Autumn 2012 so far: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (1-4) > Smile Precure! (34-36) > Sword Art Online (15-17) > GIRLS und PANZER (1-3) > Medaka Box Abnormal (1-3) > Busou Shinki (1-4) > Aikatsu! (1-3) > Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (1-4) > Little Busters! (1-4).
Now that we're about a third of the way through the current anime season, I have some general impressions of the shows I'm following thus far.
A little unexpectedly for me, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is at the top of my list. I say unexpectedly because I am wholly ignorant of the source material aside from some vague understanding that it is a frequently referenced classic of the burly-men-punching-things-during-absurd-fights vein. Sure enough, the four episodes I've seen have been quite absurd and they have featured a lot of punching and numerous burly men. Nevertheless, it is quite entertaining and fans of the manga seem to agree it is a worthy adaptation. It also invokes the AYAKO DOCTRINE, so there is that if you're on the fence about giving it a try.
Smile Precure! is higher in these rankings than it has been the rest of the year simply because the three episodes under consideration (34-36) have been unusually good. I don't expect it to remain as entertaining, since it will surely succumb to its otaku-friendly, girls-being-cute-and-weak ways, but these last three episodes at least have been well done. I'm also glad to see the return of heterosexual love interests as a Precure subplot. Heartcatch Precure!, Suite Precure♪, and all the previous episodes of Smile Precure! have been raked bow to stern by broadsides from the HMS Yuri despite the fact there are no canonical lesbians in the entire Pretty Cure franchise. (Saki and Mai sure do hold hands an awful lot, though.)
I'm ranking the early episodes of the Alfheim Online arc of Sword Art Online third, although I expect the show to slip in the rankings at least as fast as Smile Precure! will probably fall. I read the corresponding volumes of the light novels before I even began watching Sword Art Online, so I can already foresee the gnashing of teeth these upcoming episodes will generate. [Spoilers: There will be a lot of scenes of Asuna sitting in a chair.] Still, I'm amused mini-Yui gained a head flower for no reason, effectively making her a little AI Saten. It's funny if you like seiyuu jokes.
As Smile Precure! and Sword Art Online fall, they will probably be passed by GIRLS und PANZER and Medaka Box Abnormal. I'm not entirely sure GIRLS und PANZER is catering to military otaku necessarily, but having at least a mild interest in tanks and mechanized infantry seems to assist in the enjoyment of the show overall. Making panzer fahren a girls' school sport is an unusual premise, but an entertaining one thus far. My only complaint is that the characters are a little indistinct in these early episodes. Erwin is the Best Girl, but I'm only saying that because of the way she's dressed. If I am to enjoy GIRLS und PANZER as a sports anime, I'll need to care a bit more about who wins or loses. I also wish the audio track made more of an effort to kick out a low-frequency thump for viewers with subwoofers. The sounds of the guns are not as impressive as they could be, so while the characters mention the awe they feel when they shoot for the first time, the audience doesn't quite get to share in the experience.
I wasn't expecting to enjoy Medaka Box Abnormal this much. Probably the worst-kept secret of Medaka Box is that it changes from school hijinks to high-tension shounen fighting rather abruptly. The first season of the anime included the start of this transformation, and the second season, Medaka Box Abnormal, continues with the "Flask Plan" arc. I've read through as much of the manga as this second anime season is likely to cover, and I can't claim to have enjoyed much of it. I have a low threshold of tolerance for shounen jive in general. If the anime will spend most of its time vacillating between stills of bombastic schoolchildren giving lectures about the importance of people's feelings and banal fights, I'm not going to last long as a viewer. However, Medaka Box does have the advantage of humiliating people with Fruits Basket faces regularly, so I guess it'll all depend on how Gainax executes what's left. No pressure, y'all.
I wanted to like Busou Shinki after I learned what it was about and discovered its enormous cast of popular voice actresses. However, so far it's been playing out as an inferior Hand Maid May or Angelic Layer. The doll joints are also kinda off-putting.
I don't remember why I'm watching Aikatsu!, but I think I was tricked. This is not a very good show, and the 3D CGI dance performances are vastly inferior to the Pretty Cure EDs I associate with the genre. I think I'll give it one more episode to do something interesting, because there's been nothing offered so far that wouldn't be better served by queuing up iM@S videos on Nicovideo.
I'm probably the only person who ranks Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! this low, but there's basically nothing about it that I enjoy. It is well done and impeccably animated, but it strikes me too much as a Kyoto Animation showcase. This detracts from my potential enjoyment of the show just as SHAFT showcases reduce my appreciation of SHAFT's shows. Is it a valid complaint to find Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! too chuunibyou? Obviously its chuuni elements are deliberate and intended to show how delusional and immature its adherents are, and how mortified its reformed practitioners feel after "outgrowing" their chuunibyou stage, but I just don't get any enjoyment watching Rikka prance around in her own little world. Why couldn't this show have been about a Napping and Sometimes Badminton Club instead? Likewise, every line Dekomori utters strikes me as foolish and irrelevant. It particularly bothers me that both Rikka and Sanae are in full-on chuuni mode at all times. Since they never, ever act like normal human beings, they're basically as broken as Chii or any of those other "adorably autistic" moé blobs. What makes them any better than the anteater girl from Little Busters!?
I'm hoping Nibutani brings a more interesting dynamic to the show, but it will be an uphill battle if I have to resist the urge to slap her irregular hairclip to the ground every time she's on screen. Apparently her hairclip is much more sensible in the original light novel illustrations, so I can only assume it's Kyoto Animation being stylishly Kyoto Animation-ish.
I'm still watching Little Busters! because it's technically a baseball anime. I'm pleased the new buxom character is not a nice person and that she's obviously better than everyone else around her. It's refreshing given that the anteater-panties girl and her retard moé qualities brought the show to a new low in episode two. I still believe it was a mistake to cast Horie Yui as the male lead, and I can't see myself watching this show much longer unless J.C. Staff actually convinces me to care about what happens to these characters—a dubious prospect considering I already know what does happen to these characters since I looked up most of the spoilers.