Saturday’s here, with three shows on my preseason top 10 and another I was at least watching for the historical context. Given that, I feel like the day could have been better than it was, but since I’ll be taking the good stuff and dropping the bad anyway, I’m just happy it had some keepers.
Probably just finished one of the worst weeks of the year. It was hell on earth at work, plus the way Shueisha handles releases, splitting up the “official” release date with the one that oricon actually counts, has added probably 2 hours to the 8-hour task of redoing all 2011/2012 manga boost data. And a side-project I’m working on after finally getting tired of not actually writing about manga took up most of my time since finally getting off yesterday.
But Summer’s finally here, which is cool. Just finished getting caught up with all the material I plan on watching. Out of the four shows I’ve seen so far, Free s2 was predictably solid (though the comedy feels a little more raunchy than s1), one was bland as could be, two others were interesting enough to keep up with.
This week has been pretty great across the board. I just thought I’d jot out a quick list of things I liked about it.
Every quarter, I take the anime season as excuse to go watch and quote-mine one of my old favorite shows. This time, the one on the chopping block is the show that is my favorite Hideaki Anno show and the show it took me the longest to watch to the end (I acquired the first 3 DVDs over the course of 2007-2008, then didn’t get my hands on the last 2 until 2011). The show has a really interesting, introspective romance plot backed up by some fantastic backgrounds, and I picked it this time around because this Spring 2014 season features plenty of both being played for great effect.
Helps that it was wicked fun to rewatch
Mekaku City Actors packed a number of strong-side points, the mos enjoyable of which was hearing Asumi Kana at full blast. Just having her go at it with one-way dialogue did a great job of lightening up the atmosphere after that story-heavy intro. It’s fun to watch a character just grab the reins and take charge of a scene the way he computer avatar character did. A star-studded cast is almost a given for a high-budget production, but not everyone really makes use of their veteran VA’s strong points the way those minutes did. That’s one of the really fun parts about the deliberately minimal rorschach-blot style that has come to characterize that one studio whose name everyone has heard several times at this point; when it doesn’t work by itself, it’s setting a really open stage for writers and seiyuu to just jam. Oh, and it makes flipping the script on a dime doable as well (visibly useful in the second half). Warts be damned, I’m all-in on this one; it’s getting at least 3 more episodes.
You can do most things with 3DCG as it stands now in anime, if you use it in a manner conscious of its limitations. But Knights of Sidonia didn’t feel like it was bringing any kind of production-side A-game beyond the first-2-minute action scene. The scene in the rice plant where the male lead was running away put way to much focus on motion that was very wooden, and it cut out of that scene with a very sloppy fade-to-black transition.* The show is just nowhere near as good as Arpeggio was at handling the weak points in its CG style, and it was missing opportunities by not, among other things, restricting walking exposition scenes like the one about the third gender to discretion shots. The mech scenes, at least, were smooth as silk. I kept watching, though, and development of what seems like a very Xenogears-y world got intriguing pretty quickly, thanks in part to effectively washed-out pale color palettes and in part to the fast-moving story (even before counting the cliffhanger at the end). I’m willing to give this one two more weeks.
No Game No Life had some cool color schemes and showed some respectable chemistry for the main duo. Unfortunately, the games proper this episode showed off (a game of chess and a cheat-heavy game of poker) were written in fairly pedestrian ways. The presentation seemed a lot more focused on making the main duo into cool characters than it did on creating compelling scenarios. That approach can work in some cases, but it’s not doing it for me here. Dropped.
Hitsugi no Chaika managed the first couple of minutes peculiarly. I’m not really used to seeing action shows introduce their characters to each other in low-key comedy scenes; more often, they tend to either already know each other or encounter each other in the middle of a fight. I tend to prefer the latter, since it starts the show out at a faster pace. And while I did feel like the show was a bit of a slow starter, the lower-key scenes felt like they at least worked individually and the infiltration at the end where they had to figure out how to get the coffin in was actually kind of neat. I’m giving this one another week to introduce more of the story.
Isshukan Friends was set up by pretty much all the promotional material as a heartwarming drama, which made the fact that it was a 4-koma adaptation an interesting one. We’ve seen exceptionally well-handled 4-koma adaptations very recently*, shows that succeeded by building a more cohesive flow out of the generously loose framework offered by the source. Apparently, that’s an approach that works just fine for a more somber atmosphere. This episode did a great job of varying the mood from somber to lighthearted as needed, keeping conversations flowing while mixing in background cutaways and other spices to break up the action between days. It helped that said background art was pretty great by itself (even if it played a minor role). I’ll be spending three more episodes on this one, since it seems to have a vice grip on its identity right off the bat.
Kanojo Flag didn’t have super-polished animation at any phase in time, but it did pack a level of fun energy into most of the show. The characters weren’t jump-off-the-screen interesting, and there was a fair bit of flashback melodrama bogging things down to a degree. But the opener seemed to get a lot of mileage out of the “flags as physical manifestations of the power of narrative” schtick, which was equal parts clever and funny and made for a cute climax. You can build a show around that if it gets used like it was this week. I’ll give this one another two episodes to build up a cast and a broader arsenal of jokes.
*Vis a vis Sakura Trick and Seitokai Yakuindomo Footnote.
I was planning on capping my Saturday viewings with Captain Earth and Ace of the Diamond in a one-two whammy, but I saw Kamigami no Asobi up there on crunchyroll and decided to give it a few minutes of consideration. In return, I was treated to an intriguing, if somewhat incoherent fight scene, a very out-there transformation sequence, and a school life first day of vacation sequence that mixed in plenty of casual walk-and-talk to keep things moving. The big mystery in that first half of the episode was how the show would handle that transition from crisp slice-of-life to Greek gods burning their cosmo in battle, and while the transition wasn’t an elaborate one, it did have a whimsical feel thanks to a flighty soundtrack. The character intro bits were a bit overdone, but were more interactive than monologue-based, which counts for a bit. I’m keeping up with this one for at least another week.
Captain Earth was the show I personally thought had the highest if-everything-goes-right ceiling heading into the season, with the caveat that it was probably less likely to reach that ceiling than a few other shows. This episode didn’t take a great first step in that direction, jumping around a lot between scenes in a way that felt fairly choppy. I hate that sort of format; while quick pacing that focuses exposition as nice, the most enjoyable scenes are the ones that come from flowing continuity. That said, the part of the flashback that featured the two kids bonding and surprising each other was engaging, and they got more coherent as the episode went on. Less encouraging was the soundtrack usage, which was super-unbalanced; it felt like it was just out of sync with the atmosphere the show was trying to build in a good 30% of the scenes (particularly the gravesite/death flashback one where some upbeat Space Brothers-esque inspirational stuff was playing). It’s like they just left the music on play, rather than fitting it to the scenes at hand. After the choppy first half, the whole thing was a short intro for the first villain and a very elaborate docking sequence. I’m gonna give it some time because a fight has yet to happen and it still does have potential to build out the story, but this episode did not inspire much in the way of confidence.
Daimidaler was split between pervy humor that felt fresh and organic (the uniform scene at the beginning, everything penguin-related) and stock pervy humor. While there was enough of the latter that I certainly wouldn’t be watching it in a group, I felt like the former made a stronger impact. Between the comedy and the wicked hot-blooded/punny intro, I’m happy to see where it goes on a week-to-week basis.