Fall 2014 Anime Season Overview/Winter 2015 First Impressions

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The 2014 fall season just wrapped up and I’m super excited to get the chance to write about it. Well, maybe not just ended, I admit to having fallen behind as I was trying to finish watching everything for the end of year overview. Because of that, I’ve also included my first impressions of the winter 2015 season, it’s now two episodes in, and already the season has me super excited!

Most of 2014 was pretty lackluster and I was beginning to think this year would be a wash,  but then the fall season got going and the year finished on an especially high note. I actually started with a fairly modest plate of shows to dine on, but as the season progressed, I kept adding more and more to my serving. By the end I was following eleven titles and almost all of them I would recommend for you. But not all.

 

Akame ga Kill

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This was the only summer leftover, and finished up it’s twenty four episode run. I continue to have the opinion I did during my end of summer review. The show is fun, but not especially deep. Tatsumi, a young man from a small village travels to the capital to make it big and bring wealth to his village. Along the way he learns the evils and corruption of the ruling class and ends up joining a band of assassins who are a part of the rebel army.

The show is brutal to it’s characters, showing no mercy, but it’s definitely the case where dark and violent doesn’t necessarily equal deep or edgy. It felt almost as though the show wanted to be the Game of Thrones of anime, and instead became almost a parody of it. Or at least that’s how the fandom was trumpeting it. Once you close in on the ending, you know exactly where this show will end, and nothing becomes a shock anymore.

That said, I did enjoy it. As long as you’re prepared for a colorful, violent, fun, and brutal anime that’s fully committed to it’s theme, this show does exactly what it sets out to do. The cast is large but stereotypical. There really is a character for everyone, but they’re not particularly deep. The ending completely satisfied me. I don’t think I would have been happy if anything changed. It was all so over the top that the end that I was happy to just embrace the spirit of the show and enjoy it for what it was. I will mention, the show broke off from following the manga, so there’s still another story being told, if you wish for an alternative end.

 

Log Horizon 2

03Part two starts exactly where part one ends. The premise is one seen many times now in anime: a large population of Japan has become trapped inside a multi-member online role playing game. The unique part here is that the main characters don’t really care. They just decide to roll with it, and start their new lives as adventurers in the land. They have to work together to create and maintain order in their city while dealing with the politics of the locals who now are real people rather than computer generated NPC’s.

The thing that really hooked me about Log Horizon was that it actually felt like an MMORPG. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a former top tier, raiding guild, Warcrack addict, so seeing the characters pull up their friends list to communicate, equip different items to cook at a higher level, and use strategies to keep people in rage of AoE buffs, while not letting the DPS pull Aggro from the Tank, I got really excited. Not to mention a little twitchy to get back online. The characters are all up beat and fun, the story is a bit more episodic than epic, with many slice of life type episodes. My personal take is that if you’re not a gamer, it may just come across as dull. I found my self getting bored at times with the lack of a strong plot line, and noticed that I was watching more  to feel special about understanding all the little references, than because I was genuinely interested in what was happening to the players.

The first half of season two is more of the same from season one. If you enjoyed the first one, you will enjoy the second. But if you had to force yourself through the first, you won’t find anything new to grab you in this continuation.

 

Rage of Bahamut

04Now here’s a show to talk about. Wow, did this horse come out of the gate running. The visuals in this are absolutely stunning. I really felt like I was watching an epic 80’s fantasy movie. That’s exactly how the plot and feel of this show should be described. The three main characters are extremely loveable and charming. You have the charismatic rogue, the honourable knight, and the playful yet mysterious girl who’s crazy powerful and of course, the centre of this all. There’s a quest, a journey, and a battle between the forces of good and evil, revealed secrets, parentage revelations, large armies, and a chosen saviour, also dragons, there’s always dragons; basically your checklist for an epic fantasy.

And even though it reads like a checklist, the characters are interesting and likeable enough that it doesn’t matter that we’ve all seen this tale before. It’s a fun ride, and the relationships between the three are enough to keep you watching on its own. The biggest drawback, however is that this twelve episode show is too short to fully realize the supporting cast and sheer size of the over arching plot. It’s too ambitious to fit in such a short series, leaving many parts confusing to follow as it rushes through exposition at break neck speed. As soon as one twist occurs, it’s quickly brushed aside for the next. Unfortunately some of the plot points do feel like they were shoved in just to check it off the epic fantasy list, and could have been removed all together.

