There are two Fate/stay night TV anime series and the first of three Heaven's Feel movies coming out in 2017. In addition to this, Fate/Grand Order also dropped its 72-minute -First Order- commercial on the last day of 2016. It seems...excessive. It also doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in me to learn Fate/Apocrypha is based on a light novel series. Fate/Extra at least is going to be a SHAFT x SHINBO show, which I suppose is good news for those of you who like that sort of thing. I'm at least sort of optimistic because it features the Tange Sakura-type Saber, who was at least pretty great in Carnival Phantasm.(more…)
Hyouka is quite popular even though its mysteries are not profound. However, the mysteries are interesting enough to at least amuse those looking for a hook, although I suspect the show's appeal is mostly due to its characters, not the mysteries themselves. Anyone who claims to like Hyouka strictly for its detective stories is likely new to mysteries in general. So besides the characters, what else is good if the mysteries themselves are mundane? Well, the animation is impeccable from a technical perspective, but even then the direction at times is straight-up terrible the way SHAFT X SHINBO stunt animation is terrible. It sometimes indulges in "creative" framing and different angles that are suppose to be interesting and unconventional. They are, in fact, unconventional in that they break old guidelines of cinematography that I suppose only purists care about these days. Hyouka features wildly framed shots for no purpose other than to be different, and angles that could not belong to any character's point of view are used frequently. (Ironically, Hyouka's own characters attack this very practice during the movie arc.)
So despite these flaws, is Hyouka good, as in Good with a capital G? Yes, it is. But is it interesting? Well, not always. Most complaints about Hyouka lament that it is boring or claim that nothing happens; the wacky camera angles that annoy me seem to bother those people a lot less. Maybe that's why Hyouka uses wacky camera angles at times: It expects viewers to find some of its content tedious, and feels a need to goose short attention spans with distractions. But if a long conversation in a cafe needs gimmicks to keep viewers engaged, them perhaps it simply runs too long.
Although I can easily see how others might think so, I don't personally find Hyouka dull. After all, I was able to marathon its earlier episodes quickly enough to catch up with the current broadcast without difficulty. So where would I retroactively rank Hyouka now among the spring 2012 shows? Pretty low, actually. I'd say after Lupin III but above Sakamichi no Apollon if I only consider the first 11 episodes of Hyouka. (I'm using the eleventh episode as the cutoff somewhat arbitrarily because the ED changes for the twelfth episode, and because 11 is around half of the show's projected
24 21-ish-episode length.) Admittedly, this low position is mostly because the show uses these early episodes mostly for development and comes across much stronger in its second cour once the character development culminates in a better understanding of the motivations and reservations driving the cast's actions. Perhaps I've been conditioned by the single-cour trend to be less patient with character development.
This is not to say that allegations Hyouka develops its characters too slowly are not justified. Yes, we discover Houtarou overlooked a serious flaw in his reasoning because his results-oriented personality prevented him from using a people-oriented approach to solving their problems, but should it take so many episodes to learn this? Maybe it's premature and improper to judge Hyouka at this point, since it seems to be building towards a final payoff, but due to the anime's reliance on external source material, there's a chance no conclusion will be rewarding enough to viewers not already enamored with the show thus far.
Senki Zesshou Symphogear was awesome because it was preposterous. Symphogear went above and beyond to remain entertaining. From the first BADICAL episode to its ridiculous climax, Symphogear always remained fun to watch. I can't claim with a straight face that it's actually good, but I never claimed a show had to be good to be the best show of the season. More of this sort of thing, please.
The best show of Winter 2012 if you want to use boring metrics such as "funny" or "consistent" is Daily Lives of High School Boys (Danshi Kōkōsei no Nichijō or "Nichibros" affectionately, among fans). Shockingly, this was a very amusing comedy and nothing at all like what I thought it would be about based on the title. Daily Lives of High School Boys also accomplished the rare No Bad Episodes achievement. Hell, I'd even go so far as to recommend it. That's something I can't do for Symphogear.
