Summer 2014 First Thoughts

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Much like last year, Summer season is proving to be more than just an interlude between the bigger Spring and Fall seasons. Although there are less overall titles around than either of those seasons, the number of quality series has been impressive. It also earns the distinction of being the only season ever to have two shows by esteemed director Shiniciro Watanabe running side by side (Is the world ending?). If you are still undecided on this season’s offerings, perhaps our take on them can help guide your way.
Introduction by: Reckoner

Space Dandy 2

AC’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 4
Initial Impressions: B

Would it surprise anyone if I were to sum up this show in one word, I would say dandy? A action-comedy series that is pretty much a cross between Cowboy Bebop and REDLINE, the episode can vary from ingenious (remember episode 4) to mediocre (every other episode). For the second cour of the series, so far the episodes haven’t really impressed me as much as the first cour. That is, until I watched the otherwise sensational episode 4 (or 17). Let’s just hope Space Dandy continues to get himself into wilder, more eccentric adventures and that the novelty doesn’t diminish on this one.

Invaders of the Rokujyoma!?

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

Gun to my head, the problem with this show is that I have no fucking clue what the creators want to do with it.  Is this supposed to be parody of the various archetypes and tropes the heroines represent?  Is this supposed to be just another harem show with a wacky premise?  Is this supposed to be another take on the “but they were friends all along” bullshit that has cropped up as popular lately?  All I know is that the Magical Girl is annoying, the humor doesn’t work, and there isn’t enough moe or fanservice for the harem front.  Garbage.

Glasslip

Reckoner’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 4
Initial Impression: D+

This is PA Works trying to produce the quintessential PA Works anime. It is as if the creators sat around a table and tried to make an anime from pieces of other PA Works series. This includes the idyllic country side, the teenage romance angst, the character designs, and just the general focus on the more mundane aspects of life. Maybe this would not be an issue if the series were populated with interesting characters, but the show certainly stinks of artifice. Furthermore, the show is just nowhere near as pleasurable to look at and listen to as previous PA Works anime. Glasslip’s supernatural elements hint that the series will culminate into something more, however, there will be little reason to care as the lead up is dreadfully mediocre and boring.

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Aldnoah Zero

TIF’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 4
Initial Impression:  A-

With Gargantia already in the books (caveat regarding depth of involvement), Gen Urobuchi takes another dip into the mecha genre with a similar seriousness in tone, though fewer fishes out of the water.  Though still running through the motions as of episode 4, there appears to be an obvious setup going here of overpowered and complacent invaders being defeated by guile and strategy (and some circumstance).  Unfortunately, we haven’t been given enough time to get to know any of the characters yet, so right now the show is kind of one dimensional.  Considering the author, that shouldn’t stay as such for long.

Reckoner’s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 4
Initial Impression: B

This is another Aniplex super project composed of various popular people in the industry including writer Urobuchi Gen, composer Hiroyuki Sawano, and director Aoi Aoki. They were not very shy either of trying to produce the mecha show that would “supersede Gundam.” Indeed, Aldnoah Zero is definitely a very Gundam like story so far with many resemblances to Turn A Gundam and Gundam Age. However, such lofty ambitions have yet to be backed up by much of what Aldnoah Zero has accomplished so far. The show definitely tries hard to create this epic mecha experience with the loud chanting music and the grandiose presentation of the conflict, but so far there is not a whole lot of depth in either character or story.

Barakamon

Slashe’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 4
Initial Impressions: A-

A wonderfully heartwarming show that everyone can enjoy, Barakamon throws no punches in the form of twists or heavy drama, just simple wisdom and gentle comedy. The star of the show is not Handa, but rather the village, as the two sides come to terms with each other’s eccentricities. It exemplifies how much the busy, overachieving urban struggle and the slow, easy-going rural life have to offer and learn from each other. In particular is Naru, whose childish innocence highlights how much joy we overlook all around us in our daily endeavors. Apparently the manga holds a even richer experience, but the adaption delivers more than enough substance to satisfy.

