Spring 2014 Impressions: Round Two

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty good about anime right now.

Screenshot 2014-04-19 20.07.40

A pretty accurate representation of how I feel about this current season.

Still, doesn’t mean I can’t be a heartless bastard and drop shows left and right, which is what’s happened this week (by those weird coincidences that pop up sometimes, this just happened to fall around the 3-ep mark, which seems to me indicate why such a “rule” exists in the first place). As it looks like my final list has settled down, this’ll also be the last Spring 2014 impressions post I’ll be doing.

This is how I watch all anime.

How I assume you all must feel at this news.

Akuma no Riddle: After my declaration last week that I wasn’t going to continue this show…I did anyway. Episode 3 rolled around to give us our first big fight, and pretty much there was no huge action scenes. I originally was under the impression this would be quite the action-y show, but instead what it’s opted for is a lot of “OH SNAP HEAVY IMPLICATIONS” dialogue and short bursts of “OH SNAP HARU’S IN TROUBLE” type of thing, rather than a more free-for-all brawl. Plus some sexual tension — that too. There’s obviously some DARK BACKSTORIES involved and each of the characters are quite ridiculous, but it’s a little bit boring to me. Dropped.

Baby Steps: Ei-chan has to be one of the oddest protagonists of a shounen sports manga. A perfectionist straight-A student (almost to the point of OCD I’d say), he transitions over to tennis after he learns just how much he loves hitting the “sweet spot”. It’s a story as much about the odd one out and about discovering yourself and what you’re truly passionate about. It’s a good premise, but for me there’s three main problems that make me not really buy into the show. 1) Ei-chan’s character is not actually portrayed consistently. He sorta does some things really thoroughly, in line with his characterization, but then completely bypasses others. Granted, the situations where he doesn’t do this are those where he’s gotten advice from his crush Natsu (and thus somewhat understandable), but it’s still a little bit jarring. 2) His hair actually bothers me. It’s the strangest thing. 3) The pacing. I’d forgotten the reason why I don’t watch many shounen sports shows: they’re just really really slow. It’s been three episodes, and Ei-chan has yet to play (or even watch) a full game of tennis. While slow pacing or a slow start isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just not my personal preference. Dropped.

Black Bullet: The second episode was this really bizarre thing that does what lots of people hate but that you only really can find in anime: mixing DEEP themes and situations like intense discrimination with completely NOTDEEP anime tropes. Plus just nonsensical situations and odd monologues where no one else talks. It’s still a fine show for me though. Continuing.

Captain Earth: There’s some really cool ideas going on with this show. The double-narrative and the Kil-T-Gang are intriguing, as is much of the backstory and environment which has been left unexplored. But there’s still just too much nonsensical name-dropping with no explanations to keep me interested. For me, this isn’t really an example of a good “show, not tell” type of sci-fi show: it’s just a lot of made-up terms thrown around to try and achieve the same effect without really accomplishing much of anything. Dropped.

Date a Live II: New girls, same boobs plot. Continuing.

Haikyuu!!: Regardless of how beautiful this show is, it just has the same problem as I have with Baby Steps: the pacing is just slow (although it’s still almost an order of magnitude faster here than there), and since not much has happened (I want to see some volleyball!) I’ve lost interest. There’s been some good character development already though, and the cast looks great, so for anyone who likes sports anime, this is probably the show to be watching this season! Dropped.

JoJo: Walk like an Egyptian. Brilliant. Continuing.

Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara: Despite intending to drop this, I’ve now picked it back up. Everything I said in the previous week still holds, although I’ve warmed up to the show a little bit. Continuing.

Daimidaler: This show is meant to be dumb by even anime standards, so I find it kind of hilarious (just like this) when people bash this show for doing exactly what it advertised it would do. Continuing.

Mahouka: Tatsuya is JesusContinuing.

Mekaku City Actors: I like Kagepro, so I’ve been happy with how things look so far. I did want to chime in here though with a quick concern I’ve recently developed, which is people essentially going “Shinbou’s done this a million times before, now I’m bored because this is nothing new”. In recent months, I’m starting to shift over into the “Shinbou is deconstructing anime and media” camp (is that a camp?), and I think his repeated use of similar shots, movement, sound effects, and aesthetic symbols (among others) is actually an attempt to construct an entire symbolic series of aesthetic practices and associated meanings centered around their very deconstruction. Not sure if this justifies SHAFTing everything that comes his way, although I think it’s a good fit for both Nisekoi and MCA given their nature. Continuing.