I liked Black Rock Shooter for its almost confrontational use of allegory and metaphor to illustrate the trauma of suffering teenage feelings. I don't believe I have an especially high tolerance or patience for teen angst in general, so I consider my positive overall opinion of Black Rock Shooter to be a testament to its solid, stylish execution and depiction of envy, despair, humiliation, friendship, and courage. I can see how other viewers might wildly disagree, though.
Detective Conan remains as good as ever. It's somewhat amazing that after more than 650 episodes it still has compelling stories about its key characters. It's also just as satisfying as ever to watch Ran and Kazuha whip the Hell out of some goob. If you're new to these wrap-ups, Detective Conan is sort of my control group of quality since it's pretty consistent and appears ready to run as long as it has to.
Guilty Crown was all over the place this season. It's quite a mess, but was pretty entertaining in an absurd sort of way when it was about [spoilers] and [spoilers] and [spoilers!], but then it just started getting stupid. Shu as a protagonist was its biggest flaw, and things would have been so much better if Guilty Crown had killed him unexpectedly and replaced him with Ayase. For a show that I ranked number one for a large part of the season, Guilty Crown fell a long way in its inability to pull off a satisfying conclusion. It also didn't make a damn lot of sense, but a show doesn't need to make sense to be the best of the season. (See Symphogear.)
The "HD" rebroadcast of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is not much different from the original. It's mostly just cropped and upscaled. I still like it, though, even if Flay's breasts are now flying out-of-control all over the OP.
I finished Thermae Romae months ago. It's a good thing it was so short, though. I can't imagine watching a full cour of it.
It's a bit of a relief that Smile Precure! is charming. These girls can't fight worth a damn. That's kind of the trend for Pretty Cure over the last few years, though. There's not nearly enough ass kicking. I remain hopeful that Cure March will get her act together later, even if she does end up carrying the rest of the team. Notably, Nao wears combat boots and her favorite shirt appears to have lance corporal rank insignia on its sleeve and the flag of England on the breast. SHOW ME YOUR WAR FACE, CURE MARCH!
Amagami SS+ was a huge letdown because it retconned nearly all of the progress Potato-kun made in the first season. It would be almost inexplicable, except that I should have predicted the craven devotion to upholding the Otaku Virtues. In nearly every respect, the second season of Amagami SS is wasted potential, and a waste of time. At least Tsukasa remains the Amagami Best Girl by showing she's smart enough not to fall for stupid tricks.
High School DxD is both a disappointment and a pleasant surprise. On the one hand, it's a lot better than a trashy show like that has any right to be. On the other hand, it didn't turn out as good as it appeared it would be from the early episodes following the cookie-cutter first episode.
Tantei Opera Milky Holmes II was not nearly as good as the first season. Then again, the first season was a lot better than anyone expected it to be, so I guess it works out. Too much lard, not enough Arsène, and the only new gag I liked was Hercule turning out to be a huge pervert in secret.
Another was another letdown for me. It started off boring, got interesting, got stupid, and ended up being completely retarded. I think it tried recapture the elements that made Shiki so good, but instead of B-movie fun Another was just poorly written dreck. So many problems. There's only so much handwaving I'm willing to accept. And another thing: [SPOILERS] If everyone forgets about the dead extra person after he's killed, how do they know it's over? Wouldn't the class continue looking for the extra person until everyone was dead? In any case, it seems a lot of people who were very critical of Guilty Crown for being puerile were much more forgiving of Another despite the two shows sharing similar flaws. I took the opposite view. I dunno, maybe I liked Butt OS and wheelchair-fu more than I thought. A classroom of students too stupid to live? Not so much.
Shakugan no Shana III was a lot better than Shakugan no Shana II but was still terrible. I blame J.C. Staff's persistent problems with producing compelling fight scenes. They're bad enough at it that sequences only a few seconds long routinely come out horrid. Thus, when J.C. Staff tries to drag out fight scenes over multiple episodes, the end result is disastrous.
Nisemonogatari is awesome if you like that SHAFTXSHINBO jive. It'll irritate the crap out of you if you have little to no patience for it, though. And let's be clear on this: Koyomi is a harem comedy protagonist. A shitty one. Also, the obsession with little sisters has got to stop. I suppose I don't "get" Japanese fetishes, but I am really tired of the imouto thing. It's basically only okay when it's like Harima + Yakumo from School Rumble (platonic friendship with the kid sister of his unrequited love). I suspect many viewers will further disagree with me here, but as much as I like Sakamoto Maaya, I believe Hirano Aya, the original voice of Shinobu (back when she didn't talk) would have been a better match. I assume Hirano Aya was replaced for reasons related to her relatively recent personal and professional problems.
