Redline is the best anime movie I have ever seen. By which I mean it is the best anime I’ve ever seen and the best movie I’ve ever seen. While this summer season is certainly one for the books, it’s not delivering anything quite like that movie (and it wouldn’t be fair to ask it to). But because the movie’s now available free on youtube,* and because this is definitely the most fun season to be a part of since subs of the movie became available roughly 2 years ago, I decided to pay tribute by summarizing how everyone’s doing at (roughly) the halfway hash in the words of Sweet JP and co.
[Warning: Spoilers, if that kind of thing bothers you.]
“Yeah, you messed her up real good this time. Didn’t even recognize her. You got a death wish or somethin’? Poppin’ two caps of nitro. You could have been vaporized, you dumbass.”
“I’ll need three caps of nitro for the Redline.”
For Servant x Service, the show that keeps getting better against all odds. The “yeah, Chihaya and Ishimiya are dating” bombshell dropped in episode 5 was all kinds of brilliant. I keep expecting it to collapse under the weight of samey old jokes, but it always seems to have a new way of playing the cast off each other. Maybe it keeps going, and maybe it doesn’t, but right now it’s my favorite comedy of the season and favorite show not rhyming with “Ultraman’s Loud”. Ultimately, if you can keep it together for 12 episodes, it doesn’t matter if the material would have run out after one more.
“Read the papers? That nickname makes headlines. It’s a real eyegrabber.”
“God, that’s a stupid name.”
“I dunno, it kinda fits.”
Because Cherry Boy Hunter Sonoshee doesn’t pay enough attention to the news to know her own nickname. Free’s most popular nickname is really, really annoying to me for some reason. At least it accurately represents the contents of the show.
“Racers and mechanics gotta stick together. We make a good team. Always have. Call me if you want to get in the game again. We make a hell of a lot of money together, y’know.”
When JP and Frisbee get together, you can count on two things. One, the mob will be involved, looking out for their bottom line. Two, at some point in that race, a car is blowing up. When Seiji Kishi and Makoto Uezu get together, as they have again in Dangan Ronpa, you can count on two things. One, laughing at the expense of high-tension characters. Two, tightly-focused storytelling that packs a lot of emotional information into a short interval of screentime. I’m thoroughly enjoying Dangan Ronpa’s presentation. Speaking of which…
“You’re just a voice, pal. You don’t know a damn thing about racing!”
Those who are angry at Dangan Ronpa because it’s not a word-for-word copypaste of the game can shove it. It’s not a perfect show, but it’s a very enjoyable piece of work that edits a 20 hour story into a 4 hour one while keeping things coherant.
“That machine cost a fortune. You don’t have the coin to put a machine like that together on your own.”
This one goes out to the director cashing a cheap paycheck for a cheap slap-together job on Silver Spoon, Tomohiko Itou. I wanted to like that show, badly, but its incredibly lazy presentation instead put me firmly in the camp of people who believe A-1 Pictures’ A-team (now busy working on the Ano Hana movie) is largely to thank for Sword Art Online’s success. The dude might end up being the next incarnation of Yuu Kou: a guy who can look good with the right supporting cast and source material, but lacks some fundamentals and can’t produce basic consistency in the long run.
“I don’t have the health plan or the balls to do anything that stupid.”
Unlike Kurukuru Daza, Blood Lad has essentially lived off of main characters getting themselves into stupid situations over and over again, highlighted by the boxing match in episode 3. It’s a formula that works despite a mediocre cast and low-level handling. Though not amazingly well. I still might drop this one.
“You wanna play fair, you’re either gonna get left in the dust or dead or both.”
What better words to describe Kanetsugu to Keiji, the show about righteous bushido samurai doing righteous bushido samurai things? I just can’t get enough of its style of presentation, which is both funny enough to laugh at and seriously manly enough to accompany a Rocky training montage.
“Attention loyal citizens of the M3 Nebula! As leader, I promise you I will fight to keep Redline from enering our sector. How dare these criminals disturb our galaxy’s order with their barbaric and immoral intentions.”
