Spring 2014 Anime: Halfway Impressions

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Oh dear, it seems that it’s already been almost a month since I made my last post.  It’ll be just a bit more before I can get back to the regular schedule of posting what I’ve wanted to for a while, but since I’ve actually picked up a pretty decent chunk of the anime this season, I figure it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to give my thoughts on what I’ve watched so far.  I would definitely say that I’ve been enjoying the spring anime and 2014 looks very promising.  While I feel the greatest of the year is still ahead, the anime from this season have been very enjoyable and there’s still lots of potential for development and improvement.  There are some that I’m not all too fond of, but for the most part I’d say this is quite a good season.  As of now, however, my thoughts are as follows:

  • Blade & Soul: Well this one’s among those that I don’t care a whole lot for.  I picked this up since one of the Steins;Gate directors was working on this, but I didn’t expect that much from it given it’s just a game adaptation and I haven’t really gotten much from watching it in turn.  I wouldn’t say this is especially painful for me to watch and it does provide some enjoyment, but aside from some fairly entertaining action scenes I just can’t say I enjoy it a great deal.  The story’s far too episodic to keep my interest, and while some series like Cowboy Bebop can make delightful use of it, there isn’t a great deal of variety of development that comes along with it.  In turn, that means there isn’t a whole lot it can do with its characters and development is very much limited here.  I suppose there are signs of Alka developing and becoming more in-tune with human emotions as the story progresses, but there just isn’t a whole lot of payoff for watching through it all.  As it stands, this one would probably be my least favorite of the season.  Perhaps things will change in the weeks ahead, but personally I’m quite doubtful on that. (6/10)
  • Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou: I just got the chance to catch up to this last week and I quite enjoy it.  Kawaisou has a very amusing and pretty likable cast, and while there is a lot of ridiculous comedy at work, there are also some very sweet and touching moments.  In particular I must say I’m very fond of Ritsu, though a big part of that may be that she’s voiced by Kana Hanazawa and I very rarely dislike any characters she voices.  It’s still too early to say where this will go and there’s no confirmed episode count yet, but it’s been a fun watch for sure and I’m absolutely looking forward to more of it.  Whether the series retains the tone its established early on or whether it becomes more serious and development-oriented, I’m sure I’ll enjoy what’s ahead. (7.5/10)
  • Haikyuu!!: Haikyuu!! has been quite an enjoyable watch, and it seems like the more I watch sports anime, the more I find I really do enjoy them.  I think it’s a sad thing that some people will ignore certain series solely because of genre (mecha and sports in particular seem to be big victims of that).  But putting that aside, Haikyuu has been entertaining for sure and while it’s way too early to say how it will progress (as I have not read the manga), there’s a solid foundation.  I’d say that the two main characters have pretty good characterization and the character interactions are quite nice and often very amusing.  Haikyuu isn’t quite the same over the top ridiculous sports series that, say, Kuroko no Basket is, but it still has very gripping matches and awesome moments when it counts.  There’s definitely a lot of room for development in this series beyond what’s already been established so that’s a definite plus, and I can say for sure I’m looking forward to seeing how the story proceeds.  The team has only had one game on-screen (plus the practice match the two mains got with other team members I suppose) so this really is just the beginning. (7.5/10)
  • Isshuukan Friends.: Wow, Isshuukan Friends, this is truly a beautiful series.  Even when I first read the synopsis I felt this would be a worthwhile series, but this really blew me away and it’s surpassed my expectations.  Isshuukan Friends is a lovely tale about friendship, memories, interacting with others, dealing with conflict, and a great many other things.  What initially caught me about this series was that it had a very cute and sweet atmosphere yet had the subtleties of a more tragic and painful story.  However, Isshuukan Friends is an incredibly optimistic story that shows how even painful events and issues with communication can be remedied and that people truly are capable of improving and being there for each other.  What may seem to be a relaxing slice of life with a cutesy style proves to be much more than that with nice characterization, a simple yet very effective story, and the ability to express the perfect emotions when necessary.  I’d also like to mention that the seiyuu do a fantastic job with these already lovable characters, it really brings them all to life and the characters benefit a great deal from the voice acting.  Isshuukan Friends is, without a doubt, my personal favorite of the season and one I would definitely recommend.  Many series suffer from the pitfall of development limitations with a one-cour runtime restriction, but I feel like Isshuukan Friends is a story that can function perfectly with this time frame and as long as it keeps up its quality, I will continue to love it a great deal. (9/10)