I already described my problems with Suite Precure♪. I still want to know whether or not Cure Rhythm's battle costume smells like cake, though.
I dropped Moretsu Pirates because it was boring. I heard later that the show is actually about privateering, anyway.
Senki Zesshou Symphogear is badical. If you can't enjoy teenage girls fighting with the power of song, you can't enjoy anime. I am a little perplexed by the numerous (coincidental?) similarities with Suite Precure♪, though. Both shows are music-themed and feature superpowered teenage girls named Kanade and Hibiki who fight inhuman adversaries known as Noise by using either their magic or a science sufficiently advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic. Senki Zesshou Symphogear is much better than Suite Precure♪ so far, though, even if it does have comically large swords.
Amagami SS+ is a worthy sequel to Amagami SS. It follows the same format, although the girls are sequenced in a different order this time. From the looks of it, Amagami SS+ will be 12 episodes offering two-episode arcs for each of the six lead girls, continuing from where the original four-episode arcs in the first season left off, not including timeskip epilogues. Probably the only real problem with Amagami SS+ is that Potato-kun continues to be a bit of a tool with very little to offer in the way of explaining why any of these girls give him the time of day (let alone explaining why some even deigned to sleep with him). Such are harem comedies, I suppose. Even serially monogamous ones.
I'm not sure if I should lump the Mobile Suit Gundam SEED "HD" rebroadcast in with the rest of the winter 2012 shows, or group it with my "Also Watching" cluster. Technically, there is new material, where Sunrise was unable able to crop the original 4:3 broadcast without terrible framing problems. Aside from the shortscreen upscale with sporadic new shots, there's not much to this rebroadcast aside from a new ED arrangement I don't like as much as the original. Still, Gundam SEED is pretty good if you aren't carrying too much U.C. baggage. Let's not confuse it with the dreadful Gundam SEED Destiny sequel, at least. In other news, re-watching SEED makes me wish Hummy would have worked in a "Cosmic Era 70" intro to at least one episode of Suite Precure♪. I like seiyuu jokes.
Guilty Crown is not nearly as bad as people claim—it's just juvenile. Some degree of tolerance for tropes intended to appeal to children and teenage boys is required to fully appreciate Guilty Crown. That said, there are elements of the show that don't make any damn sense. Still, I enjoy it for the nice production values and the sufficiently tolerable male lead. Nevertheless, it is a little hard to stomach a successful terrorist organization run entirely by teenagers.
Detective Conan is Detective Conan. This season appears poised to be as good as it ever was. Detective Conan also remains the best source for regular Hayashibara Megumi and periodic Kansai-ben Miyamura Yuko (Neon Genesis Evangelion's Rei and Osaka-type Asuka) content.
Tantei Opera Milky Holmes II isn't quite as good as the first season yet, but it's nothing more Kokoro and Arsène couldn't fix.
I'm not going to call the plot of Shakugan no Shana III complicated, but it seems a bit more convoluted than it needs to be. There's a lot of stuff going on at the same time now, and not all of it makes good sense. It's mostly interesting, or at least amusing, which is a huge step up from Shakugan no Shana II which I'm trying my best to forget even though it's only been a few months since I watched it.
It turns out J.C. Staff is not only bad when it comes to fight scenes. It's also bad at war. At least with that arc over, Shakugan no Shana Final can finally answer the important questions: Whatever happened to horny dude after his afternoon of life-threatening copulation with horny chick? Obviously she fucked him into next year, and they were still airborne last we saw them, but what's going to happen when they hit the ground?
Speaking of which, if Margery is the Shakugan no Shana drunken office lady, then Rebecca is the Shana drunken sorority girl, even though I think she's been sober the whole time. The girl just don't look sober. Ever. I like Rebecca.