Hypocritical statements from the
dictator president make me think of the hypocritical anger of those still raging over the lack of cute girls in existence of Free. You know, despite the presence of Kou and Amakata. And the fact that the comedy is a finely crafted flavor of the type of slice-of-life oddballing they typically enjoy. While I can understand just not liking the show’s approach, it’s not worth getting angry over in a season that has Love Lab and Servant x Service. Stop worrying and learn to live with the pool.
“Whaddya wanna talk about?”
“Nah, you go first.”
“It can wait. Whaddya wanna say?”
The movie’s most awkward conversation (JP and Frisbee in the hospital after the latter carbombed the former) naturally links up to WataMote, the show boasting the most awkward main character in a season full of them. You can check any of my posts to find more detailed gushing about how smart the show’s presentation has been (short version: very). But it is awkward to a pain-inducing extent at points, which makes the difference between “one of the best” and “the best” in this season.
“You knew what you were getting into, buddy. Now you’re off the hook with your bondsman. This’ll cover your hospital bill; it’ll keep you in bandages the rest of your life.”
Hunter x Hunter took the time to bring new fans in by opeing the new anime from the very beginning of the story, and just recently started getting to the fun part of its benefits package. The animation of the Chimera Ant arc has been bone-chillingly scary, and did so without looking like it was drawn by a five-year-old minutes before his art class project was due. It’s a really good time for long-runners right now.
“Oh what the hell Frisbee. Let’s get that transam up and running again.”
Akiyuki Shinbo and Studio Shaft returned to the Monogatari Series once again this season, banking another two years or so worth of surefire profit in the process. The latest Monogatari incarnation has been alright, though I felt the writing has been weaker and it’s starting to feel a little wrapped up in itself. Picking nits on a show that’s generally solid, true, but there’s a reason it’s not in my top 5 for the season and that’s it.
“Colonel Volton, may I ask you something?”
“Are you prepared to shed your blood for justice?”
“Sir! To the last drop, sir!”
“Good, then go fight to the death for absolute justice and righteousness!”
Nothing says campy 70s kids TV like refreshingly simple stories of heroes of justice proudly fighting off evildoers. But Kenji Nakamura’s got the keys to this remake, and Gatchaman Crowds is anything but simple. Even before it got to the kid running Galax and the motivations of Berg-Katze who gave him the power to do so, the show gave us a really unique take on the five-man team. There’s no real “leader” per se in Crowds. Hajime is the impetuous for a lot of actions the team takes, but is flaky. Sugune wants to be heroic, but is too uptight. Jou is a lone wolf. Utsusu is even more of a loner, a mysterious lifeform dealing with loneliness that has to carry a bigger meaning. And OD is a grizzled vet hiding a bunch of critical secrets. Couple that with the inventive use of the social network Galax to fill out the setting and make gallons of social commentary, and you’ve got a damn complete product. This show has a puncher’s chance of being my favorite show of the year when all is said and done.
“I’m not like you amateurs. You’re all talk and no action.”
Pretty much describes the casts of both Go-Home Club and Golden Mosaic. The former was always generic in a subpar way, but the latter had an encouraging first episode before fading into weak attempts at teasing yuri.
“This guy’s talkin’ about hooking up a goddamn TRZ Airmaster!”
“No it isn’t! It’s got power but it’s unstable as all hell.”
Dog and Scissors is a very fun, very high energy show. It just also happens to cross the line between zany and stupid a lot. The banter between the lead couple (if you count dog-girl relationships) has always been solid, but everything else is a coinflip crapshoot between fresh-baked hilarious and burned-black boring.
“I still don’t believe it. That was truly an impressive move.”
“Yeah, but he’s still way behind the rest.”
A season ago, Love Lab would’ve been in my top 3 of the season. Now, in spite of its charming self-parody humor, it’s almost an afterthought in this season’s comedy aisle, behind basically everything else I’m still watching. It’s not even the best comedy airing on a Thursday.
“I’d say that compared to the other racers I’m in a totally different league from anyone else. See, in my case, my machine is part of me and I am part of it. For the others it’s just ‘me and my wheels’, but in my case I am my wheels. See how that works?”
No matter how great anything from this year ends up being, it’s ultimately no match for Space Brothers. Other shows may have their good points, but Space Brothers is a show with a singular premise and spectacular cast, helmed by a classy, high-IQ director (Ayumu Watanabe) whose career ceiling at this point may as well not exist. It’s also still broadcasting, and will be for who knows how long.
