We are now at the halfway mark of Spring 2012, and it is time for the NHRV team to see how it has fared so far. We seem to have a generous share of sequels this season, but more importantly, we also see diverse mix of genres that would viewers with different tastes. I have mentioned before how this season may be the best in years, and although it sounds exaggerated, I believe many would agree that this season has been a great one. So without further ado, we bring you our mid-season impressions.
Introduction by: AC
Kylaran on Jormungand after 6 episodes
Aesthetically unique compared to most currently airing anime, Jormungand had the potential to develop into quite the show. With its strange music, mysterious yet occasionally psychopathic characters, and luscious gun fights, there is a lot worth taking a look at here. Unfortunately, sometimes its larger narrative never fully takes advantage of the smaller technical feats, with the story often developing awkwardly due to disconnects between one frame to the next, which doesn’t happen all that uncommonly. Come for the action, stay for the fascinating visuals and characters.
Ascaloth on Hyouka after 4 episodes
One of the late entrants of this season, Hyouka didn’t have the most auspicious circumstances at the start; blamed for the breakup of the highly successful Key/KyoAni relationship in the wake of the controversial Little Busters anime announcement, the adaptation of what was already an obscure novel series was never going to get a fair shake by lamenting fans of the studio. The fact that its premise resembled a mediocre variant of the one popularised by Kyoto Animation’s greatest hit, featuring protagonists that didn’t leave the deepest impressions, didn’t bode well for the latecomer going up against what was already a very competitive line-up of titles.
That said, Hyouka has a way of growing on one over time, for some reason. Maybe it’s the way the admittedly underwhelming mysteries have been presented, leaving clues and red herrings everywhere for viewers to notice. Maybe it’s the understated manner in which these mysteries are scaling up, slowly building up an anticipation for the revelation of the truth behind the chief mystery. And I haven’t even touched on the visuals yet, which pairs KyoAni’s signature lush visuals with the trippy animations the studio experimented with in Nichijou. Or maybe it’s Eru’s violet eyes.
AC on Folktales from Japan after 7 episodes
I think it’s fair to say that Folktales from Japan is produced to cater to mainly kids as their target viewers. Not to say that adult viewers cannot appreciate it, but the show does feel like one you would see on a Sunday morning. As I mentioned before, it’s hard to criticize classic stories generally meant to impart morals, but if one looks beyond the story itself, it is interesting to observe the influences and motives behind the stories (e.g. childless couples, living a humble life, supernatural events, people’s gullibility due to ignorance).
Although the show intends to visualize stories, I try to look beyond the surface and analyze how the stories are influenced by observations of the past. Most of the stories carry the message that good deeds beget happy endings, and this is perhaps something that the original storytellers want to tell their young listeners. Although life is never as simple as that – as we would already know – it is still nice to reminisce about the time we used to listen to feel-good stories when we were kids. Perhaps this is something we would do for further generations too.
kevo on Kids on the Slope after 5 episodes
Sakamichi no Apollon is much of what I expected: themes of character conflict and social dilemma framed by jazz in the form of the band that brings the main characters together. The love polygons are a little offsetting, probably because I expected more creativity in this show’s writing, but I still find myself invested in the characters. I enjoy the many methods the show employs to identify and explore its characters, from flashbacks to the form of Japanese they use. There is no shortage of creativity in Sakamichi no Apollon, now we just have to see how the ingredients all come together.
AC on Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna after 6 episodes
This is easily the sexiest series Spring 2012 has to offer, with Mine Fujiko getting her own spotlight in the Lupin III franchise. Aesthetically, it is a brilliant production: one that is unlike most other anime titles, it has a very strong Western flavor to it, with jazz influences to give that exotic touch. It is also a visual masterpiece; the sketchy art style and bold shading give the show that mysterious noir feel to it. As for the plot itself, there isn’t any per se: the series follows an episodic format, and thus it offers something new and refreshing every week.
Speaking of Mine, this is what the show is all about. She is an enigma who steals for the sheer thrill, and competes with Lupin in a constant cat-and-mouse game to see who clinches the ultimate prize. Every pursuit is an adventure, from one buried deep within a perilous pyramid in Egypt to one within a Catholic all-girls school. I have never watched any of the Lupin III shows beforehand, but I am damned glad that I am watching this one.
Sorrow-kun on Sankarea after 7 episodes
To me, Sankarea is “uncanny valley, the anime”. Rea looks like Railgun’s Saten, to the point that aesthetically, they’re almost indistinguishable. But she doesn’t act like Saten. The similarities are obvious, but it’s the differences that really stand out, and make it a jarring experience. But the biggest problem with this show is that it overestimates how compelling its premise is, at the expense of its characters.