Moretsu Pirates seems fine so far, but it's kinda boring, even if it does have schoolgirls wearing skirts in zero-G. For being "bodacious space pirates," they don't seem very bodacious, spacey, or piratey.
I am watching Nisemonogatari. It's pretty good if you like that sort of thing, but it's painful to watch if you have a low tolerance for SHAFTisms. Nisemonogatari is a pretty ambitious harem comedy, but I guess that's still a lot better than typical low-brow ones.
Suite Precure♪ is a disaster at this point. Worst Pretty Cure series ever. I hope Smile Precure! is a big improvement. With a starting cast of at least five Cures, I hope Smile tries to tap the focus on interpersonal relationships that made Yes! Precure 5 so successful. I will also accept wall-to-wall mahou shoujo beatdowns a la the first generation, Futari wa Pretty Cure.
Choosing the Girl of the Year for 2011 shows how views held at the mid-year mark can change months later even without much additional information. As you may recall, the initial front runner was Homura from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, with Charles and Ran looking to place and to show. However, after another six months of deliberation, I think I may need to reconsider my choices.
Going through my initial recommendations, Erika from Heartcatch Precure! does even better in light of how uninspiring the entire cast of Suite Precure♪ has been. Nearly all the Suite Precure♪ characters are all right. (Not Cure Muse. Cure Muse is straight-up terrible.) However, they are so underdeveloped. Even Buki and Miki from Fresh Pretty Cure have more personality than the Suite cast. And the Suite Cures all seem to make such terrible choices. Not that Erika was a sound voice of reason in Heartcatch, but Erika at least had a lot more verve than any of the current crop of Cures, so the things she did were almost always entertaining, even when they were ill conceived. Nevertheless, while Erika certainly makes the Suite cast look bad, it's not enough to win her Girl of the Year.
As far as I can tell, Moshidora was wildly unpopular, but I thought it was pretty good. It's rare for a show to get better with every episode. I might be looking at this through baseball goggles (they're like instrument goggles, okay), but Minami from Moshidora easily deserves a Girl of the Year nomination. She doesn't have enough to win, but you can't expect someone to go to the Koshien and win Girl of the Year in the same year, can you? Nobody is that good. Oh, wait. Aoba from Cross Game did that just last year.
Hana carried the second season of Seikon no Qwaser through its early lacklustre episodes. Carried it in her ass. [P.S. SPOILERS.]
Early in the year, it really seemed as if Charles from IS: Infinite Stratos had a legitimate change of winning. I suppose she did, but as I mentioned with regard to the OVA, the end of the series basically threw away everything that made Charles great. Instead, she just became another blushing simpleton in Ichika's harem. How things would have been different if she had been absent from the series' final scene! It could have played out otherwise unchanged, but for a brief cut away to Charles sitting quietly in her room, reading one of those books Ichika keeps around for show, maybe looking up curiously to ask, "What is that racket outside?" Alas, somewhere along the way the writers forgot what made her great. Charles doesn't win.
Based on how much I like The Idolm@ster TV, you might expect one of the 765 girls to win this year. The truth is, I'm not even sure who to nominate. Idolm@ster relies very much on its ensemble cast, and as much as I like most of the girls individually, I like them collectively more. So, the first ever group nomination goes out to Chihaya, Miki, Takane, Ritsuko, Haruka, Mami, Makoto, Iori, Hibiki, Ami, Azusa, Yayoi, Kotori, and Yukiho. They don't win, though. I'm not ready.
Even though I'm still not entirely sure squids are eligible to win Girl of the Year, Ika Musume managed a nomination last year for being pretty much non-stop awesome. Unfortunately, the second season of Ika Musume spent a lot of time, well, treading water for the most part. In fact, I'm inclined to think the Best Girl in Ika Musume II isn't even the title character. Eiko has been a solid straight man throughout the series, perhaps because she doesn't rely on having some broadly painted quirk to define her. Of course, now that I think about it, Eiko's role doesn't even necessarily require a female character. Eiko could have been a teenage boy, and the only real change to the show would be perhaps not having Ika Musume sleep in the same bedroom. Nobody from Shinryaku!? Ika Musume gets a nomination, by the way. Not this year.
