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Dated 5 April 2013: Little Witch Academia was not the best anime I watched last week

Akko and Diana
How do you know she's a witch?

Little Witch Academia is an excellent short movie from the Anime Mirai 2013 project. In the case of Little Witch Academia, young animators benefited from the tutelage of former Gainax members now with Studio Trigger. The resulting project is a charming well-animated story reminiscent of the underrated Mahou Shoujo Tai Alice1 (2004-2005). I give Little Witch Academia a solid recommendation and look forward to more great things from Studio Trigger. I'm also curious if the rest of the Anime Mirai efforts are as good. With titles such as Death Billiards, how can they not be?

Noriko
Blue-Headband Noriko > Yellow-Headband Noriko.

All right, so why wasn't Little Witch Academia the best anime I watched all week? Well, it so happens I re-watched Top wo Nerae and Top wo Nerae 22 the same week. Considering I hold Top wo Nerae in such high regard, it's surprising how little I've written about it in over 11 years of anime blogging. (Similarly, there's basically no mention of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann on this site either, although in Gurren Lagann's case, it was because it aired during a period when the only anime that I was watching were Macross 7 and Tokimeki Memorial ~Only Love~.)

Nono
Sure is a step up from her old job cracking dishes at a maid-uniform diner.

You know where I'm going with this, right? Some of the individuals responsible for Little Witch Academia were involved with Top wo Nerae 2 (and Gurren Lagann) while they were with Gainax, so the pedigree is certainly there. Little Witch Academia turning out so well will surely add fuel to fellow former-Gainax fanboy flames. (Although I still have hope for post-diaspora, current-Gainax, Gainax actual.)

Yoko
Yoko is 14.

Speaking of Gurren Lagann, pre-orders for the Region A complete box set of Blu-ray discs are now available for an eye-opening $550 or so. For that kind of money, I certainly hope they are not upscales only marginally better than the DVDs. I'm not certain, but I seem to recall hearing that neither Gurren Lagann nor Top wo Nerae 2 were produced in full HD resolutions (because they were made in that unfortunate transitional period after traditional cells but before full HD digital work). If true, this at least explains why the Blu-rips of Top wo Nerae 2 are only small improvements over my R1 DVDs at best. Still, I waited a long time for Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Blu-rays before ultimately purchasing the R1 DVDs last year or so. Now that Blu-rays are nearly upon us, I'm tempted to repurchase them—just not five-hundred-fifty-dollars tempted.


Note 1: Officially known as The Adventures of Tweeny Witches in English.

Note 2: Also called GunBuster and Diebuster, respectively, but Diebuster is officially titled GunBuster 2 on the R1 DVDs because people are jackasses.

Dated 11 July 2013: Spring 2013 wrapup

Shiny Chariot
Shiny Chariot's Magical Festa is a tough act to follow.

Overall, the spring 2013 season was a little bit of a letdown considering it started fairly strong. (I can sort of prove it too.) From a subjective standpoint, it probably felt worse because the start of the season coincided with the release of Little Witch Academia and Death Billiards which are both excellent short films, although not part of the spring 2013 anime season itself. As you can probably predict, both the best show and the worst show I watched were pretty consistent episode to episode.

Suzuno
Suzuno is the Best Girl in Hataraku Maou-sama!.

Hataraku Maou-sama! was consistently entertaining and amusing, which was a real pleasant surprise because I thought it was based on a manga I dismissed as pretty unremarkable. Whether this means the show benefited by deviating from the source material or whether I simply confused it with a manga that has a similar set up, I have no idea. The real strength of the show was in not taking the premise too seriously and just keeping the focus on the comedic day-to-day and work-related antics. Even the somewhat forced end-of-season climax occurred on the penultimate episode, while the final episode itself was devoted to overcoming a completely unrelated (and much more compelling) adversary. Hataraku Maou-sama! isn't what I would call a fantastic show, but it was pretty good the whole way though and the best show I watched spring 2013.

Bellows
Hi, Bellows, meet the King of the Battle.

