Since my last post on the Anime of Spring 2014 I followed, a whole season has passed and with it the Anime of that season finished. It seems to me, as if more and more Anime picks up the "13 episodes" flow.
On the one hand, this means that the whole story is told in a way that doesn't require huge amounts of backtracking or filler, but in some cases it seems, as if the story had to be interrupted to fit this rather tight corset of "a quarter of a year and not a second longer". Some recent Anime have broken this formula (Attack on Titan, Sword Art Online, Kill La Kill) but even the very well received ones (Knights of Sidonia) are crammed into this.
But let's not get worked up too much and take a look back on the Anime I've followed throughout Spring:
Brynhildr in the Darkness
And here we already have a perfect example of an Anime that would have profited greatly from a longer running time. I liked the characters in this show in general and I would have loved to see more of their past lives and what made them the way they are. I mean: we got teased with Valkyria from the first opening of the first episode and she is only having part-time screen presence in three episodes.
This is especially infuriating, as I found her generally interesting and would love to know more about her. The rest of the girls are also likable and have their own packages to carry. Do we get to see any of this? Of course not. What did we get instead? A "day at the beach" filler episode. Just think about it. A filler-episode in a 13 episode anime.
That aside, the action was nicely choreographed, the cast was interesting and the soundtrack was good.
Of course the obvious has to be stated: Is it as good as "Elfen Lied"? No, it's not. It is, however, in its own right a viable Anime that will entertain you as long as it lasts, but will leave you hanging for more and aggravated with a lackluster ending.
GF Rating: (little explanation: my girlfriend recently got into Anime when I watched it. At first she just stuck along with me got more and more enticed over time. She is totally new to this kind of entertainment so I give you her unfiltered opinion...the opinion of a Gaijin) "What is wrong with their boobs?"/10
Ah, Black Bullet. If you don't want to read the whole thing: watch it. Like: now. Black Bullet was highly entertaining (as I mentioned before) and it carried on to be so until the end. Okay, the ending itself felt cut short and there were several things that I would have liked to be featured more prominently. For example the whole social thing or Enju's and Rentaro's relationship...or what about Kagetane? He is one of the better adversaries in recent memory and I would have loved to have an episode or more dedicated to his roots, as his motivation for the stuff he does has a special twist.
Speaking of twists: the series itself continued to have several of those gut-punching moments. As I stated before: this anime deals with some rather dark themes and this continued 'til the very end with one scene in particular that came so suddenly and uncalled for that the impact was all the more stronger.
In combination with fantastic soundtrack and diverse action, this is one of the best Anime of the year already. I'm not sure if it will be that well received, but I liked this one a lot...if only it was longer...it has the potential for it.
GF Rating: "They can't have...What? It's cool and Enju is super-kawaii, but what the fuck?"/10
Knights of Sidonia
Basically, this was the big Anime of Spring 2014. By the time I'm writing this, the English Dub should already be running in the U.S.
So did it live up to the hype? Absolutely. It is not the most memorable Mecha-Anime, but nevertheless one of the better one's. It features a more socio-ethnological approach to the whole "colony-ship" setting which stands and falls with its characters. This is, however, not necessarily the strong point of this one. The main character is a good one as he is "blank" enough for the audience to identify with yet fleshed out in a way that he's more than a bland shell. Some of the other characters, sadly, are not that well written, or have their own storylines cut short due to the 12 episode format. This is especially true for Izana Shinotase who struggles with her/his feelings conflicting her job throughout the whole series, only to have it..well, not resolved at all.
Don't get me wrong: the story itself is really cool and the action is great. The art-style is also fascinating, showing everyone, how a 3D-animated Anime could look like without losing it's typical charme or soul. All this makes Knights of Sidonia more than worth your time...if only some of the characters were a little bit better.
And for christ's sake, why is there a talking bear with a claw hand???
GF-Rating: "Hey, that's really fucking cool"/10
Now these weren't the only Anime of Spring, but I have yet to watch "No game, No life", which was also very well received.
