Rating the Anime of Fall 2014

Since we verge upon the beginning of a new season, it’s high time for me to give you my opinions on the eight shows I watched.  If not for The Banner Saga sucking me into its world, this post would no doubt have been published sooner.  But, anyone with a love for the Viking age, RPGs, and games of frustrating difficulty would be sucked into such a beautifully animated game!  But, let me go on to my ratings.

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8) Akatsuki no Yona – no rating

As you know, I forbear from rating a show until seeing how it ends.  Akatsuki no Yona boasts some great characters, beautiful backgrounds, good fights, and great comedy.  It also engages some interesting moral themes.  However, its vexatious and profuse use of flashbacks would earn it a three star rating if I were to rate it now.  The audience does not need to have complete knowledge of each character’s backstory!  Other than the Blue Dragon’s, they all contain information we’ve gleaned through watching the interaction of the characters in the present.  By resorting so frequently to this device, the writer gives the impression of being far too timid or greatly underestimating the audience’s powers of deduction.

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Despite how the flashbacks slow the pacing, I love this anime, and look forward to more of Yona’s struggle to become a worthy leader, Yun’s sarcastic remarks, Hak’s relentless teasing, and the final battle between Soo-Won and Yona.

 

 

Surprise Hak

Hak is hands down the best male character this season.

 

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7) Inou Battle Within Everyday Life – ★★★½

Kudos to Trigger for making what should have been a dull and forgettable harem story into a fun and sensitive tale of high schoolers with supernatural powers.  A friend of mine has noticed that it did not know whether it wished to be a fantasy, harem, or slice of life story.  I must agree: the story went all over the place.  Many episodes ignored the fantasy elements entirely, and the premise of fairies giving certain people supernatural powers for their entertainment seemed rather thin.  Only the last episode weaved in all these elements successfully.

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Be that as it may, I loved the characters and would watch Inou Battle Within Everyday Life again.  They even managed to make a harem lead interesting!  Though, Hatoko with her placid demeanor concealing a heart capable of great passion steals the show–especially after her rant in episode seven–a rant second only to Kei Kugimiya’s fanservice rant in episode 12 of Majestic Prince.  (Can’t find a link to that on YouTube.  Shikata ga nai.)

 

Don't dare to trifle with Hatoko!

Don’t dare to trifle with Hatoko!

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6) Psycho- Pass 2 – ★★★½

It saddens me that this sequel cannot be rated higher.  The original show came to be my favorite of 2013, after all!  The second season has an incredibly exciting middle but failed to separate itself more sharply from the plot of the first and gave us a dull ending–I almost want to call it a non-ending for how many loose ends it left us.  People want to blame Tow Ubukata for how Psycho-Pass 2 fell flat, but the studio’s wish to create a movie afterwards likely limited Ubukata’s options for the kind of ending he could make.  For me, a satisfying ending to the second season would necessarily have involved Akane Tsunemori toppling the false god of the Sybil System.  But then, the studio could no longer make money on this franchise, could they?

And Shimotsuki wins the award for most pathetic character this season.  Somehow, I could not hate but only despise this treacherous sycophant of the Sybil System.

And Shimotsuki wins the award for most pathetic character this season. Somehow, I could not hate but only despise this treacherous sycophant of the Sybil System.

However, the element of the show which annoys me the most was the shoddy logic applied to the Omnipotence Paradox.  The very fact that God cannot create a stone too heavy for him to lift proves His omnipotence.  To say that God lacks power because He cannot create a rock which he cannot lift is like saying that a being must be both omnipotent and omni-impotent in order to have the quality of omnipotence–an assertion which is obviously insane.  Though Akane’s solution works well enough in predicting the action the Sybil System eventually takes, that system is not omnipotent–as much as totalitarian systems of government do try to stand in the place of God in the minds of their subjects.  At any rate, I hope that this element of the show harmed no one’s ability to reason logically. 🙂

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5) I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying – ★★★★

Others may be surprised by how high this series is rated here, but the main characters related to me very well.  Also, this comedy caused me to laugh so hard that I nearly fell out of my chair once or twice.  The show also surprised me in the sensitive way it handled the issues facing young people in Japan over whether to marry and have children.  Danna ga Wakaranai  is not as epic or complex as other anime, but it knew what it wanted to accomplish each episode, executed the stories well, and even developed the characters more in 39 minutes than many series accomplish in twenty four episodes.  Who knew a series of shorts could boast dynamic characters?

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Each week, I found myself looking forward more to this show than any other anime with the exception of Akame ga Kiru.  An accomplishment which reminds me of Tonari no Seki-kun.

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4) Madan no Ou to Vanadis – ★★★★

Were it not for the creator’s obvious love of medieval history, this show would have merited a slightly lower rating.  It had many problems, ranging from certain scenes displaying poor CG animation to Tigre transforming from a dynamic and interesting character to a dull harem lead.  His archery became boring to watch too as every arrow never failed to find its mark–there needs to be some uncertainty to create suspense!  Also, the hole in the center of the knights’ helmets annoyed me to no end–almost as if they placed a bull’s-eye on their helms for Tigre to hit!

