Winter 2013 Mid-season Impressions

Winter 2013

We’re a bit late with this post, but that means we have all the more to say about this ongoing season’s shows. Although some of the most popular of currently airing anime are holdovers from last season, there remains an important question: How do they stack up part way into their second cour, and are the newer shows capable of keeping up? As we usually do with the Mid-season analysis, here’s our slightly more elaborately stated thoughts on a subset of the shows we chose to cover earlier in the season. Also, don’t forget that we’re currently in the midst of our annual Staff Contest!
Introduction by: Kylaran

Shinmaru on AKB0048 Next Stage after 8 episodes
We here at The Nihon Review have neglected AKB0048 for quite a while — no longer, now that I have caught up! Second Stage continues the grand tradition of wacky action and idol ladder climbing, with an extra dash of conspiracy. As in the first season, I love how the characters are fleshed out to a shocking degree; I still can’t believe I actually care about the foibles of these girls and their pop-terrorist careers. In particular, the relationship between Takamina and Kanata is painful in the best way. I feel terrible for both those girls! There are a couple of odd things for me, though: One is that the pacing feels … off. I’m still not convinced that this will be the final season of AKB0048, especially when it still seems as if there’s a lot to wrap up and explore. The second is that there are some inconsistencies with the idol-making process, particularly when it comes to what exactly the idols do and do not know about succession. But whatever. Those problems don’t make AKB0048 any less worth watching.

TypicalIdiotFan on Kotoura-san after 8 episodes
As we round the corner and head towards the ending of Kotoura-san, I cannot help but be simply amazed by everything the show has tried to do. The first episode intro alone, which feels like the kind of thing that would explain the existence of an evil X-men character, is one of the most ambitious ways of developing a character I’ve seen outside of a Key drama. From there, though, the show constantly flips and skirts the lines between rambunctious comedy and deep melodrama. Sometimes, neither works as well as it should, but the contrast makes for an extremely mood-whiplashy show. Personally, I’ve been enjoying having a show that treads the darkside a bit, as people who have shit happen to them should have it happen to them in a way that makes you actually FEEL for the character. On the other hand, the rest of the show is such a bright, peppy, by-the-numbers rom-com that I can’t help but feel a bit jarred. I’ve honestly enjoyed the crap out of this, and hope it ends well, but there is no mistaking that Kotoura-san will polarize the viewers in a way I haven’t seen since Elfen Lied.

Kylaran on Love Live!! after 8 episodes
Though it still remains to be seen if this show is capable of keeping its momentum going, it’s got several things going for it despite being a moeblob idol show filled with unpolished voice actresses and sometimes character animation. The first most important of these elements is the background music, which has off-the-chart production levels; just as I would find it nearly impossible for an idol group to succeed without the business and creative expertise of an excellent producer, this show is highly dependent on the amount of investment that’s being put into its creation. This shows. Second well-done element is the fact that each of the characters are somewhat more unique than I would’ve guessed, with characters like Maki and the student council president being standouts among the cast in particular. HNNNGGGGHHHH moments are fewer than anticipated, but if the writing for particular moments is solid enough there’s a sprinkle of those times where your heart gives way to the moe. Third, the show doesn’t try to treat being an idol like it’s some skill all the characters are born with (though Uta no Prince-sama does this and succeeds fairly well at it). It’s got moments where we truly want to believe that the characters are working hard toward their dreams. Still, I would argue that these scenes aren’t nearly enough to balance out the amount of failed comedic attempts.

If anything, this show needs more music and more drama. It’s got enough comedy.

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Shinmaru on Vividred Operation after 8 episodes
Somehow I am still hanging on. This is still quite a dopey, silly series with little girl butts everywhere, little girls riding on jets like surfboards, little girls combining to make bigger little girls that blow stuff up real good, ferrets making serious speeches, and an emotionally distraught little girl being ordered around by a raven. All this dumb, goofy stuff is barely keeping me on the side of approval. Anime has surely corrupted me to a horrifying degree, but truth be told, there’s a lot of fun stuff going on in Vividred, even though a lot of the content is laughable. Most of the fun stuff has to do with little girls whacking gross aliens and blowing them up. You’re guaranteed a least one or two bits of animation that look WAY better than almost anything else airing right now. And, again, there are the times when Vividred tries to be emotionally poignant when a man whose spirit has been swapped into a ferret’s body is speaking. This is why I keep watching.