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: This is one I’ve been waiting on for a very long time and, as expected, it’s been a great adaptation.  The production values are fantastic here and Stardust Crusaders has been just as thrilling here as it was when I read it years ago.  This would certainly end up being one of my favorites (if not THE favorite) of the season, but I can’t rate it that high.  Not because of any failings of the adaptation, but simply because Stardust Crusaders simply has not progressed far enough.  Much of the early portion (and even beyond) of Stardust Crusaders has a monster of the week feel to it, and the story simply hasn’t gotten to a lot of the great points that made Stardust Crusaders my personal favorite of the JoJo parts.  This portion of the story is, more than anything else, Araki experimenting with the nature of the newly created Stands and testing out how he can implement them, so it’s understandable that there hasn’t been a lot of major progression and that a lot of the enemies so far are largely unmemorable.  Some might be disappointed with Stardust Crusaders after the thrill ride that was Battle Tendency, and while I would say I’d probably rank Stardust Crusaders above Batle Tendency on a personal level, it definitely wouldn’t be this early in the game.  Battle Tendency progressed much faster (given the 2012 adaptation already had a faster pace on top of the fact that Stardust Crusaders is longer than both Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency combined in the manga) so it was a lot easier to get into.  I can’t promise all Battle Tendency fans that Stardust Crusaders will meet expectations, but I will say that it’s MUCH too early to judge the quality of Stardust Crusaders, and the best is definitely yet to come.  There’s a reason why Stardust Crusaders is among the most popular parts of the JoJo fandom. (8/10)
  • M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane: To be fair, this one started later than most others in the season so the whole “it’s too early to judge” spiel would be even stronger for this series than others, but so far I’m not especially interested in this.  I don’t care for most of the cast at the moment and the story is currently too confusing to follow.  Many characters also seem to be psycho or disturbed in some unsettling way (though it’s clearly intended and I imagine this will be very relevant later on), and some of the things that happen don’t seem to make much logical sense to me (partnering a self-conscious and already shaken girl with a psycho serial killer guy doesn’t sound intelligent to me in any way).  I’m not enjoying this much now, BUT I can say that unlike Blade & Soul, I feel there is lots of potential and there is most certainly time for development and exposition to make sense of everything that’s going on.  While there isn’t much to keep my interest right now, by no means can I say this is a weak series this early in the game.  Things could certainly change, and I very much hope they do, as this is a story with potential but as it is right now I’m not so captivated by it. (6.5/10)
  • Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei: This is one I’ve been looking forward to and I would say I’ve been entertained for the most part.  But, like I’ve probably spammed a lot already, it’s still too early to judge, given the intro arc just finished in the latest episode.  I’ve seen quite a few people complain about the story so far, and while I understand where they’re coming from, I don’t think it’s right to label this a bad series with what’s been seen.  All the first arc really did was establish the setting, introduce the characters, and provide a conflict via one of the big themes presented early on (discrimination between skilled magic users and those less proficient with magic).  Admittedly the story does seem a tad slow and not a whole lot has happened, but I really do think it’s far too early for people to accuse it of bad writing when it hasn’t really gotten a chance to even use a whole lot of that writing to begin with.  We have another 19 episodes ahead of us, so I imagine there’s a lot more in terms of developments and reveals to look forward to.  I’m definitely enjoying what has already been presented, but there still hasn’t been a lot to work with so I can’t say for sure what my opinion of this series will be by the end. (7.5/10)
