I’m a strong believer in the value of 20 minutes of time. Between work, the anime I do watch, the fact that I do play games on occasion, and my ongoing quest to find the next To Heart*, I’ve got plenty of venues to bank my time. There’s no real reason to keep watching a show, even if I’m enjoying it a little, if it doesn’t have at least an upside of being an 8/10 product. What follows is a list of Summer 2013 shows I dropped more or less because of their lack of realistic upside.
When anime franchises get rebooted, it’s fairly typical for the new staff to take it in a new direction and make something extra-special to celebrate the anniversary of a classic product. For examples of this done incredibly well, look no further than the 2012 Lupin III series or the 2009 Mazinger reboot. For the example of this done perfectly, take a gander at Kenji Nakamura’s take on the decades-old Gatchaman franchise and watch him take an already stellar skill set to a whole other level.
Meet the show with the year’s best villain, the year’s best protagonist, the year’s best two-person dialogue chain, the year’s most relevant-to-society themes, the year’s second-best opening (got Jaeger’d by the number one), the year’s best panda, and the best one-word BGM track in anime.
Meet Gatchaman Crowds.
Based on the formula it had followed thus far, I felt I had a pretty good idea of where Dangan Ronpa was going with its ending. I was wrong; the ending packed a genuine twist that flipped the premise on its head, tossing a bunch of huge endgame plusses for the show into the pot.
The two biggest unresolved plot threads of Free going into the final episode (Rin’s suspension from the relay team and the effects on his and Haru’s burgeoning rivalry) closely shadowed one of the show’s bigger strengths (its strong cast) but weren’t exactly playing to the show’s big strength; its kinetic visual sense. Given that, the direction the ending went wasn’t a huge shock. Though it was admittedly not one hundred percent something that I had anticipated, it still went down the right pipe.
The ending for this series was very much its twelfth episode. It opened with a recap and ended with a loop to the beginning, showing a main character who made no real progress as a person. It wasn’t a conclusion that was difficult to predict, but it does again highlight the biggest weakness of a show that expects one character to carry the entire show on her back with only a bunch of situational humor as a sidekick. As it is, it’s a fun show, but by no means the best comedy of the year (or even the season).
Before the episode, a point: Free’s first volume posted a combined BD/DVD sales figure of 25,000 volumes. If this stays above 20,000 copies per volume (it will), it’ll log in as Kyoto Animation’s best-selling TV title since Houkago Teatime planted their feet in London. If it gets a decent second week boost, there’s a non-negligible chance it passes Clannad’s 24,808 average and goes into the studio’s all-time top 5 behind Haruhi, Lucky Star, and the K-ons. Oh, and that mark is generally good for somewhere between the 40th and 60th best selling TV anime of all time. Those are some legit numbers. By accounts I’ve heard, the farm-system novel that birthed Free, High Speed, is playing out fairly directly on the screen and doesn’t leave much room for a sequel. That said, if I were an exec at Kadokawa I’d be doing my best trying to see if I could finagle one in. Remember, ignoring whether or not the ending is open or closed, 50 percent of anime that sell 4000 copies per volume or more get a sequel. I did some garbage calculations with a smaller sample of the 27 non-sequels to sell 20k+ volumes, and found that all but 8 eventually got movie or TV sequels of some kind. That said, 2 of those 8 were Kyoto Animation products.*
Sorry for the incredibly late updates. I’ve had a busy time lately that I’d like to claim is all work’s fault, but it really has as much to do with Valkyria Chronicles 2 and the general greatness of Gatchaman Crowds. Which I’ve rewatched episodes of for hours episode 10 specifically, and is definitely the turning point pushing Kenji Nakamura past the ranks of very, very good situational directors into the tier of “watch me nail this magic trick I’ve never done before,” greats.*
Anyway, I’ll be getting back to writing over this weekend, skipping pics and just dishing my thoughts on the shows I was supposed to be covering** until I’m caught up. Also, look forward to some more crunched numbers; I’ve been running some data on anime adaptations of award-winning manga and the frequency of mecha anime pre- and post-3D mech animation techniques that should be ready relatively soon.
Free didn’t let up on the details as per usual. It might be only the second or third time I’ve seen an anime point out the poor quality of it’s written Engrish, a stickem take on a cliche that was further justified by it being written by a bunch of jock high schoolers. It packed in a little extra bit of realism by showing how information technology can be used to boost athletic performances. And it made the most of a nabe spill, resolving the subplot foremost in the minds of the viewers.
If I were her, I would have just picked up some non-corrective glasses
But the real reason Free sold out at the majority of online retailers is that it packs a good dramatic cast, and said cast was on display as well, approaching something that the show hadn’t really confronted up till now. The central arc of the show deals with the rivalry between Rin and Haru with roots dating back to when they were in the same swim club with Matoto and Nagisa. So where does Rei, the new kid who’s now friends with the latter three but just got involved 3 months ago fit into the equation?
I’ve seen shows lead into their ED credits with the first few notes, (to nearly universally impressive results), but this is only the third or fourth show I’ve seen do so with the opening credits. Between that and the decision to plug Tomoko into class chat central, the second semester got off to a running start.
This was, first and foremost, a great Monokuma episode. His cosplay acting was a level up from normal, that back-and-forth between him and Naegi about the lack of cameras in the baths was solid banter, and the way he laughed when he found the kids snooping around the hidden room was spot-on. His character is probably one of the show’s 3 biggest achievements, unlike many villains who start to feel tired or experience character dilution, he still exudes the same threatening yet fun poise he’s had since day 1. And his declaration at the end shows two different kinds of astute villainy (depending on whether you see it as a bluff or not).