If you've been paying attention, you've already figured out the heavily armed witch killer Homura does not win this year. There were two obstacles in her way. First, Homura is handicapped by my general dislike of SHAFT and Shinbo and the sophomoric fans they attract. Second, Homura's defining characteristic—or at least the one working most in her favor—is her indefatigable dedication. It's admirable, but even Homura can learn a thing or two about tireless devotion from this year's winner: Ran.
Long-suffering Mouri Ran is 2011's Girl of the Year. Ran has always been good enough to win every year, but a relatively weak field for 2011 coupled with an especially good year for Ran puts her over the top. Ran's peculiar similarities to Homura also helped seal the win. I say "long-suffering," but not very much actual in-show time has passed for Ran. Like Homura, Ran is essentially trapped in time, doomed to absorb hundreds of failures, surrounded by death, and never achieving the peace she seeks with the one she loves.
For over six hundred episodes and more than a dozen movies, poor Ran hasn't been able to catch a break, but thankfully, there was some progress in 2011. This year, Detective Conan was at least kind enough to offer her the Valentine's Day arc, the White Day arc, and very compelling London arc, all of which which combine satisfyingly in ways unexpected for a show as generally static as Detective Conan. Congratulations, Ran, 2011's Girl of the Year.
Dated 26 December 2011: This is a Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica gimmick post (but not about "Puella Maji" doubleplus ungood Latin subtitle)
I randomly found this thing one day. It seems oddly familiar. Wait a minute....
This can't be good.
Despite my disdain for SHAFTXSHINBO, Mahou Shojo Madoka Magica (at least what I've seen of it so far, as the remaining episodes were pre-empted due to the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami—they're expected to air in a few days) is really good. [Update: The final two episodes did have some surprises. The rating remains unchanged.] Whether it's good in spite of SHAFTXSHINBO because of Kajiura Yuki and Urobuchi Gen isn't so much important as the fact that they took something which I had fully expected to be unconventional, made it so, and still managed to impress. Although I did not enjoy Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica nearly as much as its true fans did, it was still easily the best show I watched from winter 2011, admittedly not a very difficult feat when the runner up probably only placed as high as it did thanks to the Hanakana Distortion Field.
Infinite Stratos was by no stretch of the imagination a good show, but it was fun to watch. Curiously, it's often the male protagonist that makes or breaks harem comedies, not the bevy of girls themselves. Thankfully, Infinite Stratos does well on both fronts. Potato-kun is mostly unobjectionable, with neither an overpoweringly "strong sense of justice" nor a timid adversion to girls, the two most common flaws of the typical harem comedy putz.
Unfortunately, not having those two flaws means Potato-kun needs some other character flaw to be the excuse why he doesn't trophy
fuck love all the girls during the course of the show. In Ichika's case, he's a moron. It works out, though, because nearly every girl in his harem is also a moron. This is probably why Charles is so popular, as she's the only girl in the harem who is neither dumb nor crazy. Okay, she did pretend to be a very unconvincing boy for a while, but she gave that up after a few episodes, and the only reason other people bought that act is because the entire school is filled with complete idiots.
Anyway, Infinite Stratos was an amusing, harmless diversion and was pretty fun until it decided it needed a plot towards the end. Instead of the Final Battle against MacGuffin, they should have devoted the last three episodes to a footrace or an extended game of tag.
Kimi ni Todoke really took a dive with 2nd Season in my view and dipped below the Detective Conan Line during the middle episodes because it upset the precarious balance of misunderstandings and heartfulness. Basically the entire season dragged out due to terribly painful communication problems. It made me wish the show was about Ume instead, or maybe Yano falling in love with Pin. (It's not a spoiler, okay? It's right there in the OP!) Thankfully, Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season pulled itself together during the final three episodes. Pity the entire season couldn't be that good. Had it been, then Kimi ni Todoke Second Season would have been as good as, well, Kimi ni Todoke First Season.
Somewhat unexpectedly, finishing Kimi ni Todoke S2 makes me wish for a third season of Ai Yori Aoshi—one that follows the manga instead of jumping all over Creation. The final volumes of Ai Yori Aoshi really deserve a lot better than the lackluster impression the two inconsistent anime seasons left behind. They may have to animate Aoi's bra in the series climax with CGI, though. (Ha ha. "Climax.")
