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.

Fantasy Galore: My Anime Picks for the Fall of 2014

My lack if focus resulted in this article’s long delay.  (We’re almost on the fourth week of the season!)  And so, this will be a brief rundown of why I decided on seven particular shows.  My dear readers might have noticed that this is one more show than I originally planned.  I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying is only three minutes long, so adding one more show did not seem like it would hurt.  Without further ado, let me start with the shows which failed to make the cut.

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1) World Trigger

Bloggers have called episode one rather dull, and I’d have to agree.  Yet, the second episode delved more deeply into our heroes’ psyches, and I found the clash of their worldviews interesting.  You might say that Kuga has more of a cowboy ethos (go 1:28 into this clip to see what I mean; though, it must be confessed that Kuga is no John Wayne), while Osamu holds to a much more civilized morality of the rules protecting one, which Kuga believes only goes so far.  The war with the Neighbors reminds me of the conflict with the Nova in Freezing–only that the necessary power to defeat the aliens is not restricted to the fair sex.

Though other series proved to be more entertaining, I would not be surprised if I returned to this show later.

Let me also mention that I hate the main character.

Let me also mention that I hate the main character.

2) Nanatsu no Taizai (aka The Seven Deadly Sins)

I read through about half of the first volume of the manga before watching episode one of the anime.  That episode followed the manga with slavish exactitude.  For this series, I consider this unwillingness to differ  from the manga a bad thing: the manga strikes me as dull and uninspiring.  I did not even have to use my Japanese dictionary most of the time–a sure sign of a mediocre manga unless Rumiko Takahashi is behind it.

Perhaps the later episodes show why the manga won the “Kono Manga ga Sugoi” award, but the blandness of the beginning overwhelmed me.

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3) Amagi Brilliant Park

The only anime which bored me more than this show’s first episode was X: the Movie.  With regards to X, I lasted five minutes and Amagi Brilliant Park bored me to tears in seventeen and a half minutes.  None of the gags struck me as funny.  This from the guy who gave us Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu?!  The passing of Shoji Gatoh’s sense of humor warrants a day of mourning for all fandom.

ero-hon inspector

4) Denki-gai Honya-san

Having seen episode one, I discerned some potential for this show.  The second half was funnier than the first.  However, an anime about the quirky workers at a Japanese bookstore had no chance of making the final cut.  Perhaps, I’ll watch this when I have more time.  (If you haven’t noticed, most of my decisions are rather cutthroat, which may be laid at the feet of the loss of leisure I’ve suffered recently.  C’est la vie!)

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5) Garo: Honoo no Kokuin

This is perhaps the best show among the anime I’ve tried which did not make the final cut.  The world of this fantasy draws one in with manifold types of conflict: witches vs. demons, demons vs. humanity, and the state vs. witches.  Note well that witches are demon slayers in this world, but that demons have deceived the king into believing that witches are plotting against him so that they might use the might of the government to purge witches from existence.  Our hero was born during his mother’s execution, and a knight was only able to save the baby, whom he has raised for seventeen years when our main plot begins.

You better believe that I’ll pick this action-packed anime up as soon as I have the time. 🙂

Just Staring

6) Terraformars

Of the many things I loathe about this show, I shall limit myself to a select few of its flaws.  Most glaring is the sacrifice of the show’s unique premise and cool characters to the goal of making this a stupid and gory horror show.  One of the reasons I despise the horror genre is that most of its tales run on stupid people dying unnecessarily and in horrific manners.  At the end of the second episode, I became sick at seeing characters frozen in terror or merely contemplating the giant, ugly humanoid cockroaches instead of using the time to react in constructive ways.  (Reminded me of Shingeki no Kyoujin to tell you the truth.)  Episode three continued the trend, and I dropped it.

I think I need to go watch some Christopher Lee’s Dracula movies or Silver Bullet in order to cleanse the memory of this show from my system.