No Game No Life: I unabashedly love this show. Everything I said last week remains the same, although I also dropped some comments over at Behind the Nihon Review about how I feel the shows portrays hikikomori/NEETs. In addition, wanted to chime in quickly on a complaint I’ve heard, where because NGNL somehow endorses wish-fulfillment escapism it therefore is a horrible show. Personally, I don’t think wish fulfillment and escapism is all that bad in and of itself (and I don’t think LNs entirely fall prey to this either), although obviously it can become pretty bad. In a similar vein, I don’t think you can really “critique” shows like Mahouka, SAO, or NGNL (and many other LN adaptations, for that matter) for being “escapist” except where it disagrees with some of your personal biases. It’s somewhat related to some of the issues surrounding hero worship in Samumenco and is a complicated issue that I think hits many of the same ideas. Anyways, I’m of the opinion it’s still QUITE EXCELLENT. Continuing.

One Week Friends: It’s nice and fluffy, although the weird almost-forced drama in the last episode left me a bit puzzled. Continuing

Ping Pong: This show is absolutely gorgeous. Unlike Baby Steps and Haikyuu!!, here we really have a dynamic cast of characters who have been amazingly well characterized within the span of only two episodes. Yuasa has really won me over here. Continuing.

Sidonia: My impressions after the first episode were justified — this looks to be great. Not only are we seeing real PTSD symptoms and more great indirect worldbuilding without all the jargon-y nonsense (ahem Captain Earth ahem), but it looks like things won’t be slowing down anytime soon. The CG still perplexes me. Continuing.

Soredemo: Nothing much to say here beyond last week. Continuing.

Still continuing Nisekoi and Seki-kun.


Final comments: 

Are there any shows that I should be picking up on this last time around that I’m not watching (e.g. Histugi no Chaika)? Any other thoughts on shows that I’ve either dropped or am continuing?

Concerning Nisekoi, Marika actually terrifies me, which is actually great, because we see all the different types of “love” that are often written about represented here: Chitoge’s tsundere “slowly coming together” affection, Onodera’s “fairy-tale” crush, and Marika’s childhood “I’ve loved you ALL THIS TIME” fixation. Plus the side “I WAS PRAISED” blind adoration from Tsumugi. Not only is the show filling out/checking all the typical boxes, but it’s making sure those boxes really are representative of something. Again, given it’s “false” nature and how it really is deconstructing “love”, I think it’s a great fit for Shinbou, who’s gone to work deconstructing the entire show too!

That shit's just unnatural - I LOVE IT.

That shit’s just unnatural. GIVE ME MORE.

7 responses to “Spring 2014 Impressions: Round Two

  1. No doubt there are plenty of people who disagree with me, but I ended up dropping Histugi no Chaika pretty damn quickly. On its own, I think the story could be quite fun, but the cookie-cutter characters put me off in a big way, as did the substandard writing. I wrote a bit more about that on my most recent blog post, but the show honestly didn’t inspire me to say much.

    Glad I’m not the only one liking Black Bullet. The second episode really kicked things up for me, and while it’s clearly not going to be anime of the season, I’d hate to see this one given short shrift just because it’s based on a light novel series. That’s actually becoming one of my pet peeves recently; yes, source material often counts for a lot, but shouldn’t anime bloggers generally try to base their feelings for a show on its own merits? Especially lately though, it feels like a lot of anime is brushed off as ‘light novel trash’ before it’s even gone to air.

    • So that’s one downvote to picking up Chaika. Guess I’ll keep sticking with what I have and wait for the Internet to tell me if I’m missing something. Also glad you’re enjoying Black Bullet, since I think it is shaping up to be a pretty good show!

      And yea, this complete devaluing of most LN adaptations is something I too have become quite annoyed with. I understand that with a lot of stuff airing people are prone to establish broad classifications in order to to make their job of picking out things they’re more likely to enjoy easier, and so I’m fine with people going “this is based on a LN and likely to be not-my-thing, so I’m not going to watch it.” What I’m not fine with is when lots of people then go into these shows with a “I’m really going to hate this because it’s a LN adaptations and those always suck” attitude to justify their devaluation in the first place, which is just…-_-.

  2. I’m still playing catch-up, so I don’t have much to say besides hyping up Episode 3 of NGNL. (Lap-sitting! Calvinball disguised as chess! More Jojo references!)

    Oh yeah, there’s this flash-animated short series called Kantoku Fuyuki Todoki. It’s basically Lucky Star if you replaced the cast with Anno Hideaki and his wife. Anno’s even got that Konata smile going on. It amuses me, since what with recent discussion about Eva 3.0, I feel like there was a general impression that Anno has become a grumpy old man who hates otaku. Then this little show comes along portraying him as hardcore an otaku as ever, albeit old-school. I’m watching it and seeing if any of his enthusiasm rubs off on me so I can muster the motivation to watch those old shows.


