reiko’s demise. Reiko has been one of the most enigmatic characters in the series, and it’s quite an injustice that not much time has been dedicated to explore her story in detail. As for the series itself, it has so far been mixed but I’ve figured out what kind of episodes the show is better at narrating.

The series, or the whole Natsume Yuujinchou universe, are divided into 2 kinds of episodes: one involving Natsume’s real-life accounts and experiences, and the other involving the background stories of the people and youkai around Natsume. Apparently, the latter type of episodes is most engaging to watch and perhaps that’s the reason why the first season to me is the best among all the seasons since it has more of such episodes than others. For now, I’m not sure if this fourth installment is indeed the last, but I think it’s about time that it introduces some form of closure.

Reckoner on Papa no Iu Koto wo Kikinasai! after 6 episodes
With Studio Feel behind this it was hard to not think this would have devolved into an embarrassing display of low grade fanservice comedy, and sure, there are many unsavory elements present that make Papakiki! feel a bit too immature. This includes distasteful fanservice of some of the younger girls, a perverted college classmate who is trying to approach and stalk the nieces of the main character, or even just the crude nature of some of the conversations throughout the show. However, despite all this Papakiki! has for the most part has avoided any major pit falls in this area and has managed to build a narrative that can at least be taken semi-seriously and perhaps slightly heartfelt.

Ultimately though this series is not something I would consider quality entertainment. Too many times does it side step the more meaty aspects of guardianship and make the experience feel too trivial for its own good. While this certainly never seemed like a truly serious approach to guardianship like Usagi Drop, I do not feel this precludes it from having to justify the use of its premise in the first place. Papakiki! may not be trash, but it is not good either.

Shadowmage on Rinne no Lagrange after 7 episodes
Since K-ON! proved that guys are willing to watch cute girls doing cute things without an insert male lead character to project themselves on, can Rinne no Lagrange prove that guys are willing to watch cute girls doing shounen mecha action things without an insert male lead as well? Considering that I’m mystified by the appeal of K-ON!, I’ll give a shrug and a “why not” as Rinne no Lagrange is a reasonably entertaining mecha series by its own merits.

Sure, the old trope of a school age kid by a series of unfortunate circumstances becoming a pilot isn’t the most compelling way to start a series, but the happy-go-lucky lead is more likable than the Ikari Shinji clones that inundate the genre, and she’s good looking to boot. While silly antics are abound in the first 7 episodes, they have done a modest job at making me care about the characters before the real drama unfolds in the final stretch.

AC on High School DxD after 7 episodes
Truth be told, this is a crappy show that doesn’t beat around the bush over what it wants to be: a harem comedy full of fanservice. It’s crude, it’s in-your-face and it’s pretty much straightforward, but perhaps these are the reasons why, despite it being a crappy show, watching it doesn’t feel like a chore at all. I embarked on this series expecting an over-the-top silly fun and that’s exactly what I’m getting, so I don’t feel disappointed at all. Plus, it’s the kind where I can just have some gratuitous fun watching whatever is on the screen without feeling the need to be emotionally invested in it.

Perhaps another reason why I don’t hate DxD is because of the male protagonist Issei, the one character voiced by Kaji Yuki that doesn’t grate on my nerves. He’s lucky bastard who’s constantly surrounded by girls (i.e. harem) and he knows the situation he’s in. He’s basically a horndog who wants to be the Harem King, and characters that play things straight are those I enjoy watching more than the cliched clueless guy whom all the female characters are fighting over.

TypicalIdiotFan on Recorder and Randsell after 7 episodes
I’ve not changed my opinion on Recorder and Randsell since the First Thoughts article. I cannot begin to understand why this is only a three minute per episode format nor why it is a comedy. I think the worst offense to both is that when an episode goes flat, it is basically a three minute long waste of time. In other comedies, like Kill Me Baby, having more time to run a few more gags past people gives a greater chance of at least one of them being funny. Call it a shotgun method, if you will, but there should be at least one “yuck” or two from KMB, even if you don’t think it’s that funny. RnR doesn’t have that option, and so the viewer is left with a sense of disappointment.

The other problem is that the comedy is based primarily on one joke, and that’s Atsushi’s genetic disorder which makes a ten year old boy look more like a twenty year old man. The common misunderstanding is that Japanese people and cops are all paranoid about seeing an “adult” walking with elementary school girls, etc. Otherwise, it’s Atsumi’s friend Sayo falling in love with “a child”. Yep, thems the gags, folks.

Reckoner on Inu x Boku SS after 6 episodes
Inu x Boku SS accomplishes the remarkable feat of making this season’s Moretsu Pirates seem like Code Geass in terms of pacing. I honestly cannot believe that this anime is already six episodes in since what really has happened so far? It feels like an over extended prologue without much of substance having been touched at all. Perhaps most mind boggling to me at the moment is the inclusion of supernatural elements into this story since it is so insignificant to this anime that it might as well not exist at all.

