Winter 2014 First Thoughts

Winter 2014 First Thoughts Top

Despite watching the gamut of shows this season, we might be in for a lackluster season based on the impressions we have of this season’s fare. While the variation is quite nice and there are several shows that seem worth watching from beginning to end, there seems to be few titles that stand out in particular relative to others. It could just be that we missed something great, so give us a heads up if there’s anything we haven’t covered but should be.
Introduction by: Kylaran

Space Dandy

Kaikyaku’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: B+

I wonder what it would be like to meet Dandy in the real world. A little scary I think. With its 4th wall breaking and stylish animation, Space Dandy is certainly a fun show to watch, but it’s not quite as funny as it thinks it is. Some of the scenarios feel forced and predictable, yet what is does it does well. It gives people what they want to see and exploits the common clichés of its type, but that’s all, and for the most part that’s enough. Holding everything together is the adorable yet sarcastic QT, who brings a surprising amount of heart to the series. Here’s to more dandy adventures to come.

Reckoner’s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 4
Initial Impression: A-

It is unfortunate that Cartoon Network promoted this to be the next Cowboy Bebop because there was zero indication of this ever being the case. We were actually told that the entire series would be more like that one Bebop episode Mushroom Samba, which if anyone remembers is an extremely silly, psychedelic, and fun experience, but is not terribly deep by any stretch of the imagination. And true to that word, this is pretty much what Space Dandy is. Director Shinichiro Watanabe is in my opinion one of the best, if not the best, active directors in the anime world period and Space Dandy showcases yet again his wonderful talents for visual masterpieces, clever humor, and fun adventures.

Witch Craft Works

Kylaran’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: C-

There’s something quite unimpressive about this show despite the gorgeous animation that’s being used. It’s major fault lies in that its protagonist is a total wimp that tries a bit too hard to be clueless. The female lead, Kagari, is more enjoyable of a character due to a quirky personality and interesting magical powers, but the two characters combined have almost no on-screen chemistry. I also have no hope that the voice acting will save the show from what I’ve seen so far.

Slashe’s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: B

I was initially skeptical with Witch Craft Works’ premise, but JC Staff have a history of using seemingly paint-by-numbers cast to tell superb drama, turning stereotypes into fully formed, compelling characters. The one-cour length worries me though, as the series might content with just comedy and just fade into the throes of mediocrity. It is rather entertaining, regardless, but I do hope that its delves further into the character drama that has been popping up periodically.

Wake Up Girls Winter 2014

Wake Up, Girls!

AC’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial Impression: B-

I don’t really fancy shows about idol groups, to be honest. Call me narrow-minded if you will but to me, they’re either manipulative or preachy with the whole “wanting to achieve their dreams” message. Wake Up Girls, though, seems to be a little different: there’s something very earnest about the character portrayal, and for an idol group show, it’s visually toned down and feels very down-to-earth and “unglitzy”. Plus, the fact that the group is the underdog and that the setting is not in Tokyo also make the series appealing. I’m quite intrigued to see where this show goes; perhaps director Yamakan, director of Fractale and Kannagi, has something up his sleeve.

Slashe’s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: B+

As someone who came in to the series blind, I was introduced to Wake Up, Girls! as an realistic and personal look into the idol industry. Its been an enjoyable yet depressing watch that has hooked me with its sincerity. Still, the show could easily pull an accidental Guillotine Gorilla down the road, by going too deep into the dark side of the industry or betray its essence by overcompensating with naive optimism. But I have faith in Yamakan, who has an intimate understanding of the idol industry, to express both the joys and struggle of becoming a part of an idol group.

Wizard Barristers

Kaikyaku’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial Impression: C

I’m not sure what this series is supposed to be. Is it a legal drama? Is it action? Is it a quirky slice of life? Is it a… mecha? It’s definitely a bit of a mess. While the concept is intriguing, the execution so far has been questionable with really poor flow and way too much squeezed into each episode. The tone flips back and forth between serious and lighthearted and not really succeeding at either. Even the character designs don’t look like they all come from the same series. If this becomes more focused it could be interesting but for now I’m not very impressed. Also, minus one point for Cecil’s hair, which is driving me crazy!