The truth is, the reason you should be watching this is not for the plot, it’s for the visuals and the characters. The ending too, is very satisfying. Despite it being rushed, there was decent closure for our cast. The last scene really put a smile on face and made me feel like I had watched a complete story. While it could have used a few more episodes in the middle, or dropped a side plot completely, the beginning and the end combined with the characters and visuals are enough to recommend this to anyone with a love for classic fantasy stories.

 

Psycho-Pass 2

05The first Psycho-Pass introduced us to a world where a persons psycho-pass is scanned to see where they would best fit in society. If their stress levels are too high, they’ll register as a latent criminal and be removed. In other words, peoples lives are ruined because of thought crimes. The first season was very strong, going heavily into questioning the morality of such a society and if it’s better to remain as they are, or plunge the country into chaos and violence to change it. It’s very thought provoking and its main villain was excellent.

Which is why Psycho-Pass 2 comes across as a complete disappointment. I mentioned this in my year end post, but the entire season felt like filler, lazy filler. Many events make no logical sense at all, except to add a dramatic scene here and there. The rules of the world seem to be rewritten on a whim that left me constantly scratching my head. Lack of strict continuity is something that frustrates me to no end. There’s a secondary villain added who adds nothing to the story. He’s just there to twirl his moustache and add a completely unnecessary, not to mention convoluted, twist. I had to watch parts over again, to see if I’d somehow missed something, because things just weren’t adding up right.

The thing is, there’s a movie coming out. Because of that, the show had to keep it’s main character stagnant so that she’s in the right place at the start of the movie, and that is the biggest problem with this season. At the beginning, she acts as though the revelations made at the end of last season had no effect on her, and so, she couldn’t let any of this seasons questions effect her either. It felt like she was deliberately fighting against developing as a character. It was such a waste. Personally, I’m going to watch the movie, but go in with the mind set that season 2 never happened. The first season is absolutely worth watching, this season felt like a cheap cash grab.

 

Fate/Stay Night; Unlimited Blade Works

06I feel I’ve talked about this show so much that I don’t know what more to say. It’s an absolute must watch if only for the animation and fight scenes alone. The whole thing is beautiful. The down side is that this really is only half a season, and we’ll be getting our conclusion in spring. Because of that, the story feels like it’s just gotten past it’s introductory stage.

Unlike Fate/Zero, which felt far more like an ensemble show, Fate/Stay Night is clearly Shiro and Rin’s show. Both characters are strong, though Shiro is a bit of your typical nice guy. Rin is the standout in my opinion, being one of the best heroines I’ve seen in a long time. We really haven’t spent enough time with the supporting cast for me to have much of an opinion on them. The season ended with a brilliant cliff hanger which completely turns the show on it’s head for next season. I have no idea where it’s going now, and I’m glad. Thus far, we’ve only really seen Caster as the main villain, but with so many other Masters still out there, I know there’s a lot more story to come.

 

Terraformars

07For being one of the most talked about series going into the season, being trumpeted as Attack on Titan on Mars, Terraformars was a mess. From claims of racism due to the cockroaches design (which I found to be reaching at best) to laughable censorship, bad animation, and over all horrible pacing, it just didn’t work for me. Now, I know this show has its fans. It did have a lot going for it. Many of the characters are complete badasses that I’d love to see more of – if they lived for more than an episode.

So, basically, mutant cockroaches have taken over Mars and humans have to go there because they need to find a cure to this new disease that they believe came from there. This isn’t their fist time fighting the cockroaches, so they’ve spliced multiple people’s DNA with that of other animals to make them strong enough to fight them. Different animals have different effects and are better at fighting the cockroaches, which begs the question, why splice people with animals that have no fighting ability? For every character that can tear through the roaches, ten are completely useless, sitting ducks.

I get it: it’s edgy, it’s dangerous, everyone’s at risk. But the cast is so huge, and the pacing so slow, that you never get a chance to truly like anyone. The majority of the episodes could be summed up as; introduce badass of the week, badass then stands off against cockroach of choice, cue multiple flashbacks detailing their life, why they’re there, what they have to live for or why they’re fighting, more standing off against the cockroach, power-up, and then, finally, we see said badass in action. But wait, don’t let us get into the scene, we need another flashback to interrupt the action we just waited almost an entire episode to get to, just to dig in our emotional connection to the character, and finish off with a bit more badassness. At the end of all this, there’s a seventy percent chance the character the episode just spent all it’s time ensuring we fall in love with is now dead, or you think they are, and you’re about to throw your computer across the room.