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Zankyou no Terror

AC’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 3
Initial Impressions: A-

With direction and original concept by Watanabe Shinichiro, and music composition by Kanno Yoko, Zankyo no Terror is basically winner material right from the onset. And yes, the first few episodes have been riveting: Watanabe is being very gutsy with using terrorism as the central motif and using real-life references to create a sense of realism. But, I fear that the show is able to slip up towards the end, and I’m not sure why I feel this way. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen many instances of series that start off very strongly but end otherwise. I’m just crossing my fingers that this isn’t yet another instance.

Shinmaru’s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 3
Initial Impressions: B-

If my grade seems a bit low, it’s because I’m only just now getting into what’s going on. That’s less a fault of the series and more my desire to not jump to conclusions until I get more of a feel for the characters and scenario. The third episode, which features the first direct (in a way) confrontation between the police and the teenage terrorists, went a long way toward engaging me more with what’s happening. There’s some interesting, subtle character work being done that I hope will be paid off in a cool way when more of the plot comes to light. Even if I took a bit of time to grow interested in the story, though, the visuals really drew me in. It’s not so much the animation (though that is neat) as much as the consistently neat framing that emphasizes the isolation of the important players.

Shirogane no Ishi:  Argevollen

TIF’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 4
Initial Impression:  B-

Episode four gave us a much needed “breather” from the constant battling and movement of the first three episodes, which allows our characters a chance to interact on more personal levels.  What we’re seeing so far is a fairly “by the numbers” mecha show, complete with a brand-spakin’-new ubermech for a rookie pilot to mess with.  There seems to be a bit more emphasis on strategy than on brute force, but we’ll see how long that lasts considering the Argevollen’s abilities.  Hopefully the next few episodes spend some time exposing more of the characters to the audience, as everybody is fairly cardboardish right now.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Slashe’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 4
Initial Impressions: B+

A surprisingly fun comedy about a highschool shoujo mangaka, Nozaki-kun can be considered the young girl’s analogue to Daily Lives of High School Boys. There is little drama or plot here, just well-timed comedy inherited from its 4-koma source. Despite being cut from a stereotypical cloth, the characters are hilarious and lovable, due to how they are brilliantly subverted. I am excited to get my jollies off to their interactions and antics each week as they play around with shoujo romance tropes. Also, Mikorin is mai waifu.

Shinmaru’s Second Opinion
Episodes seen: 4
Initial Impressions: B+

Slashe nailed it. The characters in this series aren’t particularly deep or unique, but the way they approach situations is fresh enough that they make basic anime comedy scenarios surprisingly funny. Like Slashe I love Mikoshiba, the guy who comes off like an arrogant playboy but has a bit too much self-awareness to follow through on his ridiculous statements. The traditional misunderstandings that are anime romance’s bread and butter also work well in Nozaki-kun. Why? Because the series understands that teenagers are terrible at love and romance, particularly if they’ve grown up with a specific ideal cultivated by media. That’s the most fun part of the show: It’s self-aware enough to know there are silly things about the romance media people consume, but it also knows why people enjoy them in the first place and has fun with that.

Sabagebu!

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

Arguably what C3-Bu was supposed to be, this second take on a girl’s survival game club is a MUCH LIGHTER HEARTED look at something that should be as silly as possible.  Survival gamers are often extremely serious about their art, and C3-Bu seemed to play off that.  This one takes that same seriousness, and makes it deadly.  Painted up as “delusions”, the audience is granted full gorey access to each character’s “death” in the games, and it is hilarious.  Runs amok with standard anime comedy tropes as well, but the morbid games are what makes the show shine thus far.

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Akame ga Kill

Reckoner’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 4
Initial Impression: C

Despite the edgier packaging, Akame ga Kill is about everything you would expect a typical shonen action anime to be. All the gore and grim dark aspects do not make it more mature in any way and in fact seem pretty superfluous. Moreoever, the conflict lacks moral ambiguity because all the villains are evil to a point of hilarity. This simplistic nature reduces most of the show’s appeal to shock factor, if you can consider that a selling point. It does not help that the anime suffers from severe mood whiplash since its comedic timing is practically nonexistent. The production values are alright as you would expect from a White Fox anime, and you always got to love a sound track by Taku Iwasaki, but this is definitely not a show you watch if you want to think.