Viewers seem fairly divided on Fractale, particularly with regard to its ending. Much as I postulated when describing my early impressions of the show, the way I see it, there are two camps: Those that care about its pedigree and subsequently chose to watch Fractale critically, and those who just wanted to enjoy themselves because anime is still a hobby. That latter group likely enjoyed Nessa's turbo-genki moments quite a lot more, and even if there might be a Hanakana Distortion Field at work, they presumably enjoyed the show more as a whole.
This is not to say Fractale doesn't suffer from a host of problems. Personally, I felt all of the fighting and battle scenes were comically bad, and a lot of things (especially towards the end) didn't make any sense. I was also somewhat crestfallen to learn Phryne wasn't just acting stupid—she really was an idiot. It's because of these problems that I don't rank Fractale higher among the winter 2011 shows. Nevertheless, it was still pretty good overall, and including an audio cameo by Nausicaä herself towards the end to bookend the visual references from earlier in the season was pretty nice, even if I totally missed it.
Detective Conan is Detective Conan. As I mentioned before, Detective Conan is basically my control group when it comes to ranking shows. Each season of Detective Conan is about the same and typically as good as any of its myriad previous seasons. This remained true during winter 2011, although I would like to point out the "Tear Drops" OP totally messes with the heads of Shinichi + Ran 'shippers.
The end of Heartcatch Precure! was all right, even though Cure Blossom remained mostly useless. Probably the highlight for me was Cure Marine suckerpunching Kumojacky in the face on general principle before he could launch into an idiomatic, vaguely evil speech.
Suite Precure is decent, but nothing really special unless you care about voice actresses. Koshimizu Ami, Orikasa Fumiko, Toyoguchi Megumi, and Mitsuishi Kotono are all on board. In fact, I should probably check Danbooru for what I'm sure must be copious amounts of seiyuu_joke parody/crossover fan art.
I dropped Freezing not because it was exploitative, but because it was kinda retarded. I can't wait for the second season of Seikon no Qwaser, though. (No, seriously.)
I was intriqed by Ri♡ -Rainbow Gate!- because it was Highlander with card battles, but I think I lost interest after two episodes beause Rio's hair sucks.
Yumekui Merry didn't suck, but I dropped it after the first episode because I wasn't interested. I heard it gets better later, but I still suspect Merry might actually be a boy.
I dropped Wolverine after a single episode because it was God awful. Congratulations, Wolverine, you are easily WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS. All you need to know about the show is that in the first episode, a group of people flying around with jetpacks bent on attacking Wolverine with rifles decide to all fly close enough for him to gut them with his claws. Then later on Wolverine breaks one of Sir Isaac Newton's Laws of Motion. Look, I'm okay with his indestructible skeleton and canonical ability to regenerate from a single remaining drop of blood, but c'mon.
Final tally: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica > IS: Infinite Stratos > Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season > Fractale > Detective Conan > Heartcatch Precure! > Suite Precure | Dropped: Freezing > Ri♡ -Rainbow Gate!- > Yumekui Merry | WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS: Wolverine.
Dated 26 March 2011: This season is about magikal girls carrying people (not quite comparing and contrasting Suite Precure with Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica again)
Look, it's Cure Rhythm carrying her crybaby kid brother. Dude, don't let anyone princess-carry you. I don't care if you're still in grammar school. That's just embarrassing.
I'm going to digress for a minute to point out there was more crying in Suite Precure episode six than I remember in the approximately 300 previous episodes of Pretty Cure that I've watched so far. I haven't seen this much crying since I quit watching Ookiku Furikabutte (A.K.A. Big Windup). We're talking like Stellvia-level crying. Okay, not really like Stellvia crying. That's not even possible.
Look, it's Cure Melody totally carrying Cure Rhythm. Seriously, Kanade, you've got to step up. I understand Hibiki is the lead character and all, and she's showing off her brand new attack here, but you had better go aggro next episode if you don't want to be known as Cure Apron, Queen of Cakes. Feel free to punch someone in the face once in a while.
Look, it's mahou shoujo Kyoko carrying Sayaka.