Tigre with Bow

 

 

Nevertheless, the characters, intrigue, and battles made up for these defects.  If only they had improved on Tigre’s character, this show might have been better!

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3) Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – ★★★★

This show could have become a classic.  It had plenty of originality and great characters.  The only show more quirky than it this past season was Shingeki no Bahamut.  Resorting to a deus ex machina for the ending is probably what keeps me from giving it a slightly higher rating.

Best expression of stunned surprise in an anime ever.  But, considering what happens at the end, I cannot blame them in the least!

Best expression of stunned surprise in an anime ever. But, considering what happens at the end, I cannot blame them in the least!

 

But, it did boast some great characters.  If I were to create a top five characters list for this season, Akari and Frederica would both find themselves on it.

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Red Chaika was not so bad either, but Akari and Frederica stole the show.

 

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2) Akame ga Kiru –  ★★★★

As an aficionado of the manga, I started watching this show hoping to see a masterpiece.  However, the anime suffers from a grave defect: it does not adapt the story convey the mood of the manga in the medium of anime.  When reading the manga, one does not have the impression that it means to be The Game of Thrones of manga.  It is more like the series Combat!! (probably the best WWII TV series ever made), where the fortunes of war may turn against any particular character but the deaths always come out of the blue.  A hundred death flags do not pop up before a character kicks the bucket!  Also, the manga is much grimmer, though there are certain parts of the manga which I was happy not to see again.

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But, not fitting the story to the medium seems to be a ubiquitous problem.  Studios feel like success is sure as long as they don’t deviate from a successful source.  Occasionally, this is true, as with manga like Inuyasha and Rurouni Kenshin, but these are exceptions to the rule.  Gokukoku no Brynhildr failed because they thought that they could animate the manga panel for panel.  The writers of Akame ga Kiru were forced to deviate from the original source for the last several episodes, and the results were rather pleasing–especially the last two episodes.

Akame's Warning

For all that, Akame ga Kiru was a lot of fun to watch.  The voice actors were well chosen, and certain fights were great.  The fight between Akame and Esdeath has to be one of the ten best anime swordfights I’ve seen.  The ending was also more satisfying than most other shows.

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1) Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – ★★★★½

Here’s the only show from 2014 to earn four and a half stars from me.  Shingeki no Bahamut boasts a shocking amount of originality for an anime based on a card game.  Despite the heavy use of pagan symbolism, many of the show’s themes convince me that this was a Christian fairy tale.  My dear readers have already perused one article linking the show to the Christian worldview, and I have another in the works.  The first draft of the upcoming article even mentions two works by C. S. Lewis–one fiction and one non-fiction.  Fans of C. S. Lewis are welcome to guess which two works these are.  One of them happens to be perhaps the least popular work he wrote after his conversion.

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This anime excelled very well on all levels.  It just lacks some nebulous quality which prevents me from giving it a full five stars.  You’ve truly deprived yourself if you have not watched this show!

Yes, that's Bacchus riding upon a magic duck.

Yes, that’s Bacchus riding upon a magic duck.

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Happy Thanksgiving and Some Thoughts on Psycho-Pass

May all my dear readers enjoy a happy Thanksgiving!  Today, we celebrate a feast established by the Puritans of Plymouth Rock in order to give thanks to Almighty God for his blessings.  In their case, they were blessed to see the beginnings of their colony’s prosperity.  Like them, we ought to give thanks to God for all the ways that He has caused us to thrive over the course of another year.

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Sometimes it is difficult to see graces and blessings among the difficulties of life.  Yet, we ought to thank God even for the difficulties, over which He means us to triumph.  Even if it seems like they get the best of us, our character still grows from them.  Without such trials, you can bet that we’d be less human and even less happy.  As the protagonist’s father in Dostoyevsky’s The Adolescent says: “Life would not be worth living without these little annoyances.”

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Perhaps that’s one of the points Psycho-Pass 2 wishes to make with its theme of eustress.  (I write from the perspective of the first six episodes.  Please tell me if the last ones contradict what I’m about to write.)  Eustress is the idea that stressful or discomforting situations, when overcome, bring people feelings of accomplishment and purpose.  Without any dragons to slay, life can devolve to a meaningless and frightful monotony, leading to the state of those poor depressed individuals we see in episode four.  Kamui claims to offer a way of giving life purpose through doing evil deeds which give the appearance of power–sort of like how Raskolnikov kills two people with in ax in Crime and Punishment in order to feel like Napoleon.

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But, how greatly do people miss themselves if they need to resort to sin and crime in order to gain an ephemeral sensation of fulfillment!  What truly makes us happy lies in our own souls, and fulfilling our dreams provides as many challenges as we could wish for and often more than we’d like.  However, rather than an ephemeral and false joy, overcoming these obstacles produces peace of soul.  This is similar to how Akane can endure so many reverses and tragedies without her psycho-pass becoming clouded.  Bringing criminal masterminds to justice is her virtue.  Even if the end looks distant, she can calmly perform her duties as she works toward an eventual triumph.

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More than Akane, let us imitate St. Faustina, who not only thanked God for His graces, but even the darkness, spiritual dryness, persecutions, and temptations, knowing that God meant for her happiness and the glorification of His Name through it all.