Free! -Eternal Summer-

Slashe’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 4
Initial Impressions: C+

Kyoani really turned the ham up to 11 this season, with a suitably gleeful ED. The fujoshi pandering was never intrusive to the storytelling in the past season, but now many scenes seem to serve little purpose other than fangirl baiting. Still, its not all dark clouds in this summer as several new characters join in the fray, of which the Sousuke and Rin combo is simply a joy to behold. Rin has also become a fuller and more enjoyable character, with his needless angst from the previous season completely drained.I’m starting to be worn down by the lack of proper story direction, but I’ll still keep going. After all, I watch it for the plot.

Rail Wars

Shinmaru’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 4
Initial Impressions: D

This is exactly the type of show I would watch and then immediately forget about as soon as I finished it. Rail Wars is similar to Working! — a bit of workplace and interpersonal relationship comedy, but more action because the characters work as train security. Problem is, none of that works at all. The comedy doesn’t work at all, because there’s nothing inherently funny about any of the characters or the situations in which they find themselves. It’s all well-worn (VERY well-worn) anime comedy material with zero spice to it because the characters have nothing fresh to bring to the table. The action doesn’t work, either, because I can’t care about the characters enough to give a crap about whether they’re in danger, nor do I particularly believe the danger in the first place. I almost fell asleep during a bomb threat in one episode. Not good.

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Hanayamata

Shinmaru’s First Thoughts
Episodes seen: 4
Initial Impressions: A-

I’ve had a delicate relationship with anime melodrama lately. My attention span is awful; if I’m not invested in a series, I get ornery when drama is ramped up. I was wary after Hanayamata’s first episode: events and character relationships advance WAY too quickly, and the intensity of the visual style had my head spinning. However, the series slows down after that and establishes the relationships and motivations to such a degree that I’m totally onboard with everything. If one girl is jealous that her best friend is hanging out with the new girl a lot, you know why she feels that way without it being overbearing. There’s a loneliness and desire to connect with others in these characters that makes them appealing and makes me root for them, even though I think middle schoolers are monsters. There’s a tearful confession in the rain (not that sort of confession) and I got the characters to the degree that I was way into it rather than rolling my eyes at how cheesy it is. Hanayamata is good shoujo.

Majimoji Rurumo

Slashe’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 4
Initial Impressions: B+

Despite all signs pointing to it being a simple old-school ecchi show, Majimoji Rurumo surprises with gentle sweetness amidst comedy and pervert antics. Shibaki, despite initial appearances, genuinely cares for Rurumo is a brotherly fashion, reminiscent of Ryuuji with Taiga of Toradora. The characters begin as walking caricatures, but become colured with surprising depth and personality one by one with each passing episode. However, the show could go still either way. At its best, it’s about a witch rendered emotionless rediscovering a childhood and a family life through the protagonist’s kindness. At its worse, it’s a ecchi magical girl show with high school antics. Judging from the tone of the OP and ED, I trust it will choose the right direction.

Futsu no Joshikousei ga Locodol Yattemita

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

I don’t really have a better word to use to sum up Locodol except “adorkable”.  Here we have two obviously amateur local idols (locodols) propped up in a scheme by one of the girls’ politician uncle in order to help increase interest in their small and declining home town.  Basically, exploiting the idol craze to bring in tourist and goods revenue.  Of course, aside from being physically attractive, the two girls’ skills as idols leaves something to be desired.  Add in a questionably cute mascot character and a whole lot of yuri overtones and you have a rather comedic, light, but boring, look at the idol industry

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Sword Art Online II

AC’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 3
Initial Impressions:B

Am I the only one who thinks that it’s weird to have a show entitled Sword Art Online when the story shifts to FPS now? But I digress; I think that, like the first season, this is going to be yet another highly overrated series. Of course, the production values are much better this time round and the show isn’t ashamed to show them off through (over)dramatic slow-motion action sequences. But as far as the characters go, Kirito is pretty much Mr. Can Do Everything and Asuna is his cheerleader. The only question now is, will protagonist Asada Shino make or break the show?