  • Mekakucity Actors: I’ve been enjoying this one quite a bit.  Like I mentioned in my brief rundown of the spring series in the anniversary post, Mekakucity Actors feels like a Shaft take on Durarara!!, and as a result I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit.  There’s quite a colorful cast and it’s interesting seeing how things shift perspectives and how the stories connect.  I’m still confused about quite a bit, but this has been a very enjoyable watch for a person that has not seen any Kagerou Project videos barring Kagerou Days.  I’m not sure how it’ll all conclude and with 6 more episodes, I can’t be sure if it’ll wrap things up neatly, but so far I really am enjoying and it’s been worthwhile for sure.  I’ve seen a lot of fans of the music videos say this is a terrible adaptation, and it makes me wanna see the videos and check out the novels and/or manga just to see how those are since I really do think the anime is doing a pretty good job on the whole. (8/10)
  • No Game No Life: No Game No Life seems to be one of the big fan favorites of the season, and it’s not too hard to tell why.  NGNL combines hilarious references, ridiculous over the top intensity, and strategic conflict badassery.  NGNL becomes insanely gripping and is an absolute thrill to watch when things get going, yet it isn’t a story that takes itself too seriously and it really is about the entertainment more than anything else.  There are some interesting themes and the characters are pretty likable despite the series not going for a great amount of development, but honestly, this is a series you watch for the enjoyment factor.  I do wish there was more development, but I’d be lying if I said the series didn’t entertain me weekly, and this is one that I really do look forward to just because it is so much fun to watch.  I feel that Sora’s the OP don’t lose type of character done right simply because of how well his personality goes with the show’s execution.  While Kirito from SAO is generally a much more serious character (yet feels static and doesn’t have much profound development or depth in my opinion), Sora is capable of both pulling off epic strategies and saying the most idiotically ridiculous stuff in a fabulous way.  NGNL is just a blast and while I couldn’t call it my absolute favorite of the season, it is definitely up there on the list and one I would recommend. (8/10)
  • Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin (TV): I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one simply because I’ve only seen 3 episodes of it so far, but I would say I enjoyed it.  The whole puzzle solving idea seems interesting and Tensai is pretty awesome so far.  It seems like there are a lot of dark secrets and conspiracies I’m not quite aware of yet so I’m hoping to catch up soon and I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead, it seems like a fun series.  Before I finish though, I’d like to take a moment to mention that Daruku makes me sad.  Not necessarily because Daruku is a bad character (for all I know Daruku could be the #1 amazing beast of the series and I just don’t realize it), but because it somewhat hurts my soul knowing that this maid character voiced by Kana Hanazawa just happens to be a trap, and those suggestive moments (particularly in the opening) do not help at all.  Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal (and really even now this shouldn’t), but just the thought of Daruku being the Hanazawa trap blew my mind and I’m still not sure how to feel.  But putting that aside, Nanana has been pretty fun, so soon I will catch up. (7.5/10)
  • Selector Infected WIXOSS: Batoru!  Just so happens that I picked up WIXOSS (like Blade & Soul) because one of the S;G directors was working on it.  Obviously the story isn’t really like Steins;Gate and it wouldn’t do any good to get my hopes that much.  At this point, I’d say Selector’s a pretty good series, though it’s too early to say HOW good.  Selector established itself as being a darker and harsher story, though this was subtle and didn’t become relevant until a few episodes ago.  The series took its time since the stakes weren’t (or rather, didn’t seem) too high and nothing much happened, but now it’s clear that there are bigger consequences (granted, I did expect them to be worse, bad though they may be) and there is a great deal on the line.  The story’s proved to be interesting, though I’m still not amazed by the characters.  I wouldn’t say the characters are bad, for the most part they do play their roles properly, but I feel like there isn’t a whole lot that stands out about most of them.  For the most part, they’re either defined by their wishes or their base personality characteristics, and while there is some ambiguity as to motivation or development direction for some, it seems pretty easy to tell where things will go with certain characters.  Since there is a second season scheduled for this series, it won’t be doomed to a rushed ending with only 12 episodes to work with, and there could be much more development in store.  The premise is interesting and this isn’t a bad watch, but I really do feel that giving the characters more depth would have a profound impact on how much this story can do. (7/10)