The two leads are particularly infuriating. Rea is dopey, and is yet to acknowledge how much shit she’s in, while Chihiro is so one-eyed in his obsession with zombie-ism, he’s a freak. Watching Sankarea is like watching Chihiro’s wet dream play out, and the show reinforces this constantly. But I have no interest in zombie make out sessions, so what’s in it for me? Meanwhile Chihiro’s two token friends, Taniguchi and Kunikida add almost nothing to the show, and his little sister has been criminally underused. The bosomy tortured childhood friend/cousin, Ranko, is the only character I find remotely sympathetic, but she loses points for her irrational obsession with Chihiro. In fact, throw in Rea’s father, and this becomes “irrational obsession, the anime”. Ignore what I said earlier.
TypicalIdiotFan on Dusk Maiden of Amnesia after 6 episodes
Ever have one of those sudden moments of realization where something was so stupidly obvious but your mind just shut it out because it would ruin the mood? Y’know, like one half of your brain is saying “Oh crap you guys!” and the other half is going “Shut up, other half of the brain! We don’t need to know!”. Well, I had one of those moments, but refused to acknowledge it until it was printed out for me, black and white, and I had no choice but to learn it.
The protagonist is 12 years old.
Ugh. First year middle schooler… do the math other half of the brain… you should have known that already. Why oh why did I have to realize this? I was actually having fun before I learned that. No, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia isn’t particularly good. It’s a mess with the narratives and the visuals, and feels an awful lot more like Scooby Doo than Scream. Still it was cute and humorous, with a different kind of love story. But now, like Kanokon, I’m forced to basically watch a much older ghost trying to get a freak on with a child. God dammit, Japan.
AC on Zetman after 6 episodes
ZETMAN is yet another addition to the lineup of anime’s attempts at tackling Western-style superheroes. Honestly, there has yet to be one such example that gets my kudos, the Marvel-Madhouse project being a prime example of it all going wrong. Based on 6 episodes, I wouldn’t say that it is downright horrible per se, but it is derpy in a number of ways.
It’s amazing how much time warping has taken place within the first few episodes, for one. They’re not minor time warps; we’re talking about several years in between episodes. From this, I can tell how much content has been omitted to accommodate to the series length, which doesn’t seem like a good idea at all. Second, the characters are borings: Jin is a man of few words with nil personality, Kouga’s use of the word “seigi” is overkill, Konoha is a helpless worrywart and the rest are forgettable. Third, it has the B-grade cheap feel to it because of the uninspiring fights and sluggish plot. Currently at the halfway point, the show isn’t doomed to fail just yet; I’m just not sure how it would salvage itself.
Kylaran on Upotte! after 6 episodes
Though the first episode made the series look unpromising, Upotte!! has managed to keep me giggling enough times to continue. Its jokes are largely hit-or-miss (I’d say about 50%), but its character driven narrative is developing at a pace that has kept me interested in the show more than I would like to admit. On top of that, the show does a good job of drawing in lessons from real world history and politics in order to frame what otherwise would be meaningless rivalries, which in turn helps keep its pacing smooth. Above average at best, those of you interested in guns might get a kick out of watching this show.
kevo on Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos after 5 episodes
Though the show has not proactively done anything to sabotage the wealth of entertainment value it possesses, Haiyore! Nyaruko-san is starting to wear out its welcome. Though new characters are being introduced and new plot points are unfolding, I find it difficult to care about entities other than Nyaruko and Cthuko. It’s the same problem that plagues several shows built similarly to Haiyore! Nyaruko-san: it’s difficult to move the show in a direction while still maintaining the interest of the audience. Regardless, the show is still fast-paced and entertaining. Nyaruko’s energy keeps the anime afloat, partially offsetting how annoying Mahiro has gotten.
Sorrow-kun on Tsuritama after 6 episodes
I’ve been doing this “anime review” thing for years now, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so bamboozled by a show. Don’t ask me if this is good or not, I’m still trying to figure out what it is. Somehow, from a first episode about aliens and social ineptitude, this show has developed into a fishing adventure. I never would have predicted this course of events, and I’m not entirely sure I can accurately recant how we got here.
What this show is doing well is that it’s packed with character development. The unconventional (to say the least) plot can get away with being so weird because it’s merely playing a support role for the character and relationship development of the main four boys. These characters aren’t necessarily the most believable or sympathetic one might find in a quirky FLCL-esque slice-of-weird-life, but it is nice to see the way they overcome the challenges they face each episode and grow because of it, particularly Yuki.