I should also mention, that aside from the introductory episodes, the entire season lasted one day. That’s right, at the end of twelve episodes, the characters have landed on Mars. At this time, there’s also no talk of a second season. In short, if the story interests you, you should probably read the manga and save yourself the headache.

 

Parasyte

08This was one of the most hyped shows of the season, and it lived up to that hype spectacularly. Parasyte is easily one of the best shows of the year. Right from the beginning it has you hooked. It’s the story of Shinichi, an average high school boy, who is one day infected by a parasitic alien life form. These creatures have landed on earth and are supposed to claim the brain of their victim, but by luck, this one only managed to infect his hand. The two must then share a symbiotic existence as he struggles with the knowledge that these amoral creatures have taken over humans and killing others for food.

Shinichi’s character is extremely well developed. He honestly struggles with every decision he makes, and we see him grow through every experience. The plot is constantly moving forward, with no episode feeling like a waste of time or filler. We’re only half way through the twenty four episode season, and while Shinichi started as a passive, unremarkable teenager, he’s now quite assertive and has learned that he can’t keep his head down any more. It all comes about in a believable manner so you can honestly see yourself in his position.

I also really enjoy the character designs and animation. Everyone looks so very average, you can easily guess their age, and their facial expression are extremely expressive. I know that seems like something silly to be impressed by, but it’s the extreme fantastical combined with mundane life that really brings out the horror aspect of the show. You have a connection to the characters because they feel more real.

 

Your Lie in April

09This is a show I picked up halfway through the season after noticing the growing buzz around it. Kousei used to be the top ranked pianist for his age, until his mother died and he could no longer hear the music properly. A few years later, he’s in middle school and hasn’t touched the instrument since. He meets a free spirited girl, Kaori, competing for the violin who wants him to be her accompanist.

At first I found the show to be sweet. The kids are young, so you don’t really expect any heavy romance, but I was rolling my eyes at the clear case of “Manic Pixy Dream Girl”. Kousei is a technical perfectionist, he plays the notes perfectly as written, following the score like a computer. Whereas Kaori plays with passion, letting her feelings guide her, making the score all her own, and pissing off the judges while delighting the audience with her renditions. The show also throws so many death flags out that after a couple of episodes, you know exactly where its going. I don’t think that’s a spoiler because we’re only halfway through the series, so I’m guessing myself, but if the show was trying to be subtle, they did a poor job.

Being predictable and having a stereotype for a female lead  is where the faults of this series end. This isn’t just a show for music lovers, it’s for anyone who has a passion that drives them, who can let let it sweep them away, to swim or drown, struggle and triumph. It’s very much like sports anime where at the climax of a competition, you have your fist clenched and feel as fully invested in the outcome as the characters you’re watching. The story, thus far, is beautiful, the music fits perfectly, and the characters, with the exception of Kaori, are relatable. I have to wait till the end before I make a judgement on her, because right now she’s just too much of a stereotype that makes me think missed opportunity. I do highly recommend this show, but keep a tissue box near by, because those death flags, man.

 

Gugure! Kokkuri-san!

10For me this was the biggest surprise of the season. I only clicked on this anime because I was teasing one of my friends, claiming Foxmen were to girls what Catgirls are to guys, and I needed examples. I am so glad that debate came up because I fell in love with this show, hard. The premise is this little girl, Kohina, accidentally calls upon the fox spirit, Kokkuri, whom, after seeing that she lives by herself and eats nothing but ramen noodles, decides to act as her parent/guardian. Where are, or what happened to her parents is never addressed, but the girl has developed a coping mechanism of pretending that she’s a doll with no feelings or emotions. Along the way an obsessive dog spirit, and an alcoholic tanuki spirit join the house, and they all live together.

The show is mostly an episodic comedy. The characters are all dysfunctional misfits with the exception of Kokkuri who comes across as an over bearing mother. The dog, Inugami, is completely infatuated with Kohina and hates Kokkuri for getting in the way. What I love about “his” character, is that he can’t remember what his original sex was. He mostly appears as male, which is why I use “he”, but in any given scene he’ll just appear as female, with a female voice actress, yet there’s no actual personality change, it’s just Inugami with boobs, and using the excuse that she’s female to get closer to Kohina. The tanuki, Shigaraki is your stereotypical old letch with a heart of gold, who has no issue hitting on Inugami in female form or Kokkuri in the two part episode where he is stuck as a female. If Kokkuri is the over fussy mother of the house, then Shigaraki is the easy going father, looking out for everyone, while pretending his just an oaf.

