Spring 2013 Mid-season Impressions

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It is now a little past midway through a summer season chock full of bombastic, absurd, or downright bizarre titles. Whether or not one finds this to be a good season, I think we can at least agree that it has been memorable, for better or worse. So how have your seasonal favorites fared? Is Attack on Titan worth the hype? Did Urobuchi Gen find a soul in Suisei no Gargantia? Are any of us still sane after enduring most of Ore no Imouto S2? Come check out what the NHRV staff has to say about this and more!
Introduction by: Reckoner


Shinmaru on Aku no Hana after 10 episodes
Um, wow. How about that most recent episode? Aku no Hana has become better by the episode, in particular with the use of silence to add atmosphere. I’m so used to every form of visual entertainment pumping in music all the time that it’s refreshing when a show allows stretches of minutes to go by with nary a sound (or, at most, muted music). There’s so much foreboding that I constantly forget that I’m watching middle schoolers act out. For the most part, Aku no Hana lets the physical and vocal acting speak for itself, and I love that. Aside from the drama, though, I don’t think Aku no Hana has received nearly enough credit for being quite funny. It reminds me of Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, which is likewise horrifying to watch and hilarious in a dark, uncomfortable way. Nakamura is the agent of chaos who keeps Aku no Hana from becoming too morose. Her gleeful emotional torture of Kasuga is a shining beacon of black humor. Aku no Hana is my favorite series of winter by a good distance.

Arabesque on Crime Edge after 9 episodes
At the start of the season I had given the highest possible ranking to Crime Edge’s introductory episodes. As we near the end of the season, I can’t help but be surprised by how little my opinion has changed since then. The show’s premise has only become stranger, and correspondingly, its charm increases with that. The relationship between Kiri and Iwai has gone on to be one that made me seriously consider couple of the year after the latest episode. Sure, it is hard at first to differentiate whether Kiri’s display of affection is done through him engaging in his strange fetish, but I don’t think there is any denying the scene is just the perfect medley of eroticism, sexuality and pure young love. From how the two are left alone to reflect on the horrible events that had unfolded to them and how that leads on to the display of both physical and emotional affection between them, I couldn’t help but be left amazed by what I had just seen. All what is left now is a strong finisher and I might just have found my No. 1 romance anime of the year.

TIF on My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected after 10 episodes
Haganai did it first; Yahari is doing it better, sorta. The idea of a group of social morons getting together to help overcome their issues and, thus, become friends is an interesting plot element. It allows for a diverse blend of characters to be made and for each to explore their own issues. However, while Haganai decided to be a little more fan friendly with the sex appeal and the comedy, Yahari has tried to take a much more serious look at the hangups that prevent people from “just being themselves” and coming together to form relationships. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the point of view only comes from a single character, Hachiman Hikigaya, and does not allow us to get more insight into the goings on of Yukinoshita or Yuigahama, or anybody else for that matter. As such, while Hachiman’s deadpan snarking and self-degrading comments give us a long look at how he screws himself over, it prevents anybody else from making any headway. This isn’t to say that this method doesn’t work either, because Hachiman IS plenty screwed up, and he still manages to wax philosophical enough to drive the show on his own. I’m just hoping that things expand a little more, though this is doubtful seeing as the show will only be a single cours.

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Shadowmage on Attack on Titan after 10 episodes
I swear that director Tetsuro Araki was born to direct Attack on Titan. It’s a show that has the bombast and energy that Araki seems to convey so well in his over-the-top visuals and subtlety-be-damned direction. Due to the combination of thick tension and some visual mastery, there is a kind of horrifying grandeur to the Titans. They truly feel like massive monsters out to eat humans. While I admit that I’m slightly disappointed that the latest episodes have shown that Titans are governed more by magic than more realistic alternatives, the explanation the anime presents offer interesting paths that the plot can explore.

Though the series overall offers nothing truly radical for the anime medium as a whole, Attack on Titan is a genuinely suspenseful action series, and it offers a kind of breath of fresh air with its core concepts realized by the flamboyance of director Araki.