Now on to the Anime of Summer and boy was I disappointed when I saw the list.
"Oh great. Sword Art Online II and absolutely nothing else."
Nothing else was surely a wee overdramatic, but I couldn't help but feel, that the black hole that sucks up worthwhile summer releases in video games and NFL-news also applies to Anime, with a metric crap-ton of Romance Anime releases (which are REALLY not my cup'o'tea). But underneath that smothering layer of Slice-of-Life-romantic-comedy, there were some interesting ones.
Here is a list of them:
A continuation of Sword Art Online, the story of the 6000 players continues. I haven't watched this, because I haven't finished the first season, but what I saw made me curious to say the least.
The story is settled in the near future of 2022, when World of Warcraft is finally surpassed by a new MMO, called "Sword Art Online". The catch? Via a new technology, you are neuro-linked into the game and experience an all new way of VR. One foggy November day, however, 6000 unlucky players find themselves unable to log-out of the game. Shortly afterwards they are informed of why that is: Someone trapped them inside the game and challenges them with reaching the top of a 100-floor high tower and defeat the final boss to log-out again. If you fail, you won't be able to log-out, if you die, you die in the RL as well.
Mars lives! No, for real. When humanity discovered a Warpgate on the moon, the first thing they did was activate it. This, however, triggered a whole population, the Vers Empire to arise from their aeon-long slumber on Mars and take a look what their ancestors on the blue planet are up to. Humanity is a lot like humanity and attacks them, climaxing in a war between the two, that ultimately sees the destruction of the moon.
Since that day, the two sides have remained in "cease-fire". A very frail cease-fire, as both sides are plotting against one another behind closed doors. It is in this "cold war" that a princess from the Mars-fraction visits Earth in a bid for peace...
What I liked so far: The general idea of the story. Having two humanoid species basically vying for the same place to live is an enticing thought-construct. The fact, that the Vers Empire looks down on Humans as a bunch of underdeveloped thugs gives the whole conflict a bit more spice and some of the characters promise to be rather interesting. Also: it is a 24 episode Anime, so there is more time for development.
What I disliked so far: Basically anything else, sadly. While the general idea of the story is enticing, it seems to get pushed into your typical mecha-filler-anime. The good guys and bad guys are clear from the get go and there is only small wiggle-room there. Especially the "bad guys" are as standard as they come and me and my GF are already making bets on their development and endings. Also, there are so many parallels to Gundam, it hurts. Now it is hard to make Mecha-Anime without at least having some similarity to its big predecessor, but the conflict itself seems a bit too much "Humans vs ZAFT" to me. The writing is very hamfisted at times and after a generally enticing first episode was followed by an abyssmal second one.
Seriously Japan: enough with the pseudo-european names for stuff. It always ends up sounding weird and absolutely nothing that the language you want to portrait would allow semantics-wise.
That aside: damn, you started out fine.
In a fictional universe, the two nations of Arandas and Ingelmia wage war against each other. Ingelmia wants to invade Arandas because...they are rich? Seriously, that's why. "They are rich and we want to liberate their population from the shackles of not being able to share their richness with the world". I'm not kidding, that's their reasoning.
We cut to a small reconnaisance force not far from the border. The high generals "travel to the capital to devise a counter strategy" (read: flee as hell), leaving the troop consisting mostly of rookies and inexperienced guys to themselves. It is during these unsure times that a young pilot named Tokimune Susumu disobeys an order to leave fleeing civilists to their fate (read: death by severe led-poisoning), manages to wreck his mech and is forced to take control of the Argevollen. An experimental mech with superior moving ability and an all new method of control.
What I liked so far: The story of a big conflict being told from a small standpoint is common trope, but well told here. The logistics of the small group of people are shown pretty well and all in all, this is far more calm and "realistic" than I'd have expected. If you like your mechs agile and quick look elsewhere. Argevollen does a great job of giving them "weight" and mass that has to be moved. The larger they are, the clunkier. Even though the Argevollen can move faster, they applied that rule to it, too, which is awesome. This also makes battles interesting to watch as it is a break from the mecha-traditions that japanese animation followed to this point and feels all in all like a really well written BattleTech-Anime...which I (as an old MechWarrior fan) am more than fine with. The characters make you curious for more and from what I was able to watch so far, there are several characters that have the potential to tip scales in whoever's favor with no side so far being portrayed as "purely evil" or "purely good".
