Fall 2013 Mid-season Impressions

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The fall season started off decently, and while a couple of notable series have crashed and burned, others have improved, surprised people and taken turns into potentially interesting directions. There are some we’re confident will stick the landing as they head to a conclusion, while others have taken some big chances and could really end up anywhere in the next few weeks. And, of course, there are the shows that were always terrible and will stay terrible. They will be forgotten forever. But for now, here are the most notable shows going this season!
Introduction by: Shinmaru

Shadowmage on Kill la Kill after 8 episodes
Kill la Kill is a very ostentatious, batshit crazy, psychedelic thesaurus depleting acid trip of a show that hasn’t been seen since Panty and Stocking.  Eight episodes in, its insanity has repeated itself eight times in slightly different fashion, but instead of hankering for change, I’m content to let things flow as is. The show will be very polarizing since it’s more of an experimentation of animation than an actual show, but tailoring its story to match the volatility of the visuals makes the show quite unique. There’s probably a large barrier in accepting the stupidity of it all, but it’s extremely enjoyable as a genius animator’s wild romp.

TIF on Log Horizon after 8 episodes

Not much has changed from my initial impression on Log Horizon. It is still way too niche a show for everyone to appreciate, and the only interesting aspects are for gaming nerds who like to concern themselves with MMO mechanics. However, at this point, even that is starting to lose cohesion, as the recent episodes have revealed far too many unrealistic events that just wouldn’t happen in a real MMO setting. I haven’t played on Japanese servers for any MMO I’ve played, but if they really play like how anime characters act whenever we have an anime set in an MMO environment, then they’re all fucking stupid n00bs.

Furthermore, the most recent episodes have focused way too long on this plan of Shiroe’s to “improve” conditions in the Akihabara area simply because he doesn’t like how the jailorless prisoners are acting. Unlike SAO, there’s nothing here threatening to anybody’s lives, so random chaos has no impact on anybody’s existence. Thus, the drama they’re going for is just lost on me. Log Horizon was at its best when it was just Shiroe and his party running amok and overcoming enemies “keikaku doori” style.

Reckoner on Kyoukai no Kanata after 8 episodes

If there was any need for more evidence that Kyoani has dropped all pretense of trying to make a good show, it would be the totally out of place and insanely stupid idol scene in episode 6. The writer essentially decided to write a fan fiction about her own show in a desperate attempt to pander to the fan base commercially with every stupid trope imaginable. Oh sure, maybe it was just a one-off, but the moment the show pretty much abandoned the Sakura storyline right afterwards in super awkward fashion is the last straw. This is about as cynical as it gets in anime productions.

I see no other way to describe Kyoukai no Kanata other than as a complete disaster. Kyoto Animation’s talents in visual quality are wasted by an inept director who does not understand how to properly choreograph and frame action scenes. Furthermore, this supposed dark fantasy story is filtered through Kyoani’s approach to making anime; inject as much idyllic, mundane school life as possible while trying to avoid any semblance of good character and plot development. All I can say is that maybe it is better if Kyoto Animation never tries to make an action show again. This effort is just pitiful.

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AC on Nagi no Asukara after 8 episodes

Oh, it’s easy to recognize a series with Okada Mari behind the works when you see one. Nagi no Asukara is a good example that demonstrates her signature writing styles: adolescent angsty kids, a love chain that includes unrequited love, melodramatic bits, etc. The show started out with all that, but to my pleasant surprise, it’s toning down the melodrama and finding its comfortable drama zone. It’s also gradually exploring the immersive sea world and the story behind the friction between the two worlds. Lastly, Nagi no Asukara does well in what a number of series fail at: giving small revelations at the end of episodes to pique viewers’ interest. It’s still a long way to go for the series and there’s no telling which direction it’s heading, but at the rate it’s going, it may be one of the better series this season has to offer.

Shadowmage on Arpeggio after 7 episodes

The core (and only) engagement of this show is cute girls who are also giant CGI ships. There’s no real interesting characters, unique stories or particularly compelling action set pieces; just cute girls who are giant ships. Also, given that the show is 95% Playstation 2-era CGI models, the cute girls are only cute when they don’t move, which the creators seem painfully oblivious to. To be perfectly honest, the only reason I’m sticking around is to see how well my theory of CGI animation being a reasonable replacement for normal animation holds up. Looking at the amateur production Arpeggio is putting up, there’s still leagues of improvements needed to be made.

TIF on Strike the Blood after 8 episodes

By this point, not even Yukina’s random panty flashes can save this crap. This “by-the-numbers” shounen has become so entrenched in the staples of the genre that there really isn’t any point anymore between watching this or watching something like Inu Yasha. Worse, much like its spiritual influencer (read: rip-off target), A Certain Magical Index, Strike the Blood is going the harem route, trying to fuse two completely tired genres together to form one utterly fucking stupid idea. What do you get when you have insipid shounen tropes and insipid harem tropes? Shit.