As for how I’d currently rank the spring ongoings, I suppose it would be something like this:

  1. Isshuukan Friends.
  2. No Game No Life
  3. Mekakucity Actors
  4. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
  5. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei
  6. Haikyuu!!
  7. Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
  8. Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin (TV)
  9. Selector Infected WIXOSS
  10. M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane
  11. Blade & Soul

So I guess that should give a decent idea of how I’d compare the series, and while some of these will probably stick pretty close to where they are already from here on out, quite a few have a lot more potential to move up (or perhaps down) on the rankings.  In particular, I’d like to point out that JoJo is pretty much guaranteed to rise in the rankings (though to be fair, even that depends on just how much the season covers since I’ve heard that it will be 24 episodes and with this pacing, it goes without saying it won’t cover all of Stardust Crusaders so I can’t be sure how far it will get).  The other two-cours also have the potential to make or break the impressions so I’m hoping they turn out for the better.

And that’s that as far as my impressions on the spring 2014 anime go.  I still have to pick up Black Bullet so I’m hoping to do that this weekend, by the time I make my final post on this season I should be caught up to it, so I am hoping I enjoy that as well.  In any case, from the looks of it, there’s a lot of potential and a good portion of the series have impressed me already, though it looks like most of the two-cours need more time to develop.  There’s no doubt that some of them I will really like, but they definitely need time to live up to their potential.  As for some series, I don’t enjoy them a great deal now, and it’s possible that they might improve, but I’ll just have to see how that goes.  In any case, I have a couple more weeks of school left, so soon I can get back to all the other posts.  Just because of how much I’ve seen since then, it’ll probably take a while to catch up, but at the very least I can start making progress with that, if nothing else.  Until then, I’ll just have to deal with the last couple weeks of high school, and I hope all of you are enjoying this season’s anime as much as I am.

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  1. Lots of bloggers seem to be enjoying Isshuukan Friends. Good to see a sweet show outperforming the badass ones.

    • Isshuukan Friends really is a great series, and even long after spring season has finished up, I can say I loved it and that it remained my favorite of the lineup. It’s short but sweet and I absolutely wouldn’t mind seeing more of it in the future, though I can’t be sure how it could top its first season.

  2. A lot of the KagePro songs require keen observations and interpretations in order to comprehend the story told in the songs. I’m not sure if one of the reason why so many people seem to dislike Mekakucity Actors is because the adaption just makes thing even more confusing, even though they actually wanted something that makes more sense. As someone who only just hear all the KagePro songs, I think one thing that such unique storytelling technique can do is depicting a character’s emotions – instead of just being mentioned, they were all sung out with accurately and descriptive lyrics. It’s actually quite emotional if you know the “background” behind the song and the lyrics.

    • It does seem like there’s a lot of subtlety to the stories in the videos and that there is room for interpretation largely because the videos seem to come from the perspective of a single character for each song so not everything is perfectly clear, though I still have yet to watch most of them. Mekakucity Actors was confusing indeed, in part because the story itself is meant to be that way but also because there were a lot of details that didn’t get a great deal of attention because of the pacing. It was all still engaging enough for me to enjoy and I definitely have a strong interest in the rest that Kagerou Project has to offer, but I definitely found the anime pretty confusing at times and not everything was cleared up.

      The videos do a great job of conveying emotion though. I remember Kagerou Days leaving quite an impression on me the first time I watched the video and Ayano’s Theory of Happiness was really emotional too, especially since I had an idea of what happened from watching the anime beforehand. I should really go check out the rest of them sometime.

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