Reckoner on Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S after 9 episodes
Considering this is the fourth addition to the Raildex franchise, Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S demands skepticism as the risk of story degradation, phoned in production efforts, or the show feeling plain dated only increase as time goes on. That is why it is an encouraging sign in any long running franchise when the overall production quality continues to elevate with each passing season, as Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S is by far the best paced, directed, and animated season of all the Raildex titles. Although extremely familiar, this new season of Railgun manages to somehow still be fresh and entertaining.

Better yet, the material in this second season of Railgun is frankly a whole lot more interesting and engaging than much of its predecessor. The Sisters arc in Railgun is decidedly more serious and offers quality plot and character introspection that was often lacking in its first season. However, there is little to like here if one did not enjoy any previous Raildex series. The shonen style action, quirky characters with unique speech patterns, and preposterous setting details are all here to stay. But if you’re still here with it after all of this, then there must be something that one likes about this franchise, and I can promise you will get more of the same.

Shinmaru on Kakumeiki Valvrave after 9 episodes
Valvrave is a strange series, and my feelings about it are equally strange. I can’t decide whether it’s a “good” or “bad” series; in fact, while watching it, such designations hardly matter at all to me. What appeals to me most about Valvrave is its odd tone. All the show’s events are heightened to the point of farce. There are body-switching “vampires,” a country formed almost entirely of teenagers, the power of social media (which is how I think a country of teens WOULD get people to rally behind them), live streams of mecha battles, and a boy whose plots are so convoluted that he’s either omniscient or cheating. It’s difficult to take any of it seriously. I don’t believe the show does, but it does play everything straight, which gives Valvrave an odd sort of charm. It’s definitely having lots of fun with its ridiculousness; just look at the scene in which one character forgoes humanity to become a pilot and celebrates by using the mecha to run and dance joyously. Valvrave is a thoroughly silly series, and that is why I love it so much.

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Arabesque on Majestic Prince after 10 episodes
As the halfway point comes closer, I’m finding myself liking Majestic Prince a fair bit. It doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking compared to the other mecha offerings we have this season, and it can be rough around the edges. Still, past those small problems, I find myself quite engaged with the series. From the fantastic CG animation and great mecha designs to the group dynamics that are nicely growing and the interesting themes attached to the central conflict, I can’t help but find myself be drawn in week after week. And I know I’m going to get the funny eye for saying this, but I find that the character designs by Hisashi Hirai add a lot of flavour and personality to the cast that would be missing otherwise.

The latest episodes give us further hints that we are about to enter the real meat of the story, and given all the set up that we had, in particular hints regarding the cast’s previous lives and their current relationships, I’m ready for Majestic Prince to blow me away.

Reckoner on Suisei no Gargantia after 10 episodes
If there is one thing true about Suisei no Gargantia, it is that just as Urobuchi Gen indicated, this is a very different work than anything he has done before. While not necessarily light-hearted, Suisei no Gargantia is a far more optimistic and emotionally uplifting experience than Gen’s usual dark and pessimistic outlook that we have seen in the likes of Psycho-Pass, or Madoka Magica. It should be noted that Gen is only personally writing the first and last episodes of the show, which may explain the more positive influence in this story.

My primary concern with Suisei no Gargantia is that it probably will feel incomplete and lacking in the end. The sheer scope of the setting ensures that the grander storyline cannot be fully concluded in the little time they have left, which is disappointing. I imagine that the most we will get is the conclusion of Ledo’s personal journey, which to be fair is the main focus of the show thus far and is intriguing enough on its own, but I cannot help feeling like this show could have been so much more than we are seeing. Suisei no Gargantia is good, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll ever be great.

TIF on Date A Live after 10 episodes
Show of hands from those of you who read the show’s premise and wrote the show off as utter garbage before the first episode. Now, show of hands from those of you who are still here. If the second show of hands is smaller, I wouldn’t be surprised. I mean, it’s not like Date A Live has done itself any favors. But, honestly, is the show that bad?

