Anime Report for Winter 2015

 

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As you know, my dear readers, I’ve dedicated this season to watching the classics, with Ashita no JoeAngel Cop, and Urusei Yatsura featuring prominently among the following anime.  But some new shows managed to sneak onto my list due to the good things I have heard about them: Death ParadeAssassination ClassroomRolling Girls, and–most recently–KanColle.  Usually, this kind of post appears in the middle of the season and seems extraneous with the season’s end around the corner.  Yet, I wish to collect my thoughts on various shows and place them before you before writing my final ratings.  The shows are listed in order of enjoyment from least to greatest.

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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.

My Experience with the Anime of Summer 2014

As you know, I wrote that I would try to marathon the anime which I stalled this season.  Having watched straight through episodes 8 – 12 of Aldnoah.Zero, I’ll be able to add my assessment of it to this post–making for a total of five anime.  Expect the reviews of the others to be published singly or in pairs.  Let me start with the two anime which I’m unable to rate due to their series not being finished.

One of the most beautiful images of the season of one of its most charming ladies.

One of the most beautiful images of the season with one of its most charming ladies.

1) Aldnoah.Zero – no rating

Quel finale!  If they had not promised to return for the winter season of 2015, I would have rated it 3 1/2 stars just for crushing the audience’s souls at the end!  (And before the last few minutes and finding out that it would get a second half, I thought about giving it 4 1/2 stars!)  The action sequences were truly awesome, the animation beautiful, and the plot compelling.  The characters were nothing to write home about, but Slaine and Inaho made for great protagonists and even the princess started to grow on me.

I cannot but confess that I found this takedown very cool.

I cannot but confess that I found this takedown very cool.

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As others have noted, certain parts of the anime evinced bad writing.  A few of the characters’ decisions made little sense, especially *MAJOR SPOILER* Rayet killing the princess.  But, that might play into the theme of envy and hatred being motivators for war.  I know Inaho disagreed, saying that there were always other main causes for war.  But, anger and hatred make war especially bitter and often increase the destruction of war and the willingness of nations to begin them.  Just think of Great Britain and France.

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FUTURE POST ALERT: How envy influences Martian politics lines up nicely with a book I’m reading titled Leftism by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.  So, the role of envy in modern politics and how envy squelches liberty and diversity will certainly feature as a post in the future.

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2) Akame ga Kiru – no rating

Akame ga Kiru got off to a slow start, but I feel that the second half of this season was much more exciting than the first–just as the case was in the manga.  I must confess that the manga does several things better; but, the way that the show handled the presentation of Esdeath’s character was rather adroit.  (I still prefer the fan translation name, Esdese.  That seems more like a girl’s name than that of an allegorical character, doesn’t it?)  Some of the fights could have been better, but episodes 6 and 11 more than made up for them.  You also need to love Akame ga Kiru‘s style.  It exudes a Renaissance setting, but a million anachronisms fill its scenes–especially the modern style of the clothing and the presence of modern firearms.

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Despite certain flaws in presentation, the adaptation made the pages of the manga come alive.  The voice actors in particular were very well chosen.  I look forward to the second season!

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FUTURE POST ALERT: Also, despite Esdeath being a unique character, I believe that I have discovered the base for her character.  Be sure to look out for my post on which character appears to have been the inspiration for Esdeath!

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3) Rail Wars! – ★★★

The likability of the characters save this show from being rated 2 1/2 stars.  In some respects, especially the tsundere, Aoi Sakurai, many of the characters fall into tried and true character types.  Yet, each character feels unique, e.g. the hoplophile ways of Aoi or Naoto’s obsession with trains.  As a matter of fact, even though Naoto feels like a the weak willed protagonist of a harem anime, he shows guts when the occasion demands them of him, which was another good point to this show.  The character relationships were also done quite well, even if those episodes which focused on this facet of the show tended to be rather fanservicey.

Rail Wars

Though the series can’t be called action-packed, episodes 10 and 11 stand out for the excellence of the fights, and who can forget the train ride from hell in the seventh and eighth episodes?  On the other hand, the final episode annoyed me quite a bit: in a 12 episode series, who needs an episode dedicated to saying good-bye to the characters?  At least, it had more to do with trains than many of the prior episodes.

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In case you were wondering, yes, I would certainly watch this again!

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4) Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – ★★★★

A well-deserved four stars for this comedy!  I loved how closely the manga covered the process and struggles of writing good manga.  Like Rail Wars!, it boasts a great host of characters who are oddballs in one fashion or another.  As iblessall writes, this show’s ability to tag different people as tsukomi each episode stands as one of its salient features: each person has a turn at playing the straight man as others act ridiculous around them.  Though, Sakura seems to hold this position more than most of the other characters.  A truly great comedy!

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I’ll also admit that I fell for Seo.  Watching her blunt honesty and inability to adjust to the feelings of others was a trip!