I should be fair and say that while this isn’t my cup of tea, it might appeal to some morons out there. For example, nobody seems to care about the shounen parts of it, but the “best girl wars” are in full swing amongst certain subsets of the fandom already. So if you’re into arguing banally about which fantasy waifu bitch is the tops, this’ll fit right into your tastes. Also, there’s nothing “technically” wrong with the show, and it has decent animation and music, so maybe if you don’t mind mediocre trash and need to kill a few hours, you have worse options.

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Shinmaru on Galilei Donna after 7 episodes

Unlike with its fellow noitaminA series, I’m not particularly enjoying the sharp turn in tone Galilei Donna has taken (except from a hilarity aspect). It’s enjoyable enough as a light-hearted adventure series. Maybe a bit silly with all the Galileo stuff and the goldfish mecha, but hey, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of silliness? Then, of course, came the Grimdark. Cute little boy and girl slowly building a puppy love romance? We can’t have nice things, so make sure they’re killed when a building is bombed to hell. A hospital without power that’s also full of sick people and a band of thieves? Make sure as many people as possible are murdered. Neither of these is the most hilarious form of Grimdarkness in the series, by the way. Galilei Donna is trying so hard to grasp at pathos, but it’s trying to make the viewer care about the plot when the sisters and their interactions and adventure are the true charm point, and even that isn’t good enough to save the series from being a hilarious mess.

Reckoner on Kyousougiga after 6 episodes

The fact that this show will probably not receive a lot of attention in the end is depressing to say the least. There are few recent titles as imaginative and as creative as Kyousougiga is right now. It has tons of zany fun with extremely creative visuals and direction, but it would be a mistake to just put it aside as merely an exploration of directorial talent. It definitely feels much more substantial than that. The heavy references to Alice in Wonderland play an integral role to the thematic purpose of the show, and there is just so much rich content to analyze. However, perhaps the most surprising part of Kyousougiga is its sheer emotional resonance. It is not the kind of story to make you teary eyed necessarily, but it can be extremely heartwarming and touching with the family’s sentimental story. Suffice to say, if you are a big fan of anime you owe it to yourself to at least check this title out.

Shadowmage on Gundam Build Fighters after 7 episodes

Assuming you’re not a jaded old man, Gundam Build Fighters is a compelling children’s show about two kids striving to become champions in a virtual fighting game with Gundam model kits. It’s well-animated, senseless mecha violence without the subtext of war. Though much of the narratives the show explores are by-the-numbers shounen tropes, when the characters hit the ring, their love for the sport exploding in a metal ruckus is quite a sight to behold. The show requires a love of Gundam or you to be 14 years old, but it’s a very simple anime that does rekindle some of the passions of youth.

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AC on Coppelion after 8 episodes

The series started out average with the first episode. The tonal dissonance between the bleak setting and the bubbly school girls is handled ham fistedly, but nevertheless it wasn’t a terrible start. But then, the show began tumbling down from the second episode onwards. Ranging from silly to plain ridiculous, the story commits numerous crimes against logical sense. Almost every event in the story is ridiculous, from the origins of the girls to the rationale of every character’s actions. Coppelion could have just gone with the dramatic angle and explored the hardships of the survivors in the fallout zone, but instead it deviates into goofy action/sci-fi territories, with plenty of plot holes along the way. It is quite unbelievable to fathom how stupid this show can be; perhaps the only way to believe it is to watch it yourself, at your own risk.

Shinmaru on Samurai Flamenco after 7 episodes

So I expected Samurai Flamenco to switch in another direction eventually, particularly with another 15 episodes remaining, but good lord I didn’t expect what the latest episode has to offer! I’m not totally sure how I feel about it yet, because it pushes the series so far in a certain direction so quickly, except that I’m really interested to see what the creators do with it. The idea of a world seeming normal before being revealed to house supernatural elements is not entirely new; however, I like that the series played a relatively long game (for anime) with its reveal. It works for me because I’ve enjoyed what the series has offered so far: fun characters, solid comedy, and a cheeky presentation of its superheroes. I wonder how those aspects of the series will mesh with the show’s new twist. Is there a bigger plan in mind, or will it all fall apart? For now, at least, Samurai Flamenco has grabbed my attention even further.

TIF on Golden Time after 8 episodes

I think, by this point, we can stop worrying about whether this’ll be as good as Toradora!, because it sure isn’t. That isn’t to say that Golden Time is bad, but they’re just not the same animals. Toradora! felt more focused, and the episode to episode antics all led to a logical conclusion. Granted, we haven’t gotten to Golden Time’s logical conclusion yet, but there has been an awful lot of disjoint to the character interactions that we have seen thus far that worry me. In general, I like the characters and find them interesting, but the dialogue and the behaviors are just toxic at times.