Suisei no Gargantia was also consistently good, but perhaps somewhat surprising because it did not end in some sort of Urobuchi tragedy as expected. I was a little skeptical when we reached the inevitable "Hideauze die when they are killed!" segment, but I'm satisfied with the resolution and glad Ledo escaped a NEET fate. I would be in favor of more Gargantia provided it focused on other characters or some of the minor ones previously introduced. The world itself makes for an interesting enough backdrop to support additional cours, but I'd prefer not dragging out the stories of characters who already received nice conclusions to their tales.

Kanaka and Saki
Not pictured: Legs.

Aiura probably should not rank so high given that it is such a short show, but that's more an indication as to how weak the rest of the season was than anything. Nothing really against Aiura, which was reliably pleasant and amusing through its run, but the short length really kept it from being anything more than a weekly showcase of anime legs and a cute teaser for (hopefully) full-length episodes.

Saki
Saki is Best Girl in Valvrave the Liberator.

Kakumeiki Valvrave is a ridiculous mecha show by Sunrise which is incredibly aggravating when it is promoting the triumph of teenagers over adults (even when it does it satirically) and decidedly myopic when it naively focuses on the importance of the school as a social construct. I actually can't tell if Sunrise is making fun of its (presumably teenage) audience, or if it is honestly trying to sell a story about youth empowerment to a generation for whom school is almost literally its entire world—a generation that grew up knowing approximately zero-point-fuck-all about war. I mean, the SCHOOL seceded? Really? And they elected a flibbertigibbet as their leader? Seriously? And the deepest desire of the refugees is to engage in traditional school functions after reaching safety? I think Sunrise is trying to coyly accuse teenagers of being simpletons, but a part of me suspects a solid portion of its viewers actually embraces these preposterous developments unironically. Remember that an early extended scene actually used the confiscation of cell phones as an example to depict the horrors of war. Japanese teenagers would likely be appalled at the prospect of having their beloved keitai taken from them, but surely even the most self-centered of these youths understand that actual refugees and displaced persons from real-world war zones would not sympathize with this particular loss even a little bit. But like I said, I can't tell. This is what makes Valvrave so bad that it's good, I guess.

Saki
I want to watch Saki's movie. They should release it as an OVA.

I should talk about the rape. I meant to talk about the rape. Everyone else talked about the rape and already exhausted themselves arguing about whether or not it was a rape. [SPOILERS: There's a rape.] I was not troubled by the scene in the least, but I think this goes back to what I once said about the viewer's expectations and how subject matter in one genre or medium (e.g., rape in an adult's crime novel) might receive an entirely different reception in a different genre or medium (e.g., rape in a cartoon about giant robots) which—despite many efforts to characterize it differently—is still obviously not accorded the same amount of latitude in this regard.

Saki
At least the sunset was pretty.

I'm going to digress for a bit here to mention another Sunrise giant robot rape that got basically no attention at all: The addition to episode 40 of the Gundam SEED rebroadcast in remastered HD. Spoilers, obviously. After Flay is captured, there's a scene a few episodes later when Yzak asks Rau what he intends to do with her. In the original broadcast, the scene cuts away to Flay (clothed) sleeping in a dark room. In the remastered rebroadcast, the scene cuts to Flay nude in bed with tears in her eyes, obviously implying Rau has been forcing or coercing her into having sex with him. Under the "best" case scenario, one could argue Flay may have initiated sex in a fruitless effort to manipulate Rau into freeing her, just as she used sex earlier in the show to manipulate Kira's motivation for fighting Coordinators by tapping into his desire to protect her. Flay's most ardent critics likely find some vindication in this latter interpretation as they repeat the usual invectives against her once again: Namely "slut" and "bitch." (Judged and sentenced for her crimes against purity by the Court of the Eternal Otaku.) But as I was saying, this scene drew not even a measurable fraction of the attention the Valvrave rape did.

Fujii
Fujii tries yet again to be funny.

Straight Title Robot Anime. Remember that thing? Because of its staggered start and finish, its final four episodes technically fell within spring 2013. Frankly, I wasn't expecting a comedy about a war that never ends to be so depressing. From a quality standpoint, it was basically as good as it was during winter 2013 for much the same reasons. I talked about this already, though. You'll notice it places a bit higher now than in those other two lists; it's a testament to how far most spring 2013 shows dropped.