I have tried to keep an open mind about this, and I have to conclude that the show has been stupid, but entertaining. Some folks have said that this is a parody of harem/galge shows, and while I can certainly see that, there’s also a large layer of “taking itself too seriously”. Also, for a parody, it doesn’t hit hard at any particular point. I would expect mocking of tropes or deconstructions, but so far there’s been none of that, and it has been as much a “by-the-numbers” rom-com as you’d expect. I guess you could say that it is following in the Tenchi Muyo tradition of deliberately not trying to honor old tropes while managing to become a genre of it’s own, but I’m not ready to anoint Date A Live to that level.

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Shadowmage on Hataraku Maou-sama! after 9 episodes
For all you who have skipped over this show as yet another stupid anime comedy, I implore you to give the series another look as it is a truly funny series about the Devil losing his war of conquest in his world, and somehow ending up in ours to become a employee at McDonalds (or whatever the show decides to call it). The first half of the series is actually a genuinely good comedy with some effective, context based gags.

However, though it pains me to say it, I am glad that the series is going to end after a couple more episodes. Much like Ramna 1/2 after all the key characters are introduced, the show is running low on steam and feels like it’s starting to either repeat itself or reaching for jokes that really don’t exist. Unless the series wants to dive into its slightly more serious story about the Devil returning to his home world to begin his conquest anew, there doesn’t seem to be more the series can pull off without turning into yet another generic anime comedy, which Hataraku Maou-sama! totally was not in the first act.

AC on OreImo S2 after 10 episodes
Kirino is the most obnoxious little sister in the anime universe. I know that little sisters can be very annoying at times — not that I can relate to that since I don’t have one myself — but Kirino is an extreme example. Perhaps, solely because of that, watching OreImo S1 felt more like a chore than a leisure activity to pass the time.

In OreImo S2, though, it seems that this is becoming less of an issue since Kirino is slowly shifting from “tsun” to “dere”. The silly funnies still continue from the first season — Kyosuke putting up with the behaviors of girls around him, girls around him thinking he’s a sexual pervert, etc. — but there also seems to be a shift away from discussion regarding anime itself. That makes OreImo S2 less controversial (for better or worse) and more focus is on improving relationships between Kyosuke and the girls around him. OreImo S2 is not completely deplorable. The characters are very much unlikable, but it still has its hilarious moments both in the show and in the RL events surrounding it. But as a show that has always been a chore for me to watch, I wouldn’t be too sad if it has a proper closure by the end of this season.

TIF on Red Data Girl after 10 episodes
RDG has many elements going for it that I adore. Thus, it is very hard for me to admit that I have not enjoyed it that much. It is a slow and methodical series, building a story on hints and subtleties rather than audience hand-holding; it has a great soundtrack, taking in a variety of traditional Japanese music and making it fit the scenes; it is gorgeous to look at, with PA Works once again delivering quality scenery porn and character animation; and it has an impressive array of characters with unique personalities and ambitions. If I weren’t so damned confused about what the hell is going on, this would be one of the best series I’ve ever seen.

The problem is that it requires the viewer to already have intimate knowledge with many aspects of Japanese folklore. Normally, the show works from the perspective of Izumiko, who is just as naive about the things going on around her as the audience. So when you also have to do your research on the folklore, it loses a casual viewer rather easily. Toss in a lack of introspection from the characters, and everything goes hooey when something dramatic comes up. RDG is really at its best staying focused on the two main characters and going from there.

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AC on Haiyore! Nyaruko-san W after 9 episodes
If there’s anything that the first season has shown, it’s that virtually goes in the world of Nyaruko. And yes, absurdity is the name of the game, and the second season simply is a continuation of the “peaceful chaos” moments shared by Mahiro and the gang. While there are amusing moments of the show parodying bits from other anime, the comedy is hit-or-miss, and sadly it’s more of the latter.

Nyaruko-san W doesn’t really bring anything new to the table: it’s still the same old harem comedy involving the gang getting into all sorts of outlandish trouble. There have been some deeper moments, but even after that, nothing changes. There’s no development in characterization whatsoever, so seeing as how it’s a continuation of the first season, it’s simply a case of whether a viewer simply wants to see more of the same. As one who wants to see something different, this show has been disappointing and it doesn’t surprise that much either; after all, it is a common pitfall for a lot of second-season shows.

