This season I watched at least 10 minutes of the first episode of almost all of the series listed over at Stargazed Charts, and while some were QUITE a disappointment, the season as a whole looks promising. Today we’ll look at the enjoyable shows–in other words, series that will probably be fun to watch this season, but may not change your perception of life.
I have a built-in appreciation for shows like Garo after getting addicted to Berserk in my formal years. Like that series, Garo gracefully balances on the line between being an over-the-top action series and pondering over the beast-like nature of man. It hits far more often than it misses, and Garo‘s first episode left me with a strong sense of anticipation for what comes next.
Shirobako is about as “inside baseball” as anime gets; the show focuses on an animation studio which is in the midst of producing a new series. We get the usual cute anime girls as our protagonists, but if you’re interested in how a show gets made–and mind you, this COULD all be exaggerated or glamorized, depending on your outlook–this Shirobako is here for you. I doubt the plot will get much more complex than that, but this entertaining behind the scenes look at the anime industry, is at least engaging enough for 24 minutes of your time.
Across the web, I’ve mostly seen disdain for this series, and I can’t quite understand why. It was one the only tiny show–those lasting all of three to five minutes–that actually had something interesting to say. These series are usually so flippant, due to the short amount of time they have to set up a storyline and character traits, but Danna ga Nani makes haste to define its characters and push the audience to psychoanalyze the two protagonists’ marriage. Granted the series likely won’t delve too much into the profound, but it’s critique of those who let life happen to them, is a theme rarely touched upon–or at least one that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
There’s nothing spectacular about Bahamut Genesis story-wise, but its dynamic main characters and fantastically animated shots put it far beyond the quality I’d expect from a series based on a card game. Maybe I’m putting Bahamut Genesis on a pedestal because of its unexpected premiere episode, but I’m looking forward to seeing where things go from here.
Ookami Shoujo fills an interesting niche of the shoujo genre, one that involves easily dislikable characters in juxtaposition to the usual sappy protagonists who we just want to fall in love. Most specifically, Ookami Shoujo seems to be a reaction to series like Ao Haru Ride, where a sweet female protagonist falls for our asshole male protagonist. Sure Kou–the male lead of Ao Haru Ride–helped Yoshioka to realize certain truths about herself, but overall he treated her badly, even suggesting that he could sexually assault her at one point in order to “scare her straight”. Ookami Shoujo, on the other hand, deals with the same kind of asshole male figure but features Erika–the female protagonist–who is the only person that sees all of his worst aspects, and is fully aware of how terrible he is. This is all wrapped in a domination-lite storyline, so there’s plenty of room for things to go horribly wrong, but this premiere episode definitely won me over in its seemingly fresh take on the most annoying type of shoujo romance.
At times, this series plays so close to the lowest common denominator–I counted two or three random boob grabs–that it’s hard to want to keep up with it. Generally though, there was a mood that I can’t yet articulate that reminded me of equal parts Trigun and Berserk. The consistent uprooting of assumptions keeps the viewer on their feet, and the action keeps us interested. Most importantly, Nanatsu seems to play in the world of moral ambiguity that last season’s Akame ga Kill! delved into, but Nanatsu never takes itself as seriously as Akame does. This makes the journey–getting our characters from dubious assassins to heroes of the day–all the more enjoyable, in a time when dark and brooding characters have begun to saturate the media landscape.
Gugure! is one of those rare anime comedies which has an almost impeccable grasp of timing, using pauses in dialogue or character reactions to build the comedic effect. At times, the series feels a little bit like Barakamon‘s impish, and certainly odd, younger brother. We have an older male protagonist–who thinks highly of himself–meeting up with an elementary-aged girl in order to protect her and pass on his philosophy. Of course, much like in Barakamon, said little girl proves to be just as influential on her “sensei” as he is on her, if not more so. Gugure! is a sillier and less triumphant Barakamon, if 90’s Tim Burton had directed it.
This series plays out in usual shounen fashion, with a central passion that our main characters give themselves over to. Unique to Tribe Cool Crew, is the relative sweetness of the show, which isn’t beat over our heads but instead plays out quietly. Our protagonists are in such awe of each others’ talents, that even “dance offs” feel cordial and built on a ground of equal respect. There’s nothing wrong with the antagonizing which happens in shows like Pokemon or Bleach, but this function of Tribe definitely helps to set it apart from the rest of the pack. The series also portrays the art of dancing as fun and amusing, without subtracting from the importance which the main characters have attributed to the form of expression. I can’t abide by the CGI animated dance scenes–which look out of place, next to classically animated shots–but Tribe Cool Crew is a winner, otherwise.
Fate/Stay Night keeps up a tradition this season of having outstanding animation but a mediocre story. Perhaps if I was a big fan of the franchise or the original visual novels, this new iteration would be right up my alley, but as it stands, I just marveled at the artwork for the 44 minute duration of the pilot. I won’t be reviewing this one–once again, plenty of coverage–but Fate/Stay Night has at least redefined the way I view the franchise at large, after the criminally bad Fate/kaleid liner blah blah 2wei!. Fate/Stay Night doesn’t involve 8-year olds making out with one another, so it gets the patented Thin Black Line stamp of approval.
Reconguista‘s biggest problem is its incoherence, or at least a disinterest on the part of the writers/director to fill in those of us not familiar with the Gundam universe. That being said, the throwback art style–which feels straight out of the 70’s, but in high definition–is magnificent, and I love the designs of the mechs. As a fan of mecha series, it looks like I’m down to this, GBF Try or Cross Ange this season, and the combination of the nostalgic animation and the action direction here, puts Reconguista on top.
Shigatsu is an extremely pretty series–kudos to A-1 Pictures for that–but it ultimately feels hollow. Even as a fan of anime about musicians, I’d probably only stick with this show for the artwork. Otherwise, the characters are dull and don’t seem to move the story along at the right pace. Still, there’s potential here, so getting on board now could pay off if you have the patience.
Having only caught an episode of the first season of GBF, I found this second season to be readily accessible. We get a quick idea of where each character stands and then we’re thrust into the action. Even though this series is more of a commercial for Gunpla–Gundam plastic models–than anything before it, the show still has a way of reaching beyond that simple goal and contains a level of action-packed gravitas. Were I to be following more shows this season, GBF Try would be on my list.