Mikasa
I'm still waiting for Mikasa to activate her Pretty Cure powers.

Shingeki no Kyojin started out good, but is basically a disaster now. Since I've read the manga, I knew we were in for some laggard parts, but I wasn't expecting the pace to be this slow. The show would be fine if it were actually about a scrappy band fighting giants, but really it's mostly about cowardly soldiers talking about how terrified they are. The action scenes are excellent, but understandably sparse simply because of the huge production costs they require.

< Censored_Vagina> it took [SPOILERS] like 3 episodes to move a rock, then recap, I'm done with this.

That's basically Attack on Titan in a nutshell. I haven't quite dropped it yet, but I don't expect to last much longer barring some dramatic directional changes or significant deviations from the (frankly overrated) manga.

Regina and Mana
That's right. Apologize for what you've done to the show.

Episodes nine through 22 of DokiDoki! Precure are a bit of a disappointment considering the show's fairly strong start. This is not as bad as the collapse Fresh Pretty Cure suffered in its second half, but the Regina episodes of DokiDoki! Precure are not very compelling. I'm also a little appalled at the addition of Joe to the cast of heroes and really hope he stays on the sidelines as a minor character. Technically this was not the first time Pretty Cure has been rescued by male characters, but Joe just smacks of an effort to placate focus groups who somehow aren't content to simply let Pretty Cure trash the joint and walk away clean.

Touma
Oh, hey. It's that guy. Wait, that's no good.

Too stupid to fully enjoy, but too good looking to drop, To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S occupies the bottom run of my spring 2013 ladder of shows, not counting the ones I quit watching entirely. The fights are incredibly contrived (mostly because the author behind the Index and Railgun universe makes no effort to address obvious plot holes), but at least they're well animated—quite remarkable considering J.C. Staff's previous difficulties with fight scenes. Unfortunately, these plot holes are not nit-picky ones, but rather gaping orifices simply ignored in order to advance the story in the intended direction. For example, Mikoto spends most of the first cour of Railgun S sneaking around rather than enlisting the help of her roommate, the teleporter. This means said teleporter has to sit out basically the entire show so that I'm not even sure she's still a character. Kuroko? Was she in this? Are you sure you're not thinking of a different anime? Sadly, Saten has also been sidelined as well. Aside from almost being gang raped by one of Academy City's countless bands of aggressive hooligans, playing some Internet mahjong, and (correctly) speculating that Mikoto may be spending time with a boy, Saten has also done fuck all this season. Seriously, yo, can I get just one episode of her playing sandlot baseball? How about Three Flies Up?

Kuroko
I didn't drop Railgun S even though Railgun S dropped Kuroko.

Oh yeah, I also dropped a bunch of shows and never bothered to watch Yuyushiki, which I know many anime fans consider to be the best show from spring 2013. They weren't my cup of tea. Speaking of tea, I still have more Darjeeling tea that I bought months ago because of GIRLS und PANZER. I hope tea doesn't go bad.

Dated 2 June 2014: Viewer mail double feature

Takane
(Unrelated picture.)

Bernard writes:

I noticed you didn't seem to have an entry for Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, I remembered that one was pretty interesting, was wondering what you thought of it.

I watched the first episode because of Nakahara Mai, but I wasn't particularly interested in it for whatever reason despite the unexpected violence. I heard that it's good, though.

Erin writes:

Just wanted to say, that after a few years away from anime that your blog is the one I haphazardly browse to see what I've missed.

Thanks for reading! I wish I could point to some amazing bit of anime that you missed over the past few years, but nothing really stands out. Oh, there is a lot of material that's very good and plenty of stuff that's "important" from an "I can't believe you never watched that!" perspective, but the hoary joke about television being a medium because nothing on it is rare or well done sort of applies here. Despite all the anime that I've really enjoyed, I don't know there's much I would recommend to someone "a few years away from anime" besides Little Witch Academia.