Arabesque on Photo Kano and oh god why am I still watching this after 10 episodes?
So after not-the-greatest start in the world, Photo Kano revealed that it is following the rather infamous omnibus format, in the veins of its sister series Amagami SS. Though to be more accurate, the style of the format used here is closer to Yosuga no Sora, where the first few episodes are used as a common origin for all the branching stories where our creepy lead ends up hooking up with a different heroine in some alternate universe. Unlike the series I mentioned, Photo Kano not only fails to make the resulting stories interesting, fun or fulfilling to watch each heroine’s tale, but it also does not make the best use of the format. If you only have 13 episodes and about 6 to possibly 8 heroines, maybe you might need to consider how you are going to divide the time among each.

So, with only 3 more episodes to go, what do I make of Photo Kano? Honestly, getting past my initial disappointment, I can see that there are some genuinely good things here; namely, the music composition is pretty great, and on occasion the animation takes a great boost and helps complement the photography so it actually looks decent. The problem is that all of the good is buried underneath the bland. I suppose we still have the interesting gifs and videos to watch and the cheesecake that isn’t all that great to look at, but again, what incentive does that give to watch the actual show?

AC on Henneko after 9 episodes
Henneko is a show that originally flew under my radar. The only reason I picked the show up was because of how stupid the story is according to my friends. Frankly, it is as stupid as it gets, so Henneko is definitely not for every viewer.

Right off the bat, the show doesn’t beat around the bush and declares itself as an over-the-top slapstick moe comedy. There’s nothing really deep about the story: a few kids have wishes, and a cat god is able to grant their wishes at will. Seeing how petty their wishes can be or how senseless the characters are can be annoying, and it even gets hard to keep up with the senselessness of the story. It’s clearly not an intelligent show, and the only consolation viewers can get is the crisp animation and the moe (if they are moe fans). Other than that, it’s a show full of tropes from typical anime comedies, and it’s nothing to be sorely missed if it’s not in one’s watchlist.

TIF on The Shorties
Normally we don’t bother with the “short” shows, but I thought it would be nice to toss them a bone, seeing as how I’m watching them anyway.

Aiura is best known amongst fans for the adorable, and utterly off-topic, intro (KANIKANIKANIKANI!), but the more I watch it, the more I realize what a crime it is we only get 3 minutes of this at a time. Really, Aiura isn’t much different from Yuyushiki, so why they couldn’t give us a 22 minute taste each week is odd.

Sparrow’s Hotel started off so horrible that I dared Shinmaru to watch it simply so I could see his head a’splode. Instead, not only did he like it, but I found myself growing attached to it as well. Maybe it’s the obvious gear-shift about in the middle where the animation quality picks up, the character designs change, and the episodes start to actually be funny.

Muromi-san has basically changed how I view 4koma comedies. From now on, all shows like this should be kept to these wonderful 10 minute bite sized pieces. The humor stays crisp and focused, and I always find myself smiling or laughing at the antics of a pack of ancient mermaids being obnoxious twits.

5 Responses to “Spring 2013 Mid-season Impressions”

  1. […] be sure to take a look at our Spring 2013 Midseason Review post to get our thoughts on current series before they […]

  2. The best part about Sparrow’s Hotel is that the animation quality picked up because the hotel got renovated. Now that’s meta!

  3. No Yuyushiki, really?

  4. No Yuyushiki, really?

    If you can write a 200 word blurb on Yuyushiki, go ahead. I’m curious to know what people think of it. I’ll be blunt, I don’t know what to say about it. It is cute, it has humorous moments, but like all slice-of-life / 4koma type comedy shows, it has virtually nothing going on that ties it all together. There’s not really much to say.

    Hell, that right there was 44 words. Best I can do.

  5. I already have. The opening bracket post at Ani-nouto was 304 words long by wc(1).

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