Reckoner on Space Brothers after 7 episodes
Daring to dream big, two brothers make the promise of becoming astronauts and going to space together – sounds like an alluring and inspirational premise right? Unfortunately while the idea behind Space Brothers sounds like an easy making for an all-time classic, the execution of it across the board is quite underwhelming. Central to this is Space Brothers’ uncanny determination to play absolutely everything safe to its very detriment. It always seems to follow a predictably boring line of development, and as a result feels just too run of the mill. Instead of trying to challenge itself and truly build off its premise, it phones it in and uses it as a crutch.
Honestly, Space Brothers simply lacks maturity. Its overly optimistic and light hearted presentation removes any possible dramatic tension it could have, and by presenting reality in such a family oriented manner it ends up feeling like one of those overly sappy and fake movies off the Hallmark Channel. There is just a certain artificiality about it that drowns away the sentiment and heart felt feeling the narrative needs. Suffice to say there is almost nothing that leaves an impression about this show; Space Brothers is just boring.
Sorrow-kun on Mysterious Girlfriend X after 7 episodes
Urabe Mikoto is part normal girl and part force of nature. The point of confusion is the ratio of these two parts, and how much that ratio is changing. There’s no question it is, though, but I’d go so far to say that the changes in Urabe’s character have been spurred more by her friendship with Oka than her somewhat perverted romance with Tsubaki.
Mysterious Girlfriend X isn’t a bad anime, but it’s certainly not a great series and generally feels unpolished. It started out as incredibly weird, but it’s starting to find a rhythm more recently… it’s just that it still feels like the characters are being held at arm’s length. But these days, no anime can get by purely on how weird it is. Mysterious Girlfriend X appears to be aware of this, but the romantic aspects of the show aren’t anywhere near as interesting as it seems to think they are.
Reckoner on Eureka 7: Ao after 6 episodes
I’m not quite sure how this sequel relates too much to the original Eureka 7; there is almost nothing to tie one from the original to it. Besides the same familiar hand drawn visuals, it was hard to even tell this was a sequel. There are mentions of Eureka’s character, but of anyone else from the original there isn’t a trace. This didn’t matter initially as I thought Eureka 7 Ao seemed to retain much of the Eureka 7 spirit, but the latest episodes have started bringing many of my earlier doubts about this sequel to life.
There is just something wrong to me when you introduce stupidly contrived plot devices like “only children can pilot the IFO’s” just to get more cute little girls into pilot seats. There is especially something wrong to me when one of the characters in your show only knows how to cite otaku references and act nonchalant in the face of war. BONES did not need to update its cast or drastically change their setting to succeed and I am bit dumbfounded by why they thought so. At this point prospects of this matching up to its predecessor are looking pretty gloomy.
Kylaran on Natsuiro Kiseki after 6 episodes
High production quality pretty much sums up the best parts of this show: It’s got lovely animation to give the scenes the summer feel that it’s going for, Sphere‘s wonderful voice acting and singing, and some pretty endearing moments sprinkled into the writing. What makes the show truly fun to watch is its dynamic cast of four girls, each one of them with an interesting personality. Each episode gives us a glimpse into a specific character or the relationship between characters in a meaningful way, woven in a yet unknown direction for the narrative. It would be so much better if some of the scenes had more time to develop, because they can come off as ending far too quickly.
Reckoner on Accel World after 6 episodes
Watch out guys, Yuki Kaji of Guilty Crown fame is voicing yet another under confident, low self-esteem character and he’s uglier than ever! Well I am only being half serious here. I’m sure everyone has heard it enough, but the design of the main character Haru definitely is strange and may harm some people’s experiences. However, we should not let the talks about this overshadow what a truly great production Accel World has been. The beautifully put together audiovisual experience really makes the setting of Accel World really come alive. A virtual RPG world where people battle should be a lot of fun, and here Sunrise nails it down completely.
Accel World is by no means perfect though. The dialogue at times sounds a bit dorky, and some of the character drama is a tad overwrought at times. There is not a whole lot that is highly original about it and it sometimes plays off tropes seen and done millions of times in other works. Still Accel World is executed very well and it’s a blast to watch. What more could we want?
kevo on Saki Episode of Side A after 5 episodes
I believe that Saki: Achiga-hen Episode of Side-A has the potential to be even better than its parent story. I really enjoy how the show is truly a sequel of the first season — it’s Nationals, after all — but from a different point of view. It’s a compelling structure that gives us a chance to see a variety of different teams go toe-to-toe. I also appreciate the good pacing of this anime, now that the hardcore mahjong action has started. It’s like the show is in a hurry to get to the good part.