Shigatsu

7) Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (literally “April is Your Lie”; aka Your Lie in April)

This is another good show which I’m declining for the nonce.  The anime promises a good story, where a depressed youth rediscovers his joie de vivre through music and meeting a vivacious beauty.  This title will be saved for when I feel in the mood for a romantic, slice-of-life anime.  Thanks to David A and iblessall for the recommendation!

Anime that Made the Cut

Kowai

1) Inou Battle Within Everyday Life

The fifth spot in my watch list was opened for this show.  I have to watch Trigger’s take on a supernatural harem anime set in high school!  The first episode was highly entertaining in both its characters and the comedic scenario of members of a literature club gaining super powers.  As of yet, I wonder whether any of them are actually into reading books.  The literature club might as well be the GJ club.

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2) Akatsuki no Yona

Like Knights of Sidonia, I did not particularly care for the manga, but I enjoyed the first episode of the anime.  I lay the responsibility for my renewed interest in this story on the voice actors, who bring the characters to life in a way that the mangaka could not on the page.  Let’s see how long this tale of war, intrigue, betrayal, and romance holds my attention.

Cute and Deadly

3) Madan no Ou to Vanadis

Reading Jusuchin’s articles on this show convinced me to watch it before I saw episode one, which confirmed my decision.  A perfect show for a fantasy lover: the characters stand out, and the show includes plenty of action.  Our hero and his captor have an interesting relationship.  Does Eleonora want Tigre for his archery skills or romantically?  Will she do anything about saving his fief of Alsace?  The Eleonora’s personality seems reminiscent of the eponymous protagonist of Medaka Box.  (No, I haven’t seen this show yet, but I’ve read a few articles on it and a few chapters of the manga.)  This show stands a high chance of rating a 9/10 if they do everything right.

SBG

4) Shingeki no Bahamut

I would not be surprised if this became the best show of the season, though it shall receive stiff competition from Hitsugi no Chaika (At least one of my dear readers is rolling their eyes, but I have faith that the second season will surpass the first!) and Psycho-Pass 2.  In episode one of Shingeki no Bahamut, I loved the references to Terminator 2Gun x Sword, and Devil Lady.  This action packed series boasts a good sense of humor and very idiosyncratic animation.  I look forward to watching this show.

Danna to Oku-san

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

At only three minutes long, this anime can easily fit into anyone’s schedule.  The married couple reminds me of Saki and Kousaka of Genshiken; however, Hajime is much more likable than Kousaka.  I look forward to watching this odd couple every week, though some gags fall flat.

Too rough

6) Hitsugi no Chaika 2

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7) Psycho-Pass 2

This article is already long enough, so I won’t describe how I feel about those last two shows.  I confess that my goal of determining which of the new shows I would watch preventing me from watching Psycho-Pass 2 at all and gave time for only one of Hitsugi no Chaika.  That will change shortly!  How does my watch list compare to yours?

Fall 2014 Anime to Try Out

It is that time of the year when people across the aniblogosphere write about which new anime excite them most.  I myself thoroughly enjoyed the present season–despite feeling the need to prune my watch list–and hope that the next season produces an equally enjoyable a crop of anime.  Many bloggers seem to be disappointed with the current season in general, but the fault seems to lie in certain shows not meeting the expectations the bloggers placed in them.  What I mean to say is that the majority of shows still being quite good in themselves, just not so great in the minds of the critics.  (But, I will say that I feel very sorry for the people that slogged through Glasslip.)  Shortly, I even hope to pick up all the summer 2014 shows I stalled and finish them by way of marathoning them–the most enjoyable way to watch any show.

Tokyo ESP is at the top of my list for that marathon.

Tokyo ESP is at the top of my list for that marathon.

At any rate, hence follows the list of shows I intend to try out next season along with a brief description of why.  To my mind, the list looks a little weaker than the one for the summer season.  Of course, some of these anime might hold some latent excellence.  Since this list concerns the shows I am not already sold on, I shall not include Hitsugi no Chaika 2 and Psycho-Pass 2.  How could I not watch the sequels to my favorite show of 2013 and my favorite show of the prior season?  Whether the sequels prove to be delightful or disappointing, I’m certain to watch through them both.  If they do prove disappointing, I hope that my complaints and vexation may at least prove enjoyable for you!