Reckoner on Chihayafuru S2 after 8 episodes
Although Madhouse has more or less delivered the same quality experience of the first season, there have been a few issues starting to crop up in Chihayafuru. The pacing does not seem anywhere near as crisp as events are blazed through without a single respite. Another problem is that despite there being new karuta club members, the story has yet to integrate these characters in an interesting enough way. The original karuta club members are who continue to be the most endearing and engaging. In comparison Sumire and Tsukuba fall remarkably flat. Still, these are small hiccups in what continues to be a very pleasant series. The karuta matches continue to be as intense and enthralling as ever. Furthermore, the incoming drama of the school tournament arc promises to be a very thrilling ride. Excluding continuing Fall shows, Chihayafuru is unmatched this season in entertainment value.

AC on Psycho-Pass after 19 episodes
I love Psycho-Pass to bits. And I don’t just love this show; I appreciate it a lot more than other shows in recent memory because it’s the type of thriller that doesn’t come by so often in anime these days. Perhaps the reason why I like this show so much is also because it’s so much like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex in so many ways: the story is intelligent, the detective plot is amazingly executed and all the characters have a story to tell. Speaking of characters, the riveting protagonist-antagonist pairing of Kougami and Makishima draws so much parallel with that of Batman and Heath Joker, and just when the story seem to draw to a premature end in the series, another major plot twist occurs. I just can’t wait to see how the story comes to an end, and I hope there will be more of such series to come in the future.

OreShura Winter Mid-season

Kylaran on Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi wa Shurabasugiru after 8 episodes
This show doesn’t really have much going for it if you were break it down into parts. Its jokes are a tame version of last season’s KyoAni powerhouse anime Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!, the animation isn’t the most consistent, its characters are more caricatures than human beings, and the story isn’t really progressing anywhere. However, when you combine all of these elements together into a complete show, there’s some aspect of this series that keeps me watching it without getting too bored (though by no means am I jumping out of my seat in excitement to watch it every season). It’s got a fairly strong voice cast, with my personal favorite being Harusaki Chiwa’s Akasaki Chinatsu, though other talents such as Kayano Ai and Tamura Yukari are also helping to keep the series afloat by bringing life to somewhat uninspired jokes. A few animation gems here and there, such as the choices to use imaginary cut scenes or scribbling to for the times when Masuzu reads Eita’s journal, come at such unexpected moments you can’t help but think the animators of this show know how to keep you watching similar to how slot machines keep you from leaving the seat. Unfortunately, I only see the story going downhill from here if it remains on its generic harem romance route toward an indecisive ending in which the main character never chooses a girl.

TypicalIdiotFan on Shin Sekai Yori after 22 episodes
Gripping, dark, and provocative, Shin Sekai Yori has unfolded neatly layer by layer with each episode. As we head towards the grand finale, I cannot help but be amazed at everything I’ve seen thus far. Sure, there’s some squicky moments early on, for those of you too immature to be able to handle a bit of homoerotica, but everything has flowed together neatly into an expanding epic story of human arrogance and justifiable paranoia. Looking back now, there were so many hints given that foreshadowed the tragic events of the story climax, that I must slap my forehead for being so clueless as to their import. There are some wonky parts, especially in the choices for individual episode animation direction, and some lacking explanation to certain events that would make the viewing experience more clear, but overall this has been one hell of a story. One thing to take away from Shin Sekai Yori is that not all dystopian future stories are made equal. Occasionally, you’ll find one like this, where even a central domineering government can seem logical in the face of the more frightening consequences.