TIF’s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: B

Like Noragami, I am not 100% sure what this show is supposed to be. Is it going to be a law based show in the LA Law vein? A lawyer uncovers the truth type show in the Matlock or Perry mason vein? Or is this more of an action anime with some legal stuff peppered in for flavor? Frankly, I don’t know, but I do like it so far. I love Umetsu’s obsessive compulsive attention to detail in his visuals, which creates a damned gorgeous environment for the characters. We also have never actually SEEN a law based anime before, so I enjoy the uniqueness. Now it just needs to execute a little better.

Pupa

Shinmaru’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: D+

Oh, poor Pupa. It doesn’t really have a chance to succeed since it is a short with material that doesn’t really translate all that well to the short format. There’s potentially interesting content here: It’s a weird, twisted story of a brother and his sister, who transforms into a disgusting monster who eats people (though with the lackluster production values, the monster looks more hilarious than anything). It’s the sort of story that should burst with subtext and provocative symbolism. There’s bits and pieces of it here — maybe the one really interesting thing about the series as it’s currently constructed is that the narrative is fractured in such a weird way, but only the most recent episode put that together in a way that actually works. There’s a glimmer of something with the story. It’ll probably continue to be a weird throwaway sideshow.

Houzuki no Reitetsu Winter 2014

Houzuki no Reitetsu

Kylaran’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: B+

Houzuki is a show that’s incredibly hard to judge from a Western perspective because so many of its puns and references are embedded deeply in both traditional and modern culture. From the depiction of classical Buddhist hell and traditional Japanese folklore to an ending animation in episode 1 that was a clear reference to a popular Japanese TV show, Houzuki no Reitetsu is smart parody. I just wish the timing on the jokes was a bit more spot on, as that’s a key issue for many comedies.

Kaikyaku’s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: A

This series is fantastic. The dry humour, cultural references and a diverse cast of characters spanning heaven and hell come together in such a way that I can’t stop smiling while watching. I never know quite what’s coming next. The excellent writing is matched by some gorgeous art and character designs that take advantage of this unusual setting. Not being very familiar with Japanese mythology or corporate culture, I’m sure I’m not catching everything, but it’s not preventing me from really enjoying this series so far.

No-rin

Shadowmage’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: D+

Let there be no pretentions as to why this show exists. It’s for the tits, butts and various other naughty bits. The show is really a string of fanservice scenes with the characters merely existing to justify the existence said scenes. The frank nature of the perversions is kind of funny, but there is nothing fresh or interesting about the jokes. It’s just the same tropes countless other anime have squeezed down to a prune suckled further into oblivion. Even though the directing is interesting, the pablum that is the characters and plot is not something that’s worth watching week to week.

Sakura Trick Winter 2014

Sakura Trick

Shinmaru’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: C

The frustrating thing about my experience with Sakura Trick is that there are moments each episode where I can see the charm and why people would like this series. The parts that work for me are the awkward moments; those feel the most real and actually get me to like the characters and laugh. Things like Haruka and Yuu’s first kiss where they linger just a bit too long, or Haruka fretting about how to address Yuu’s sister have actual impact and are funnier because of it. But other than those brief moments, I don’t care about any of the characters, nor is the series particularly funny otherwise. At least the show looks nice. I like what it does with silhouettes and shadows, and the general color scheme is pleasing.

Recently, My Sister is Unusual

TIF’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 4
Initial Impression: C+

This one took me quite a while to come around on, though I am not completely around on it to the point where I like it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I still hate this piece of shit on a personal level. If I separate that personal bias, tho, it has some technical and subjective aspects that work really well. I think what really clamps my chastity belt is that there is actually a good story here that could be told, but the director needs to pull the reigns on the embarrassing sex and fetish fuel scenes that do nothing but pander and scream “BUY THE BLURAYS!”. I will admit one thing: it is a unique twist on the tired imouto trend, even if the twist is stupid as fuck.