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5) Sabagebu! – ★★★★★

I bet you were not expecting me to grant Sabagebu! five stars and a place on my top fifty list!  Yet, it does so many things to make it the most brilliant comedy this year.  Unlike Nozaki-kun, this is a black comedy; so, I can’t recommend it to people who want nothing atrocious to happen to characters.  One needs to be able to laugh at characters who suffer everything from other characters shamelessly using them to shooting them dead in amusing ways.  (Fans of Looney Tunes are sure to love this kind of comedy.)  Our lead character, Sonokawa, in particular has no qualms about using others as stepping stones on her road to victory.  Fortunately, the violence and death only occurs in the characters’ imaginations–most of it anyway.

Sabagebu Sonokawa

But, this show could not have reached five stars had it not been for the excellence of the gun fights and its ability to parody 80’s action movies.  (The parodies of Predator and Mad Max made for some of my favorite scenarios.)  Episode twelve presents a mind-blowing finale to the show.  I must add that Miou was my favorite character; though, Sonokawa’s vengeful deeds are very fun to watch!

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Those are my thoughts for these five shows!  Stay tuned for more!  What was your favorite show this season?

My Experience with Anime of Spring 2014 Pt. II

Here I conclude my opinions on the anime I watched from Spring 2014 with my top five shows.  Enjoy!

Black Bullet Enju and Rentaro

5.  Black Bullet – ★★★½

One might characterize this show as having all one would wish for in a shonen anime: plenty of action and brushes with death.  It also had many things one could make fun of: examples may be seen here and here.  The Joker-like villain was a great foe for Rentaro, though I must confess to disliking our hero.  Rentaro’s a little inconsistent.  Shooting someone’s finger off in revenge for cruelty and stabbing someone for threatening to run?  Fine.  Killing a parricidal brother whose actions caused the death of thousands more?  O immane facinus!  In Rentaro’s defense, he might have been more disturbed by Kisara’s conviction that she needs to become evil in order to defeat evil.  She should familiarize herself with Jesus’ sermon on a house divided against itself.  But, I have an article on that scene in the works.

This show has everything an otaku needs: great action sequences, anime lines, likable characters, and a harem with girls fitting any taste.  Worthwhile for any fan of action also.

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4.  Soredemo Sekai ga Utsukushii – ★★★★

I almost feel generous in giving Soredemo Sekai ga Utsukushii four stars, but it had two of the strongest characters this season.  (Thanks again to Lee Relph for recommending it to me.)  Of the shows I’ve seen, I can’t find a stronger female character than Nike or a stronger male character than Livius.  Normally, I don’t watch romantic shows, but this one had a good dose of court intrigue to make things more exciting.  Nevertheless, the salient features of the show stand as the love between Nike and Livius and the many tribulations they endure for the sake of their love.  The show also has some great humor.

Whether one likes comedy or romance, one should not pass this show up.

Tonari no Panic

3.  Tonari no Seki-kun – ★★★★

This was the most popular short comedy during both this season and the last one.  Its gags are sure to provoke vehement guffaws, and the show contains some likable characters–especially Yokoi.  The way entire episodes are narrated from one point of view, usually Yokoi’s, also make this work unique.  Yokoi’s voice actress, Kana Hanazawa, does a brilliant job of narration–whether it be her thoughts on Seki’s bizarre games or her own outlandish fantasies.

Though there might not be that much to this show besides the comedy, I highly recommend it.

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2.  Knights of Sidonia – ★★★★

Much better than the manga.  This is a particularly dark story where the characters die in great frequency.  One gets the impression that no one is safe, which reminds me of how the makers of the old TV series Combat! would place the characters’ pictures on a dartboard to decide who would kick the bucket in certain episodes.  I thought that Knights of Sidonia had a slow start, which nicely described the atmosphere of Sidonia and humanity’s present existence.  The CG worked perfectly in this high technology setting with backgrounds reminiscent of steam punk anime.  The ending was just about perfect.  Unlike the series mentioned before, this suffered from having somewhat uninteresting characters though the plot and pacing were excellent.  If the characters–especially the main character–were less bland, I could easily see this show as being worthy of a full five stars.

Definitely a great dark, sci-fi, which I would watch again.

Coffin Princess Chaika

1.  Hitsugi no Chaika – ★★★★

I loved that the story was set in the world of Scrapped Princess.  Ichiro Sakaki has his usually deft touch with characters, action, and humor.  This show is much darker than Scrapped Princess, and one can see influences from Strait Jacket, a prior work of Sakaki’s.  (That OVA is not for the faint of heart.)  I must compare this show to Scrapped Princess in that the same kind of trio forms up and soldiers are again seeking to capture a princess; however, it delves more into themes of identity, loyalty, and humanity than justice, trust, and family.

If anything is keeping the show from the higher ratings, it lies in the story not being complete.  Otherwise, it’s a great anime.

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Now, I need to figure out what I ought to watch for the summer season–besides Barakamon, Zankyo no Terror, Akame ga Kiru, and Psycho-Pass.