It probably does not help that the only real plot we do have is that surrounding the tsun shun tendencies of the main character Ririchiyo. The audience is constantly bludgeoned in the face with her usual routine of acting haughty towards people around her, only to feel badly about it afterward, which quickly becomes quite tiresome. Even worst is how the character Soushi repeatedly bows down and worships Ririchiyo like a dog. Considering this mind numbing, boring, and shallow character dynamic is the main focus of the show, I cannot help but feel that Inu x Boku SS is turning out to be a massive waste of time.

TypicalIdiotFan on Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki after 7 episodes
I’ve got 200 words to tell you all about an anime featuring a cat that is round as a ball named Poyo and the people around him. Not sure I’m going to make it.

As you undoubtedly know by now, I hate three minute per episode anime. Poyopoyo doesn’t fall into nearly the same traps as others. Keeping things at a frenetic pace helps; dishing out the gags and cuteness at light speeds prevents boredom and allows for the “shotgun method” I mentioned in the Recorder and Randsell blurb. Thus, if you’re a fan of the zillions of YouTube and NicoNico Douga videos of people’s cats doing funny or bizarre things, you’ll probably enjoy this. There’s no plot to speak of, so you don’t have to worry about thinking too hard either. There’s just nothing here for the rest of us, so Poyopoyo ends up just being a really niche show. I’ve actually been using it as sort of a “cool off” anime by squeezing it between my viewings of Moretsu Pirates and Ano Natsu. So I guess even if you don’t like cute cats doing cute things, it works well as a bumper.

(194 words. Nope, didn’t make it.)

8 Responses to “Winter 2012 Mid-season Impressions”

  1. The Natsume manga is still ongoing and sales for the series have always been good. There is no way this season will be the last. Of course personally I’m quite happy about that. Although Natsume has always been my favorite character of the series.

    I’m an also enjoying Another (except the horror aspect everything else works for me) but its the only other new show I’m following this winter.

    Chihayafuru continuing from the fall is still the best!

  2. I think the only thing of consequence that’s happened so far in Amagami SS+ is that they fixed the Rihoko ending. Everything else has been utterly pointless.

    I wasn’t a huge fan of the fact that they introduced plot device characters to accelerate the plot in Ano Natsu, but I guess they achieved their purpose. The upcoming episodes are going to be very interesting.

  3. @Kim

    I believe you already understand how I feel towards Natsume Yuujinchou as a whole, so I won’t repeat myself. I just feel like the show needs to offer me something new and refreshing (other than closure). Sure, having more stories isn’t necessarily bad but I gradually find myself just evaluating the series based episode performance (i.e. good episode or not?) rather than as a whole.

    As for Rinne no Lagrange, something about the show annoys me. Maybe it’s Madoka being a simpleton for worrying more about ruining her neighbor’s lawn during a mecha fight, or maybe it’s how she keeps saying “maru” for approval to something. I just feel like I’m watching Broken Blade: another XEBEC production with high production values but forgettable characters and an unengaging story.

    As we need moar shows like Highschool DxD, seriously. Harem as a whole needs moar horny male leads who knows what’s going on around him.

  4. @AC

    Yes I understand your feelings towards the series and I respect them. If the show isn’t doing it for you anymore well then it’s not. But I think the problem is you are hoping for something that is not going to happen (well at least not till the end and that is still some time off).

    Natsume is always going to have an episodic feel and it will only slowly reveal stuff about Natsume’s past and develop his character quietly along the way. It’s not the type of series where there is going to be a big bang or major change. I know that is not going to work for everyone but it does work for me and it seems it works for an audience in Japan (since the series is still doing very well over there) so of course they are not going to end it.

    And let me biased and say it’s nice to have a long running shoujo that is focused on friendship not romance. Natsume still feels like a breath of fresh air to me in that regard. It’s soothing comfort food for me. But I think you will just be disappointed since you are waiting for something the show just isn’t going to be.

  5. Symphogear is the worst show Ive seen in awhile. Every week my friend and I ask why were still watching. The singing while they fight is so impossible, not that I expect every show to be 100% realistic, but come on! At least its funny??
    Black Rock Shooter broke my heart. I was so excited and now I’m just disappointed. I keep wanting it to get better. I keep EXPECTING it to get better and it just doesn’t.
    Danshi Koukousei No Nichijou and Ano Natsu de Matteru are current vying for my favorite spot this season, which is surprising! I wasn’t expecting to like them as much I do. I was anticipating BRS and Another the most and those are definitely not my favorites thus far.

  6. No secrets ever, Miku! Even when the government forces us to sign NDAs forbidding us from telling each other those secrets!

  7. If you won’t commit treason for me, then you’re no friend at all!

  8. i love all the shows and their season plus episodes they are all funny and cool.
    i love any japanese show (as long as its not to boring!)
    i will go to japan one day with my bfffl (best friend for life!)

    -asa

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