      Speaking of Anno (I just started watching the flash series and it’s great), I was actually just talking about him the other day and the conversation got to the new 3.0 movie and his view of otaku. In the end, we came to the conclusion that his feelings are much less clear-cut than, say, Miyazaki’s. I mean, Anno started out (and to an extent still is) an otaku, and he definitely can see the hypocrisy in attacking otaku culture. That said, there is definitely a sentiment among older otaku that currently “otaku are dead”: the “moe” otaku culture we see now is regressive and essentially encapsulates a generation that treasures emotions/affects/escapism (e.g. moe otaku) over searching for knowledge (e.g. sci-fi otaku). But these of course are people too, this viewpoint is no doubt overly harsh, and Anno must understand (probably quite personally) where they are coming from. And these otaku are also those who have been raised on and majorly influenced by his/Gainax’s shows. So in the end I think he’s very conflicted: at one end angry and frustrated, and at the other understanding and sympathetic.

      On a slightly tangential note, in my opinion, you actually also get this type of more ambivalent, conflicted reading about Anno’s feelings towards otaku if you approach Eva 3.0 with the mindset that Bobduh provides in his post — i.e. that Eva 3.0 is an Eva film about Eva and the people that watch it — plus the simple assumption that Shinji is more than just the empathetic character for the audience, but also a stand-in for Anno himself (much as he was in the original series).

  3. Pingback: Narrative Self-Projection and Hypocrisy: Why Suzaku is a Better Character Than Lelouch | Fantastic Memes·

  4. —Sidonia: I finally figured out what it was about the visuals that was bugging me: it’s something about the way the characters move. Not sure what, exactly, but it’s in the movement. Maybe their motions seem a little exaggerated or something. Starting to rather like the look, though. Almost as gorgeous as Ping Pong. (I’m laughing as I write that, but the fact is that both episodes of that show have gotten my blood pumping in ways I never thought table tennis would, and the visuals are a huge part of that.)

    —NGNL: criticizing a show for being escapist, while perhaps correct, tends to mean (in most instances) just talking past the show. Escapist fiction makes different presuppositions (so to speak) about the purpose of art and its role in our lives, etc. than “non-escapist” fiction does, and while these presuppositions might or might not be morally dubious, simply dismissing them is, at the very least, a much less interesting option than looking more closely. And of course there’s the obvious fact that escapism is as much a part of the viewer as it is of the creator (my enjoyment of Dostoevsky is, in part, “escapist”—I dare you to prove to me that Myshkin isn’t moe) and it’s always possible to take escapist fiction on non-escapist terms, and so on. Of course, since NGNL isn’t just escapist, but is at least in some way about escapism, that would make it an excellent object of study or critique (as opposed to criticism, if you follow me) for someone who wanted to deal with that problem. (I’m pretty much just enjoying it for the colors, though. Shoot me.)

    —SHAFT: on a similar note, I’d say you’re spot-on here. Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with them having a distinctive aesthetic—I have yet to see anybody get mad both at SHAFT and at, say, Miyazaki for sticking to one aesthetic; the implication is almost always somehow that SHAFT’s is worse, or that they pigeonhole themselves a bit tighter…. Secondly, while I’m a bit wary of the term “deconstruction” simply because it has a huge history that I’m not familiar with (this is me being uncomfortable, not me saying you should be), I do think that SHAFT’s shows simply make rather different presuppositions about the relationship between studio, original work, audience, etc. than most shows do. You’re right: they’re constructing their own aesthetic, and that aesthetic says certain things both about the medium as a whole and about the particular genres and subject-matters that the medium can be used to present. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but I haven’t seen enough talk about this.

    • Your point about NGNL I think is spot on, and maybe by the end of the show I’ll try and give a review where I talk about some of those issues. (I’m also watching it for the colors :P)

      The point about Miyazaki is well put (although I did hear a couple rumblings about his obsession with flying machines after The Wind Rises. Not animation, but at least it’s something!): he uses really similar aesthetics and animation styles (I’ve been reading some of LaMarre’s The Anime Machine, and he loves Miyazaki for some of this), which is one of the reason he likes to call his movies “manga films” and not “anime”.

      Yea, I’m surprised that I haven’t seen any discussion on SHAFT’s (well, really Shinbou’s) aesthetic and directorial techniques, because I would really like to read that shit. If you find any, please forward it my way! Otherwise, hopefully I’ll get to writing about it at some point in the future!

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