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Dated 19 July 2012: Iriya's Sky, Summer of Re-Runs

Ryosuke and Risara
This blog post is presented in Feel-A-Round.

Summer 2012 is shaping up to be a quiet season of anime for me. Aside from shows continuing from spring 2012, not much from the current season interests me. This might be the quarter where I catch up on my re-watching backlog and finish reading those books on Byzantine history I've been meaning to complete. At the moment, I'm only watching Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, Smile Precure!, Binbogami ga!, AKB0048, and Dakara Boku wa, H ga Dekinai.

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Dated 23 October 2012: The swords in Sword Art Online are neither artistic nor online, discuss

Kirito and Asuna
I couldn't think of a caption that involved sex, DEBAN, or Mount Doom.
I think those buckles are just for show, though.

It turns out it didn't take me long at all to catch up with Sword Art Online. Perhaps it's because I already read through the corresponding portions of the light novel, but I found the show much less objectionable on a whole than most of its critics. The biggest complaints I see tend to fall into two categories. First, Kirito is accused of being a "Mary Sue," and second, Asuna is characterized as too compliant or unassertive or lacking independence. I agree there is merit to these complaints in that the factors exist, but I'm not convinced they qualify as reasonable concerns to care about.

Kirito
At least Kirito is better than Tsukasa.

With regard to Kirito's "Mary Sue" qualities, it's true he has the abnormally good fortune of being better at basically everything than anyone else he encounters in the game, but that doesn't especially bother me. I guess anime has bombarded me with so many incompetent, weak-ass milquetoasts that even a potato with good stats is preferable to average spuds. So I don't care if Kirito's battles are tensionless because I know no real harm will to come to him. Other lead characters in various television shows and movies have plot armor too; he's no different.

Asuna
Now you're gonna get fish juices in your hair and sweater, sweetie.

So what about Asuna? I guess as Primary Love Interest she doesn't get much opportunity to do much except carve up chumps and soy sauce the shit out of some fish, but nobody else does much when Kirito is around either. So to me, the criticism about Asuna's contributions aren't so much directed at Asuna, but more towards that first issue regarding Kirito again. At least Asuna doesn't spend all her time being wined, dined, and supined, despite being Primary Love Interest—a genuine concern given that Kirito not only has the mysterious pull of a harem comedy protagonist, but also the willingness to pick a Best Girl and go with her. Given my track record for lamenting about the notoriously asexual proclivities of ostensibly male anime protagonists as a whole, I'm all right with giving a pass to one of their main squeezes even if she's best remembered for shacking up with one of them. It can't be helped.

Dated 28 October 2012: Initial impressions of the autumn 2012 season

Erwin, Caesar, Oryou, and Saemonza
This scene was awesome.

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).

Rin and Masato
Just so you know, the three-piece staff is the best weapon ever.

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.

Dio
Dio is a dick.

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.

Akane and Brian
Yellow fever.

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.)

Asuna
She'll also spend a lot of time standing next to the chair.

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.

Caesar and Erwin
Erwin, that hat's wearing you. I would also like to add,
YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD, I READ YOUR BOOK!

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.

Zenkichi and Medaka
I don't actually know where Medaka was keeping that fan.

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.

Yda and Ach
Busou Shinki also has a Horie Yui + Tamura Yukari duo.

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.

Ringo
Aikatsu! also has a Mamiko mom, but it's no Tari Tari.

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.

Yuuta and Shinka
Shinka wishes she were dead. Yuuta does nothing to help.

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!?

Shinka
I'd fight her.

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.

Rin and Masato
I can't tell if Rin is the worst pitcher or the best one.

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.

Dated 18 November 2012: Sword Art Online is getting boring

Asuna
Less contemplating, more escaping.

I think the biggest problem with Sword Art Online is that so few of the players seem to treat it like a game. All the players in the new non-lethal virtual world take everything so personally. I remember even .hack//SIGN taking itself less seriously. It also doesn't help that a major character from the first cour has spent all her time since then doing fuck all. I already know what does and does not happen, but that knowledge doesn't make the slog through these episodes any less tedious.

Dated 28 December 2012: Autumn 2012 season summary

Miho
It turns out you can bully a girl into seizing the reins of destiny.

I knew that GIRLS und PANZER was going to be good, but I certainly wasn't expecting it to be so popular. As others have pointed out, GIRLS und PANZER sets the new standard for anime catering to military otaku. This is largely due to its extensive attention to detail, but it also doesn't forget to remain accessible to general audiences. You don't need to catch a Sergeant Oddball reference to appreciate Yukari infiltrating the Not American school in a Sunkus uniform. Sadly, GIRLS und PANZER may have been a bit ambitious in its planning and production. The show's finest moment is unavailable to Western audiences (officially, anyway) due to copyright and licensing issues. Its final two episodes have also been pushed until spring 2013. Personally, I'm glad studio Actas decided to work to standard and not to time, so I'm all right with the delay.

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Dated 2 August 2014: Sword Art Online II isn't called Gun Art Online, you know

Kirito and Asuna
Only married one year and your wife is already an anime popsicle.

Assuming you watched the first season of Sword Art Online (not exactly required) or were already passably familiar with the show and its criticisms before watching Sword Art Online 2, then it shouldn't surprise you at all that Kirito is sugoi-awesome at everything he does. Again. Based on some initial reactions to the first three episodes, it appears some people are, in fact, at least a little irritated by this. But is there any grounds for criticism? They had to expect this after getting two cours of it already. If it's a real problem, why watch the show at all?

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Dated 30 September 2014: Summer 2014 season conclusion

Slaine
Slaine has seen some shit.

Aldnoah.Zero was far and away the best show from Summer 2014. I know a lot of viewers disagree with this opinion, but I thoroughly enjoyed all of its episodes. I've written a lot about it. Probably too much, considering I don't like it thaaat much even though it did almost get a perfect score on my little chart jobbie.

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Dated 23 November 2014: Anime triage

Conan and Sera
As if there is any chance in Hell of Sera turning out to be bad.

Because of "circumstances," I find myself dropping about half the shows I was following this season. Well, perhaps not so much dropping as putting on hiatus for the time being. Maybe I'll catch back up during a particularly lousy season that coincides with greater anime-watching opportunities. (Won't be next season, because next season looks pretty sweet.)

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