As you cant tell, I just fell in love with all the main characters. The premise set up makes it so any infinite number of scenarios could play out and I hope this gets a second season because really, there’s no lack of material. Some of the episodes are particularly heart warming. It isn’t just cheap gags, the show has a lot of heart. And Kohina, who claims to have no emotions, and speaks in a dry, dead pan manner, slowly comes to accept the spirits as family. I’m hoping this will become a sleeper hit, because right now there’s not much buzz around it.

 

BONJOUR Sweet Love Patisserie

There’s not much to say about this one. It’s one of the those five minute episode shows about a girl going to a rich culinary arts school. I guess you could describe it as Ouran meets cooking class, except with far less humour. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cute, but not a must see. A reverse harem with a bunch of pretty boys and a girl who’s confused by all the attention. I’m sure it the second half, romance will bloom.

 

I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying

This one is a must see. It’s only five minute episodes, but you’re bound to laugh at least once during that time. It’s about a normal young wife and her otaku husband. It’s basically a show for us anime nerds to laugh at ourselves, and it’s all done in good fun. I should also mention it’s made for a more mature audience, which made me appreciate the humour all the more.

 

Winter 2015 Season First Impressions

 

Durarara! 2

11This has been my, and many other’s, most anticipated show of the season. If you are unfamiliar with the first Durarara! I highly recommend you go watch it. The first twelve episodes at least. The first episode was mostly a reintroduction to the world and characters, and man, do you need it. Actually after watching it, I realized I needed to go back and rewatch a few episodes of the first season, as I had completely forgotten about some of the huge ensemble cast which makes up the city of Ikebukuro. We see a few new characters this episode, but if the opening is anything to go by we’ll be seeing a lot more.

The second episode had Durarara! back in proper form. I was addicted to every second, the new characters quickly become interesting and I can’t wait to see more of their plot lines. The most frustrating thing is that with such a huge cast, the twenty three minutes goes by too fast. To be honest this may be a show better marathoned, because waiting week to week is going to kill me. Durarara! is based on a series of light novels, and while the last series ended on a weak note, it’s my understanding that the novel it was based on is considered one of, if not the weakest one in the series. Because of this, I have very high hopes that this season will be every bit as good as the first half of it’s former season.

 

Assassination Classroom

12How do I put this? A yellow, tentacle alien, with a giant smiley face, blew up seventy percent of the moon, has claimed he will blow up the earth at the end of the school year. Untill then he will be teaching the class for the lowest grade students at a prestigious prep middle school. Since the world’s governments have been unsuccessful at killing the alien, they have now tasked those student to spend their year trying to assassinate him, and if they fail, the world will end.

It’s anime. And when it comes to anime I find it’s best just to not ask questions. I only started watching this one due to its hype. I’m not really sure what to make of it yet. It’s cute, with a ridiculous premise. The alien is a giant goof but seems to genuinely care about i’s students well being and treats the assassination attempts as a game. After two episodes, I’m still not sure where to put this. Right now it just comes across as silly, but it seems like there may end up being a lot of heart to it. Or it could end up being just a series of attempted assassination gags, with not much else to it. I really don’t know yet and will keep up with it at least till I know where it’s really going.

 

Death Parade

13This is by far the biggest shock for me this winter. I was never intending to watch this one, but after the first episode, there was so much buzz that I decided to give it a shot, fully not expecting it to be my cup of tea. Well, am I glad I did because this is hands down the show I’m looking forward to most. The basic premise is that when two people die at the same time, they go to this bar in purgatory where their souls are judged against each other, one will be reincarnated, the other lost to the void. The pair are at first unaware they are dead and told they must play a game as though their life depended on it. Their judge, Decim, gains all their memories from life, but uses the game to judge their humanity as the stress tends to bring out the worst of people.

The first episode was brilliant, showcasing an engaging psychological drama that set the message boards on fire with it’s ambiguous ending. It had me hooked bad, getting right into the argument of who was deserving of punishment, and what the conclusion meant. The second episode was a bit of a let down. The up side was that we now know the show won’t be episodic, and instead it’s the judge, or arbiter, Decim and his new assistant, that we’ll be getting to know. On the other hand, the second episode spent most of its time recapping the first, and removing most of the ambiguity that made the first episode so intriguing. I understand that we need to learn the rules of the world, but I think it could have been done with less hand holding and could have spent that time showing a bit more during the before and after scenes.

To be honest, I’m still not sure this will be a hit, but as long as the second episode was a one time thing, and we go back to the games, and developing the cast, I am extremely excited for it’s potential. Oh, and one last thing, that opening, yes.