Tokyo ESP

Reckoner’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 3
Initial Impression: B-

Everyone rightfully makes the connection from the first episode that this is the equivalent of Japanese X-Men. The conflict between good espers and bad espers who wish to dispose of humanity because of fear of persecution is pretty much exactly the same as X-Men. However, this comes with putting it through an anime filter and a whole lot of campiness. Tokyo ESP is often dumb, but it is exactly the right kind of stupid for me to enjoy without having to rack my brain at all. This can certainly all go south real fast, but I get the feeling that the show knows exactly what it is doing.

Love Stage!!

Slashe’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 4
Initial Impressions: B+

Love Stage!! is director Kenichi Kasai‘s attempt to bring the yaoi genre to the main stage, much like his foray into yuri with the sublime Aoi Hana. Despite his attempts to distill and expand the material with many new scenes, the story at its core is a squee bait, albeit an engrossing and funny one. As such, it is still hampered by many trappings of the genre, like events of the third episode. If you can push past it, you’ll find a romance anime featuring a same-sex couple that will charm your heart. Ryouma in particular redeems himself over the course of the series, and the side romance involving Rei is particularly hilarious. I can’t wait to see how Kasai works his magic and translate the manga into a realistic and affecting tale.

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Tokyo Ghoul

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

Kind of a cautious B+ grade here, since there are far too many shounen battle tropes weaseling their way into the narratives.  Otherwise, this is a fascinating show about a completely alien culture and people, who also happen to prey upon humanity for sustinance and survival.  However, four episodes in, they keep bringing up more questions than answers.  I still don’t know where ghouls come from, what they are, or why, and I don’t know if I’m going to get it either.  Also not sure if they’re going to do the “ghouls are human, too!” thing, as there appears to be a pretty set “them or us” attitude amongst both groups.

Ao Haru Ride

AC’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 3
Initial Impressions: B

“It’s Kimi ni Todoke!” is what I and probably everyone else in the world is thinking when the first episode is aired. Sure, the show has a lot of aesthetic similarities but I’m more interested in the character interactions since, in shoujo drama, that’s basically its forte. While Futaba is your textbook shoujo drama lead character, I want to know more about Tanaka (sorry, I mean Mabuchi) and what causes him to be different ever since separating during middle school. It’s the main thing I’m mostly interested in and I am quite curious to know how things will turn out once revealed.

Sailor Moon Crystal

Reckoner’s First Thoughts
Episodes Seen: 3
Initial Impression: B-

I do not profess to be an expert on Sailor Moon in any capacity. Although I watched much of the original as a kid, there is not a terrible amount I remember about it, nor have I read any of the manga. Undoubtedly Sailor Moon is one of the most important and influential anime in the industry period, so checking out this remake feels like an obligation as an anime fan. Thus far, Sailor Moon Crystal is every bit as fabulous and fun as I remember watching as a kid.  However, the one thing that is extremely disappointing about Sailor Moon Crystal is that it looks way too budgeted. The third episode in particular had some pretty terrible animation, and considering this is such an iconic anime franchise it is an embarrassing effort on part of Toei.

One Response to “Summer 2014 First Thoughts”

  1. >2014
    >Sailor Moon Crystal not already AOTY
    I shiggy and I diddy.

    Hanayamata is just exceptional. It has not put a foot wrong so far. Easily the surprise of the season. I mean, considering its genre is so damn oversaturated, a show like this really has to be special to stand out. Hanayamata isn’t necessarily doing anything new, but it’s doing pretty much everything right. The respect it has for its characters, and its ability to make them sympathetic, is very impressive.

    I’m also with Shinmaru on Terror in Tokyo… I too have some reservations. I’m not saying it’s been a bad show so far, but I’m still waiting for it to prove itself, and do something with the glimpses its shown so far. If it turns into a Death Note-esque, contrived cat-and-mouse thriller at the expense of a genuine exploration of the psyche of these characters to explain just why they’ve resorted to terrorism, I’ll be a little disappointed.

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