“We always get the bad guys because we’re the fastest in the galaxy.”
There’s no racer physically faster than Lynchman, who at one point physically sprints alongside the Lynchcar while it’s running at full speed. Likewise, there’s no show airing right now that talks faster than Teekyu 2. There might not be one period. And that’s fine; handling fast-talking to that extent probably takes all the skill Shin Itagaki has.
“I may be scum, but I’m still a damn good mechanic and you can take that to the bank. Don’t go judgin’ a man’s skill by his character.”
A little late recognition for the job Tetsurou Araki has been doing on Attack on Titan. I don’t talk about that show much, but I like it a lot. The story’s been treated with unparalleled intensity in a way that makes the post-Trost slow pacing much easier to swallow. Working on nothing but this since Guilty Crown two years ago is clearly paying off.
“This is all I get? Hey pal, are you sure about the exchange rate here?”
After the first episode that delivered emotions and vague, painful pasts with a delicacy normally reserved for Indie comics, I was expecting a lot more from Uchoten Kazoku. Unfortunately, it took time after that incredibly raw first episode to be obtuse and put the main character in cringe-worthy situations. Right now, it’s trying to make the Friday Fellows, a group of people who ritually kill beings they know to be sentient on a yearly basis into casual cast members. Creative presentation of the setting isn’t enough to make up for the more basic issues with the script and pacing of the show, which hasn’t worked the subtle body language angle since episode 2.
“It’s become a slum thanks to the refugees from nearby sectors, who have drifted in and decided to make it their home.”
Gainax’s record since they lost a large portion of their staff to the Trigger formerly known as Gainaz is actually pretty ok. Medaka Box was what Medaka Box was, but Dantalian no Shoka was extremely solid and C3-Bu has been alright, if painfully overdramatic. But it’s important to understand one thing about the current state of Gainax: the people currently in charage over there were not even the people who were assistant episode directors back in the Eva days or even the TTGL days. The Director, Art Director, Sound Director, Animation Director, and Character Designer of C3-Bu are all people whose history doing things for Gainax does not predate Dantalian. Gainax from the 90s is effectively disbanded and people sticking to the classic-Gainax-tells-coming-of-age-stories narrative are missing some key facts. And if there’s one thing that irritates me when people talk about anime, it’s putting a convenient narrative before facts that contradict it.
“Hey you. I’m talking to you. Wanna buy a ticket? C’mon big guy, buy a ticket! Hey big guy, dont’cha got any money? Buy a ticket, dammit! I’ll give you a discount if you do. What, caught yourself savin’, huh?”
The perfect quote for Brothers Conflict, which was getting some pretty serious volume 1 unit sales by bundling tickets to a special event. Of course, that promotion is over, and the only preorders left over are coming in on the shows merit. Which means not too many preorders, as that show is fairly lame.
“You don’t get it. I’m gonna race in the Redline someday. I bust my ass every day practicing for it.”
Lastly, the movie’s biggest moment of persistence by a female working her ass off to make a big break goes to Hiroko Utsumi, whose rookie performance on Free is the best show put on by a new director since the one-two punch of Atsuko Ishizuka (Sakurasou) and Masashi Ishihama (Shinsekai Yori) last fall. The difference? She’s got a shot at 10k+ megahit sales. Actually, it’s even cooler; no less than 9 directors this season are dyed-in-the-wool rookies.** That’s almost more than there were in all of 2012.***
Current Midseason Top 5:
1. Gatchaman Crowds
2. Servant x Service
5. Dangan Ronpa
*Definitely wasn’t watching the movie all Thursday morning. Nope.
**For those curious, the list goes as follows:
Free! – Hiroko Utsumi
Yami Shibai – Tomoya Takashima
Golden Mosaic – Motoki Tanaka
Go-Home Club – Hikaru Sato
Uchoten Kazoku – Masayuki Yoshihara
C3-Bu – Masayoshi Kawajiri
Hyperdimension Neptunia – Masahiro Mukai
The World God Only Knows s3 – Satoshi Osedo
Dog and Scissors – Yukio Takahashi
***Only 11 in the whole entire year.