Ascaloth on AKB0048 after 3 episodes
An idol anime? Been there, done that, got the bloody T-shirt. Based on a real-life idol group famous in Japan, with actual members voicing the protagonists? Great, just what we need, another cynical promotional vehicle for a bunch of dancing ingenues. How about a premise created by two of the nuttiest loons in anime today – Kawamori Shoji of Macross fame and prolific scriptwriter Okada Mari – where guerilla idols travel between the stars, staging drive-by concerts for downtrodden people in a dystopian future where entertainment is a crime? Suddenly you get AKB0048, the other late entrant of the season, and a whole other ball of insane, disbelief-suspending fun.
Despite their efforts, the dialogue of the protagonists betray the No Name idols’ inexperience at voice acting. While Satelight‘s famously breathtaking CG is in full force, it does not disguise the fact that Kawamori’s setting doesn’t quite make sense. The dramatic elements penned by Okada are near the most overblown and ham-fisted instances she’s ever come up with, making it hard to take seriously. Even so, AKB0048 brings across the youthful earnestness that is the selling point of the real-life AKB48, and continues to promise a helluva joyride to the end.
Reckoner on Saint Seiya Omega after 6 episodes
The Saint Seiya franchise is revived once more in Saint Seiya Omega and it is more stylish than ever. Those familiar with Casshern Sins, would most likely be pleased to know that the same visual style is being applied here allowing for more fluid than normal animation. Besides the visuals though, Saint Seiya Omega hasn’t done anything too remarkable whether compared to other shonen action works or just other works in the Saint Seiya franchise. Most of what it has done is pretty typical fare for shonen action shows. However, the potential for greater development is there, the characters are more or less likable, and Saint Seiya has boasted some very fine works in the past. Any shonen action lover couldn’t go wrong with this series as it does what it does competently and effectively.
TypicalIdiotFan on Hiiro no Kakera after 6 episodes
I have discovered an interesting phenomenon about myself: I enjoy reverse-harems more than regular harems. I really don’t know why. Both genres feature main characters who are best described as completely and utterly bumfuck. I am a Zoey Deschanel fan, so maybe I just kind of like dorky chicks, and thus a female harem lead doesn’t bug me as much. I can sort of see what the male harem sees in the female lead. Oh, and typically the male harem members aren’t varying degrees of useless themselves.
Okay so, Hiiro no Kakera is basically a reverse harem game turned anime and it shows. Lots of dialogue, lots of the various boys having their time with our heroine, lots of closeup shots of our handsome dudes… y’know, standard crap. This one isn’t really setting itself apart from previous incarnations of the genre, like Fushigi Yuugi, through the lack of a fantastic alternate world and a stupid as hell “best friend turned enemy” are saving this from being as nonsensical. It also isn’t doing much to get me into the romance aspect, so all we’re left with is a rather commonly used plot. I guess I really don’t know what Hiiro no Kakera has going for it. It’s not shitty tho.
Ascaloth on Kuroko’s Basketball after 6 episodes
Ask anyone to name a sports manga/anime, and chances are that Slam Dunk, the eponymous Shounen Jump basketball manga/anime, will be mentioned. Fast forward two decades or so, in a time when shounen adaptations have gained a reputation for tired unoriginality suitable only for kids, and sports anime have become a rarely spotted endangered species, comes the anime adaptation of a new Shounen Jump basketball manga, The Basketball that Kuroko Plays.
Unfortunately by this point, the series has demonstrated just why shounen sports anime have become scarce if not non-existent; it brings little new to the table, even compared with its illustrious predecessor of an earlier age. Though the protagonist is different from typical shounen heroes, he was never going to carry the show without sharing the limelight with a more typical shounen hero. It portrays talented characters as having near-superhuman abilities, there are training montages, tournament arcs, almost every shounen cliche is covered. Ultimately, the best that can be said about Kuroko is that it is a servicable sports anime… which is just not good enough when it’s facing strong competition from a batch of potentially great anime this season.
TypicalIdiotFan on Medaka Box after 6 episodes
GAINAX has a long history of doing some amazing anime; Medaka Box is not one of them. Actually, I need to be fair here: Medaka Box is not a bad show, really. It has enough humor, quirky characters, and absurd situations that make it fun to watch. Arguably the greatest success of Medaka Box is making sure that the eponymous heroine flourishes in the role of a Mary Sue without being annoying about it. However, while the anime itself, and the source material it is based on, are just fine on their own, I’m still waiting for the… how should I put it… “GAINAX touch”? Having not read the manga, maybe it is already there and I just have not noticed it, but there is definitely not the typical “GO BIG” type of shenanigans that made Gurren Laggan, FLCL, or DieBuster bizarre fan favorites and not the stylish approaches that Evangelion, GunBuster, or Mahoromatic into instant classics.
Medaka Box has a certain charm that keeps it from being boring, and from what I have heard, the manga gets tons better later on. Thankfully you don’t have to just “survive” these initial offerings to get to the good stuff, like with… say… Gintama.