 

Yurikuma Arashi

14I’ll be honest, I’m hesitant to put my thoughts on this one because I probably need to watch it a few times before I’ve understood properly what’s going on. Yurikuma Arashi is created and directed by Ikuhara Kunihiko, the same guy who brought us Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Penguindrum. If you’re familiar with either of those shows, then you know what’s coming. If you’re not, be prepared: this is not your typical anime experience. If you hadn’t guessed by the title, the show is about lesbian bears.

I’m just going to let that sit for a moment. One day, a planet of bears blew up and rained down on earth, causing all the bears on earth to start eating people. Man built the Wall of Severance, to keep the bears out. Our setting is an all girls high school where two bears have gotten beyond the wall and disguised themselves as humans. We start with two girls, Kureha and Sumika, confessing their love. Later Sumika is eaten by bears. The two bears  want to eat Kureha so they go to Severance court for their yuri judgement. The court is presided over by three male human bears, Sexy Life, Cool Life, and Beauty Life, that ask if they will be invisible or eat. The bears chose to eat, and they’re allowed to go. And there’s also this bit about the invisible storm, referred to as a he, and it cut Sumika and Kureha’s lily garden – yuri means lily and is used in reference to lesbian relationships. And I’m going to stop there, because chances are you’re scratching your head right now.

The thing is, I know I love this stuff. I was a huge Penguindrum fan (I even made a cosplay from it) and, to be honest, that one was even harder to follow than this one. This is the kind of show where you have to pay attention to everything that’s going on and then ask, “Why is this here?” “What does it represent?” “What is the message that is being alluded to?” It’s a work of art, and if you don’t want to think too hard about your anime, this one’s not for you.

This is a show about Yuri (lesbian) relationships, and what happens when a person denies who they are. I think that much at least is obvious with all the talk of choosing to be invisible, a wall of severance, and a court presided over by the only male characters in the show. This definitely isn’t going to be for everyone, but I’m looking forward to it and all the great discussion the season will bring.

 

Cute High Earth Defence Club LOVE!

15It’s a parody that could very easily fall flat on its face, but so far it knows how to hit everything just right. It’s from the director of Gintama and Daily Lives of High School boys, two series known for their comedy, quick wit, and constant parodies. Two episodes in and this show is hilarious. On one side we have a pink, grouchy sounding wombat who wants to wipe out evil with love, and on the other, an adorable, little green hedgehog commanding the forces of evil from a tea cup. How can you not be sold on this series?

The show takes Sailor Moon, changes it to boys, and plays it straight. Ever wondered how the sailor scouts knew their attacks or opening speeches? So do the boys! And they comment on it, at length, often while being attacked by a random monster of the week. It’s perfect. Well not completely perfect, the only draw back so far is that the boy’s characters are typical stereotypes. I would like to see them be more than “the ladies man”, “the over excited child”, ect. Aside from that, this really is a must see, and I expect much cosplays this coming convention season.

 

Kamisama Kiss 2

16Kamisama Kiss is one of my favourite romantic comedies. It’s sweet, light hearted, and not particularly deep, but it has loveable characters and some great comedy along the way. The girl, though a constant damsel in distress, is not a push over and has some great banter with her familiar fox spirit, Tomoe.

Part two continues right where part one ended off. None of the characters seem to have changed and it’s just the same old antics as before. I’m worried the relationship will stay stagnate instead of developing closer. If it stays the same, I could find myself getting bored as I found I really didn’t get much out of this first episode. The second episode happily got the plot moving. Nanami has been invited to attend a conference of the gods, but as a human many look down on her, and many former gods are jealous. The pace is extremely fast and within the first two episodes, Nanami has a new power in the form of a baby monkey that can defend her. Hopefully this means we’ll start getting less damsel in distress scenarios and see her grow even stronger on her own.

 

Aldnoah.Zero

Well, the music’s still good.

I might end up dropping this one. After starting to come around to it at the end of its summer season, the first episode has got me back to where I was before, and the second didn’t do anything to improve it. Basically they undid everything that happened in the final with magic spit. That’s the secret to Aldnoah: magic spit. Slaine is still completely useless, Inaho has completed his transformation into a full on Gary Stu, the entire earth army might as well be made up of red shirts (with the exception of Inaho of course) and we now have another princess who was totally foreshadowed in the first season. But the music’s good.

 

Tokyo Ghoul

Going to try to keep an open mind with this. They’re going off manga now, so they have no excuse for the problems I had with the first season, if they persist. But we already have some full reviews, so be sure to check them out for a much more detailed analysis.

Author: Ashley Dawn



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