Sekai Trigger

1) World Trigger

Sounds like Freezing without the fanservice.  Fighting off giant alien invaders always sounds like an interesting premise for me, so I must give it a shot.

nanatsu-no-taizai mustache

2) Nanatsu no Taizai (aka The Seven Deadly Sins)

While perusing the aisles of Kinokuniya in New York City (the best Japanese bookstore on the east coast since the demise of Sasuga–yet another reason to hate the current recession), I came across this manga among the “Kono Manga ga Sugoi!” award winners.  With that endorsement, I purchased the volume one.  Though I have not yet gotten around to reading this Japanese edition yet, the artwork looks rather amazing and the action intense–big pluses in my book.  For the above reasons, I’m giving the anime a shot.  I really need to read volume one before it premiers.

3) Amagi Brilliant Park

Here’s an addition whose inclusion owes much to Caraniel’s excellent season preview post.  Before reading this post, I had not known that the author of Full Metal Panic was behind this series.  That’s all the endorsement a series needs in my book.  Though, I hope the dark and twisted psychological influences present in Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid are utterly, completely, and absolutely gone, lost, abandoned, forsaken, and anathematized from this new series!

4) Denki-gai Honya-san

Another comedy, this series of shorts involves the workers in a manga bookstore.  Can’t hurt to give it a shot.

Denkigai-no-Honya-san

5) Akatsuki no Yona

The manga version has the honor of being dropped by yours truly.  At a certain point, the plot and characters ceased to hold interest for me.  This does not exclude the anime version from outdoing the manga–as, exempli gratia, is shown in the cases of Knights of Sidonia and Saber Marionette J.  Especially as the scenario is rather interesting (though Rolan the Forgotten King executes a similar idea better), I am willing to give this story another shot.

6) Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis

Can’t be worse than that other Shingeki anime, can it?  (I jest.)  The preview boasts cool swordplay in a dark fantasy setting.  Worth a shot just for that.

7) Madan no Ou to Vanadis

Another show I wish to check out just because of its fantasy setting.  It must be confessed that this anime almost failed to make the list.  But, this preview promises the possibility of a fun show.  It could turn out to be another Blade and Soul, i.e. atrociously fanservicey and dull; but, one can’t know for sure until one tries it.

Garoo

8) Garo: Honoo no Kokuin

If you haven’t perceived it ere now, I’m a sucker for fantasy settings.  This one seems to have a good story.  A mix of Scrapped Princess and Chronicles of Lodoss War perhaps?

9) Inou Battle Within Everyday Life

Solely because Trigger is behind it.

10) Terra Formars

The plot sounds like a combination of the movies Starship Troopers and Mimic.  (I had no idea those came out in the same year.)  What’s not to love about a show about soldiers fighting giant man-eating cockroaches on Mars?  In any case, man-eating cockroaches are eminently preferable to man-eating monsters in human form–at least, to me.

Wakaranai

11) I don’t Understand What My Husband is Saying

My line-up this season is devoid of comedy except for Denki-gai Honya-san, so I feel compelled to give this show a shot.  Besides, few anime I know focus on married couples, so this should be interesting.

12) Whatever You Like

As long as my list is this long, I might as well add a twelfth show, right?  No, that’s not the name of an anime coming out next season.  Rather I’d like to invite my dear readers to recommend a series for me that’s not listed above.  Whatever most people tell me I should watch by October 1st, I shall watch!

Brains

I need to find time to watch the second season of Hamatora.

Within the first two weeks of the season, this long list shall be pruned by two-thirds, which means I’ll shoot for a total of six shows this season.  (I include Hitsugi no Chaika and Psycho-Pass in that sum.)  How does my list of shows to sample compare with yours?