AC’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: D

Urgh, I have a thing against anime series with superfluous titles. Perhaps it’s just me being biased, but any such series give me the first impression that it’s going to be a derpy show. And guess what, Imocho is proving to be yet another fine example. On top of the tropes littered all over the show - the tsundere, the little sister, the childhood friend, the clueless big brother, etc. - it shamelessly portrays itself as a fanservice-laden series with a blatant plot device (well, literally) in the form of a kinky chastity panties. I’m not expecting anything substantially good from Imocho; in fact, it would surprise me if it has any worthwhile drama in addition to the weekly gag involving female lead Mitsuki’s plight with her newfound contraption.

Inari Konkon Koi Iroha

Reckoner’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial Impression: C

The similarities to Gingitsune are too strong to not compare the two series, however, that is not necessarily a good thing. Like Gingitsune, Inari Konkon is fairly light hearted series with plenty of Shinto to go around, but it also does not really offer anything more meaty to grapple onto. It does not help that Inari Konkon only has 10 episodes to work with. I sincerely doubt anything of importance can be accomplished in such a short run, and given the already fairly unambitious set up thus far, I doubt that it will be all that memorable in the end.

Nisekoi Winter 2014

Nisekoi

AC’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 2
Initial Impression: B-

You know it’s a Shinbo series when you see characters tilting their heads and cameras slowly zooming up to their faces. Despite all the signature works of the iconic director, Nisekoi sadly has the setup of a typical rom-com: male lead with a vague childhood memory, an obnoxious tsundere love interest, and of course, an impending love triangle. As a typical rom-com, it seems to come off on a decent start: Kirisaki isn’t intolerably obnoxious, and Ichijou isn’t typically the clueless and boring protagonist. My only concern for now is Onodera: I’m not sure if her goody two-shoes character will stand out in a boisterous story such as this.

Noragami

TIF’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: C+

Typically the three episode mark gives a decent barometer on how a show is going to go, or at least what the director wants to do with it, but I am not sure that works for Noragami. Is this going to be about a would-be god accomplishing random tasks? Is it about hunting down evil monsters that threaten humans? Is it a romantic comedy between a god and his accidental and whimsical sidekick? Don’t know. Show has no direction at the moment. So, instead, I’ll just say that I like the characters so far, and think the thing is cute, but otherwise I got nothin’.

Reckoner’s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: B-

Right now there is not a whole lot to talk about Noragami in terms of narrative purpose. We are following the adventures of a poor and homeless God who is trying to do whatever menial task possible to gain more worshippers and a girl who has gained the unfortunate condition of her soul leaving her body at random times. Fun characters, and enjoyable production values as usual from Studio BONES, but I am still wondering where this is ultimately heading. There are so many directions this can go from here, but so far it has been decent entertainment.

Hamatora Winter 2014

Hamatora

Shadowmage’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: C

Hamatora is a rather mediocre shounen action mystery series that feels like it’s on the very cusp of something that can be seen as “cool” but never quite makes it over the edge. It’s a series about a bunch cool kids with super powers taking on various jobs as investigators and curb stomping baddies with their various abilities. While there is nothing really wrong with the show, there is nothing really special about it either. It’s a reasonably entertaining series with no real teeth. Personally, I’m just sticking around for the psychedelic visuals.

Silver Spoon S2

Shinmaru’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: B-

Silver Spoon is still rolling along, albeit a bit slowly. I find it a bit difficult to believe that three episodes of an 11-episode season have already been used. There’s a rift developing between Hachiken and Mikage, though it’s mild enough that I probably shouldn’t call it a rift. Maybe a tiff. And there’s general farm stuff and such going on. I don’t care so much about Hachiken and Mikage misunderstanding each other’s feelings, which is taking up a lot of time so far, so that’s been a bit disappointing. (At least the part where they bond over horses is OK.) The humor has been generally all right. I like Hachiken’s new pet dog, and the angry horse expressions always make me snicker. Also, learning how to clean out a cow’s butt. Very educational.