I think a big part of that is the lack of development for the main heroine in Kaga Koko. I like her, I really do, and I think there’s potential here for some good drama, but right now she’s basically an extreme outlier compared to everybody else and routinely takes a back seat to other, more interesting characters, like Linda-senpai. The other big issue is the nature of Tada Banri’s “ghost”, who recently has made his presence felt more than simply standing around providing vague commentary. This could be the main clincher as to whether Golden Time turns into “greatest story” or ends up as an “also ran”.

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Reckoner on White Album 2 after 8 episodes

White Album 2 carries itself with a sense of dignity and maturity that is all too sparse in this genre. Typically in romantic love triangles, it is easy to pick a side, but the strength of this show so far is that the choices are actually not enviable either way. Our main trio is extremely likable, but we just know that there will be incoming drama that is going to hurt at least somebody here really badly. Although you want everyone to be happy, it has become abundantly clear that this is not possible.

In some ways this makes White Album 2 difficult to watch. The characters here are very much flawed individuals, and that includes Haruki, whose greatest failure seems to be that he treats everybody with the same kindness. This is still very much the calm before the storm and that can change a lot of things, but the storm is definitely brewing and it is going to be loud. Overall, White Album 2 has proven extremely compelling with its great characters, and charming atmosphere. I highly recommend it to any lover of romantic drama.

AC on Outbreak Company after 8 episodes

Outbreak Company’s theme seems quite novel (albeit illogical): an otaku gets sent to another world by the government to teach the otaku lifestyle. So, a viewer would think that this show is about how the lifestyle would be perceived from a foreign world’s point of view. But that’s not the case: rather than being a step ahead of other anime series with the references, it ends up being another typical harem show riddled with tropes and stereotypical characters. The story raises a lot of curiosity over how the protagonist — a self-proclaimed ace at understanding the otaku lifestyle — is surprisingly unaware at how stereotypical the people around him are, looking as though the whole new world is completely molded according to his ideals. Perhaps that’s the point: it doesn’t mean to make references to other anime; it means to be just another clichéd example.

Shinmaru on Yowamushi Pedal after 7 episodes

I keep coming close to dropping this, but I haven’t quite gotten there yet. Yowamushi Pedal has typical sports anime problems: way too much narration about obvious stuff (though to be fair there is also description of stuff that would go over the heads of non-cyclists) and mostly sluggish pacing (I’m not usually bothered by a slow pace, but this is getting to even me a bit). Those two issues often pile on top of each other. I haven’t pulled the drop trigger yet, however, because the characters are just too charming and likable. They’re happy, energetic and just want to ride bicycles really well. It’s a nice slice of non-cynical viewing that is appealing quite a bit to me right now. Perhaps I’ll get tired of it eventually, but for now it is pedaling along, slowly but surely.

5 Responses to “Fall 2013 Mid-season Impressions”

  1. It may be a shame that few are watching Kyousogiga. It’s a bigger shame that fewer are watching the new Yozakura Quartet.

  2. To me the biggest shame is how few people are following Gundam Build Fighters. Damn enjoyable show, but admittedly far more so for long time Gundam fans.

  3. […] Also be sure to check out our Fall 2013 Mid-season Impressions! […]

  4. So if you’re into arguing banally about which fantasy waifu bitch is the tops, this’ll fit right into your tastes.

    Oh TIF. Never change.

    About Arpeggio: I’m wondering why the CG in it looks crap even though mankind(and even Japan) has managed to produce Final Fantasy 13 tier cutscenes. Hell, even the ones in Warcraft 3 were better than this. Maybe it would be a good idea to ditch whatever methods Sanzigen are using and just use Cryengine 3 for the next full-CG anime.
    No, really, that’s a real question. Why doesn’t an anime studio download PhyreEngine from somewhere and give us some non-crap CGI?

  5. @Pebble

    In three words: It’s beyond budget.

    Anime, being mostly done on smaller scales of production, aren’t going to get the same kind of production budgets nor expertise on staff as, say, video games or a live-action films. In practice, it takes a lot to arrange all of the visual aspects and technical prowess needed to create the kind of CGI you see in a Final Fantasy game. Visual effects, modeling, rendering…costs add up pretty quick, especially when the staff involved would be way more costly than your typical key animator.

    If you want an anime example of CGI on the level you’re looking for, take the Advent Children film. The budget for that was (and would probably still be today) far, FAR out of the league of some small-time 1-cour anime that might spend somewhere around the cheaper side of a quarter million per episode. At around the same time give or take a year, the Solid State Society film tacked on at the end of the two Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series was notable for racking up somewhere around $3.5 million in costs – a pittance in comparison in both CGI and budget, yet still cost about as much as a 1-cour series. The constraint isn’t so much technology as it is money.

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