Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter contains the best fight scene J.C. Staff has ever managed. It's even better than the Azumanga Daioh snowball fight. Maybe. Probably.
Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter started out as my favorite show this season and would have finished first in my End of Season Rankings (more on that later) were it not for a very solid season of Kannagi. Others offered some complaints about Nodame Paris, mostly regarding the new characters (and absence of old ones) and the look of the 3D orchestra. These issues don't bother me because my primary interests surround Nodame herself.
It is nice to see her relationship with Chiaki has advanced. These are baby steps to be sure, especially if they've known each other four years already, but by anime standards they are leaps and bounds. At least they're officially a couple now. Granted, they aren't especially affectionate, but compared to other shows where couples act like total strangers even after one of them literally
fucks loves the other one into a coma, Chiaki and Nodame are practically playing grab ass in the street. Okay?
I'm okay with new characters. It's better than keeping the original cast around forever and adding more and more new characters with each succeeding episode, diluting the screen time for all of them. StrikerS, I'm looking in your direction. Plus it wouldn't make sense for Nodame to feel homesick if everybody she knew in Japan happened to follow her following Chiaki to Paris. Pari-Hen is very much about Nodame adjusting and maturing as a person and a musician, and keeping her alone serves to promote that goal with the additional benefit of revealing just how needy and lonely Chiaki can be.
The 3D orchestra does look bad, and I hope J.C. Staff learns from its previous partnerships and uses some of Gainax's cost-cutting techniques during season three should the budget get tight. E.g., paper dolls, still frames, and black & white scenes. I find those to be better options than re-using stock footage or leaning on brutal CGI. That's right, there will be a season three (really just season two part two, seeing as how Paris was only 11 episodes. I have every confidence the next Nodame Cantabile will be a must-see show and I'm looking forward to it already.
Autumn 2008 did not produce any stellar shows1, meaning there wasn't a Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, Honey & Clover, Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, or the like. There wasn't even a Lovely Complex. However, it did have some very solid titles and a few shows that demonstrated mid-series potential as they resume during the Winter 2009 season.
Final rankings for shows I watched this season follow:
Kannagi > Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter > Hyakko > Toradora! > Shikabane Hime: Aka > Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight OVA > One Outs | Dropped: Kemeko DX (4) > Kurozuka (4) > Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka (?) > Casshern Sins (1) > Mouryou no Hako (1) > Toaru Majutsu no Index (4) > Michiko to Hatchin (1) | Worse Than Cosprayers: Kiss x Sis (1) > Macademi Wasshoi (1).
Two big surprises this season. First, I had dismissed Kannagi based on its pre-season description, but it proved to be the cream of the crop. Second, I wasn't expecting to still be watching Shikabane Hime at this stage. Thankfully, it has kept shounen jive (e.g., too much standing around talking about powers instead of fighting) to a minimum. By the way, I totally called that Yui Horie twist even before I finished watching episode one, just so you know.
To give you an understanding as to how much I loathe shounen jive, bear in mind I dropped To Aru Majutsu no Index after episode four despite fully supporting the Shizuka Itou character's decision to wear half a pair of jeans with her kid sister's t-shirt. I just couldn't take any more speeches about Not Thinking About Other People's Feelings or any more boasting about fine nuances of Special Techniques and Powers. Criminy.
Many of the shows I dropped early on (for example, Casshern Sins) might actually be very good, but just didn't capture my interest. This is the same reason why I dropped Kaiba a couple seasons ago after watching no more than two episodes despite almost universal acclaim, for example.
Note 01: I'm not counting any of the Kara no Kyoukai movies as belonging to the Autumn 2008 season. Any of the films in this series would certainly qualify as stellar.
What does Detective Conan have in common with Nodame Cantabile and True Tears?
Ran is such a snappy dresser, too. I sure hope that outfit isn't ruined.
I was looking forward to Golden Time because I felt both the manga and the original light novels successfully combined the two components I claim critical to a romantic comedy's success: Medium-Wackiness and Emotional Resonance. The Golden Time anime does not deviate from the source material, but the way it covers some significant events is haphazard and rushed.
From a narrative standpoint, watching Golden Time is sort of like hearing a synopsis from a reader who only skimmed the books. All the key points are there, but getting them from this type of storytelling isn't conducive to understanding how they relate. The viewer is less likely to appreciate the moments themselves.
The biggest problem so far is episode four was clearly rushed. A lot of important events occur shortly after Banri's and Kouko's night in the woods, but episode four of the anime runs through them all without conveying their gravity. Specifically, the confrontation with Chinami, the subsequent encounter with Nana, Kouko taking the stage, and the departure from the club are all important events that the anime basically glosses over, skipping to the morning after. (Significantly, the anime also entirely omits the binge drinking that occurs throughout those events.) I was also dissatisfied with how the anime covered Kouko's struggle at Banri's club and with how it handled Banri's unexpected journey.
Before the Golden Time anime started, quite a few people expressed their reservations after learning Kon Chiaki is at the helm. (She's the director perhaps best known for "ruining" the Nodame Cantabile sequels.) Through four episodes, I have to grudgingly admit that these pessimists were right.
Despite all the criticism J.C. Staff attracts these days, I still consider it a very capable studio when it plays to its strengths. Emotional resonance is its bread and butter. Unfortunately, compared to its deft execution in other adaptations such as Toradora! and Honey & Clover, Golden Time is an underachiever. Maybe episode four was just a aberrant one-off, but it was ham-fisted even compared to the Nodame Cantabile sequels Kon Chiaki herself directed, let alone compared to the brilliant first season. One-off or not, it's troubling that such important parts of Golden Time didn't get better treatment.
Nevertheless, despite the flaws in how Golden Time is presented, I do still like the show. I think this is a testament to the strength of the original source material. It's a real shame the anime isn't taking a bit more care with how it covers the events, because it has the potential to be very good. It seems merely slowing down a bit would suffice, Kon Chiaki notwithstanding. I suspect it's likely the rush is inspired by desires to hit a milestone by the end of the season, but this makes it more difficult to simply enjoy the ride.