Strange+

Kylaran’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: B

Shorts are fantastic because they can be minimal and poignant, or absurd and hilarious. Strange+ is an excellent case of the later that also demonstrates how animation quality isn’t necessary when trying to illustrate the absurd. Somewhat reminiscent of the comedy hailing from 90s anime (Excel Saga or Azumanga Daioh), the show sometimes packs so much into a five minute slot you don’t really feel like there was any substance.

Buddy Complex

Shadowmage’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impression: C

There is a part of me that wonders if Sunrise is trying to make all the permutations of Gundam physically possible because their latest series Buddy Complex is Gundam SEED with time travel. In case you’re not familiar with the tropes of Gundam, it’s a show about a normal kid who somehow ends up in a super secret robot and miraculously a series of enemies despite no combat experience. He then ends up getting sucked up by the military and embarks on an epic quest to defeat the enemy factions, making friends and watching tons of people die horrifically on the way… But this time, with time travel!

8 Responses to “Winter 2014 First Thoughts”

  1. Quick disagreement: Hamatora is better than a C. There is a level of intelligence to the show that I appreciate. Each episode has, so far, been a couple of seemingly unrelated events coming together at crucial moments. That means the writer is trying to work from multiple avenues, trying to set up the mystery in a way that the audience can figure out before the Genius Detective unveils the whole thing. If you’re going to have detective stories, doing it this way is CRUCIAL. You have to provide the clues for the audience to try to work through themselves. GOSICK, for example, did this WRONG. Thankfully, GOSICK was entertaining enough in other ways that the mysteries didn’t matter.

    It is a strong B+ for me right now, bordering on A-. The only knocks I have, at this point, are that we know jack about the characters and (thus), don’t care; the visuals are good, but that “special power” prism shot is obnoxious; and the main villain, while deliciously twisted, reminds me way too much of Psycho-PASS’s Makishima (looks, personality, method of criminal behavior, everything). Otherwise, this is good.

  2. What happened to Tonari no Seki-kun?

  3. Well, we were going to write about that one, but then Sankaku Complex started doing something that distracted us.

  4. Haha, nobody has even bothered to write about chu2koi second season…

  5. We usually don’t do first thoughts on split-cour or continuing shows, and if we do, it is usually because there is something “important” that separates the previous season from the current one. Chu2koi might have been a good candidate in that regard, but we just didn’t bother. I’m not sure why we agreed to do the Silver Spoon second cour.

  6. @Vanihm

    We don’t prioritize split-cour or continuing shows necessarily, but Silver Spoon was a good candidate for this regard as it’s a Noitamina title and Shinmaru was the only one writing on it.

    It’s true that there is a bit of arbitrariness in what we cover simply depending on what our members are watching at the moment, however.

  7. @Kylaran

    Not that it matters – it has been a waste of time so far anyway.

  8. This thread was valid until Every man for Himself in my opionin.I bad-mouthed the recent epidemic of commercials and the can of worms thing where new mysteries are unveild before old ones are put to rest. In fact, I found the lostblog.net for exactly that reason, wanting to make sure other fans are just as upset with the loss of momentum.It wasn’t until the most recent episode that things appear to be moving well once again. Based on upcoming previews, I believe the show will redeem itself and then some.Remember, if so few of us have similar thoughts about the show, we are statistically a healthy sample from the entire Lost community. ABC and the Writers should realize that through market study and will govern themselves accordingly if they want the show to maintain its popularity.After all, it is a LOT easier and cheaper to keep an audience hooked on an existing show than it is to build a brand new audience for a new show.

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