Reckoner on Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited after 8 episodes
As I said before, I am a complete outsider on this franchise. It is only now that I finally realized that this anime is basically Japanese X-Men. The mastermind Hyobu, whose adventures we have been following this entire time, is basically Magneto. He wishes to eliminate all the normal people for the sake of all espers. Meanwhile we got some other group called BABEL which is like Professor Xavier’s academy of mutants that is fighting for cohabitation of espers and normal humans.  Certainly the plotline is not too unique, but its execution has been pretty strong. The characters have likewise seen much more development since the early goings, which is appreciated because they felt like complete ciphers earlier. While I was but a careful onlooker when I last talked about this show, I can now confidently say that I am looking forward to what happens next here.

Shinmaru on Tamako Market after 8 episodes
I love Tamako Market’s setting. It’s one of the finer cozy neighborhoods I’ve seen in anime. Even though it’s built on a foundation of whimsy and absolute altruism, the marketplace feels genuine and warm. One of the chief complaints I’ve read about Tamako Market is that it doesn’t feel as if it’s going anywhere and that there’s barely any overarching plot. I don’t particularly care about that. I’m more than content to watch charming interactions among the girls, the community operate as a whole, and Dera be a fat, silly, mincing bird. In fact, I am most worried about the drama the wife search will stir up. I’m not convinced it will add anything of value, but I suppose we’ll see about that.

Robotics Notes

AC on Robotic;Notes after 19 episodes
You know, I remembered how heavily anticipated up this series was before its debut for Winter 2012/2013. Since it is the follow-up to Steins;Gate, which was a great series, and it is produced by Production I.G, I can see the anticipation by a lot of people but after 19 episodes, I can safely say that it was all just shallow hype. The story is caught up between two disconnected plots: on one hand, a massive conspiracy that affects the whole world, and on another, a group passionate kids trying to build a working robot. On top of trying to connect the dots of the whole story, I don’t feel anything for the characters at all. The whole show is a mess and the story severely lacks focus and pacing. If only the show didn’t spend too much time on them trying to build a robot and spend more time trying to weave the two plots together, it would have at least come close to emulating the same success as its predecessor.

TypicalIdiotFan on Maoyuu Maou Yuusha after 9 episodes
If I was forced to sum this show up as succinctly as possible with a seven word limit, I would say “good idea marred by bad directing choices”. If you told me to do it in only two words, I would just say “shit sucks”. Why would I say such a thing, you ask, or didn’t ask, but I’m going to explain myself anyway?  To be blunt, the show has a single glaring and crippling flaw: too much material crammed into a limited run time. As an example, our Demon Queen is far too knowledgeable for the surrounding environment. There is an explanation for it, but in order to get said explanation, you’ll have to read the light novels. As with any adaptation that tries to do too much within a static window, a lot of important details and nuances are going to be sacrificed in order to get the majority of the story details animated. For me, the other glaring problem is just how out of place our heroes seem compared to their time-place or even fantasy based contemporaries. They are as modernist in thought as I am, which is stupid in a land of superstition, good and evil, magic, and lots and lots of war.

3 Responses to “Winter 2013 Mid-season Impressions”

  1. Sad to see that no one mentioned Boku Ha :(

    Nothing really surprising overall as the shows that have notable production values are the ones to stand out. I might pick up Psycho-Pass with the positive impression given here.

  2. Stuff not included in the article and opinion in only two words:

    Problem Children – Funny bunny
    Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – Crack cocaine
    Senyu – JRPG assfucking
    Encouragement of Climb – It’s there
    Mangirl – Stupidly educational
    AiMaiMi – The fuck?
    Ishida & Asakura – The… …fuck?
    Imouto Osaka-Okan – Foxworthy worthy
    Hakkenden – Bad dogs
    Cuticle Detective Inaba – Hell no
    Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman – Not Lupin
    Amnesia – Paint drying
    GJ Club – Why furry?
    Minami-ke Tadaima – Hosaka lives!
    Little Busters! – Coming around
    Blast of Tempest – Oh Aika…
    Magi – Nopan Moe-rgiana
    Ixion DT – MY BALLS!
    Pet Girl – Autism everywhere

    S’all I’ve seen.

  3. […] these in mind, I turn to the critiques (e.g. here and here) that have been levied at the show, which center around the show “not knowing what it […]

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