What I disliked so far: Not that much. The art-design won't win any awards though. It's all rather basic and the mech-design isn't really much to look at. Not ugly, but rather unremarkable. Same goes for the 3D animations, that are sadly not tht high in quality but do their job.
Episodes out: 2 out of 13? (no info, yet there are 13 volumes of the Manga)
Tokyo in the near future. A new sub-species of humans has arisen in the dark corners of the japanese metropole: Ghouls. The catch? They prey on humans to eat them. In comes Ken Kaneki, a high-schooler with a special crush on a girl named Rize. He meets her at a cafe and finally asks her out over the book they both enjoy. Turns out, Rize is a ghoul and rather than making sweet teenage love to Kaneki, wants to feast on his sweet teenage pork-chops. An accident cuts this infortunate accident short, yet both are mortally wounded. The only way for the doctors to save Kaneki is to remove his failing organs and replacing them with those of Rize. From there on, Kaneki's life takes a turn for the rather bizarre, as the world around him seems to change with every step he takes.
I won't spoil more here, but rest assured, there is more to it.
What I liked so far: While Ghouls prey on humans, there is a whole lot more to them. In two episodes, there wasn't that much to see obviously, but they already set an interesting table here, that goes beyond the "humans vs monsters"-trope. This is especially true in Kaneki's encounters with other ghouls.
Aside from that, the art-style is really cool, with a neon-esque emphasis on lighting that reminds one of the cyberpunk-flicks of the eighties or more recent movies like "Drive".
What I disliked so far: Kaneki is a bit of a crybaby and though changes in his demeanor are teased, his resistance against certain things just seems contrary to the normal instinct of survival that makes up a lot of the human psyche Kaneki so desperately clings to.
Now this one is odd. Momoka Sanokawa is a transfer student (on a side-note: how many students transfer schools in Anime? Holy crap, it seems Japan's school system is like a giant game of musical chairs). On her first day at the new school, she is instantly conflicted with one of the quirks of Japan's public transit: groping. Another girl helps her out by threatening the guy with two Desert Eagles and ultimately drives him away.
It's later revealed that the girl, Miou Ootori, visits the same school and is president of the "Survival Games Club", a club where five girls engage in Airsoft battles.
What I liked so far: Read the plot again. It's zany as f*** and funny at the same time. The pure idea of this is strange enough (especially considering Japan's REALLY strict laws for firearms) but is presented in such a ridiculous nonchalant fashion that you can't help but love its pastell-y goodness. That aside, there is actually more to the plot than just girls shooting at each other. Stuff like bullying and friendship are in there as well, but never in this "He-Man ending Monologue" kind of way but woven into the general plot.
The writing is sharp and witty and while certainly not award-winning in quality it's damn funny and in combination with the fast paced animation makes for some really good laughs. Then there's of course the action, and that is the meat and bones of this one. It's choreographed really cool with tons of nods to big action movies. Also, the twist to make it look real, despite saying that it's just the girl's rampant imagination is a cool one that makes the itself tame premise a bit more marketable. Speaking of "marketable", it's really refreshing to see a school-girls-doing-stuff anime that doesn't market itself with cheap fanservice. There's some of it but I was preparing for something much much worse.
In the end, it's an Anime about school girls shooting at each other with Airsoft guns. If you can get behind that go watch it.
What I disliked so far: SABAGEBU! has its roots as a magazine-manga, so the stories themselves a very bite-sized. The Anime follows that structure rather and will give you two - three ministories per episode which can leave someone hoping for a larger, overarching plot hanging in the air.
So that's that so far. Anything in there for you? Did you watch any of it and disagree with me? Hit me up with your opinions in the comments Mina-san.