Spring 2014 Anime: Final Thoughts

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It seems the spring anime season has pretty much come to an end, as all of my one-cours have finished and all but one of my two-cours have reached the halfway point.  For the most part I’d say the spring season was an enjoyable watch, and while there were some series I found to be pretty disappointing, there were also many others that proved to be phenomenal watches and I can definitely say that I was entertained by quite a few of the ones I watched.  Considering I have an insanely huge backlog (which, given the fact that I have Anime Expo and a trip to Japan ahead, will take a very long time to get through), it will definitely take me a while to actually get to the individual reviews for each of these series so I’ll try to give a good idea of my opinion on each one.

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  • Black Bullet: Looks like I actually get a chance to talk about this one here.  I picked this one up pretty late in the season and thus didn’t get to write about it in my halfway impressions post.  But anyhow, Black Bullet is a series with a lot of potential and some very interesting themes.  It’s an action-packed story that focuses on the main characters and their attempts to fight off the Gastrea, parasitic beings that threaten mankind.  I would say that when the plot gets serious, it can muster the necessary tension and feeling of despair, as there are quite a few tragic deaths and some pretty screwed up moments.  However, I feel the series is hurt a bit by its execution and doesn’t get to live up to its full potential.  The rushed pacing limits not only the storytelling capacity but also how much the characters can be fleshed out, and while some of the characters are fairly likable, there isn’t a significant amount of depth to most of them and characterization is pretty limited.  The series also has a bunch of lighthearted moments, which I suppose can help to relieve the tension but they’re present in great amount (which I feel limits the already rushed plot even more) and take away from the pressing and despair-filled premise that the story is supposed to follow.  I’ve seen a lot of complaints about how the series is too filled with loli moe elements to be taken seriously, and while I do feel some of it is a bit overblown, I can’t help but feel that maybe reducing some of that aspect of the series could’ve helped improve the content overall.  All that said though, it still proves to be an entertaining watch and with a bit more time, I do think some of the characters could bring more to the table.  Personally my favorites in the cast are Kagetane, Kisara, and Tina.  Tina is one of the most fleshed out characters of the series as of yet, while I feel Kagetane and Kisara have the most potential and if a season 2 is released, I imagine both of them could contribute a great deal to the story.  The series is limited by its runtime and execution, but I do feel it’s worthwhile to an extent and it definitely has more to offer if it’s continued. (7/10)

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  • Blade & Soul: I suppose that I can say some episodes in the latter half were an improvement and I found the usage of the revenge theme to be much more intriguing than much of the content in the series prior.  It was fairly worthwhile seeing how Alka developed and became more human and seeing said Alka face the consequences of her own deeds and revenge pursuit proved to be far more engaging than pretty much all of the previous content.  Even then, however, my enjoyment of the series was severely limited as, for the most part, my prior complaints still exist.  Aside from my own interest in how the revenge theme was handled, the plot progression wasn’t too engaging as the story’s scope was so limited and much of the content still remained episodic (and, interestingly enough, the climax of the series was in the second to last episode while the final episode was basically a comedic fanservice episode of sorts, much more akin to an OVA or special than a conclusion).  Alka does develop some, but aside from her, the rest of the cast remained largely uninteresting and while I suppose I could say Karen was fleshed out a good deal more, the other characters remained almost entirely one-dimensional and Alka and Karen alone really can’t carry the series.  I wouldn’t say the series was all a waste, yet I just couldn’t enjoy much of it and there was a lot to be desired in much of the anime’s execution.  If development was given more priority I feel the series could have been far more engaging than it was. (6/10)

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  • Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou: My thoughts on this are pretty much the same as they had been prior.  Kawaisou is a nice, enjoyable watch with a goofy cast along with some heartwarming moments.  Ritsu still remains the highlight for me and I’d say my favorite moments of the series by far were the ones involving Usa’s interactions with Ritsu.  Those scenes were really nice to watch and brought the most out of both characters.  Even if the romance didn’t progress an extensive amount, it was very pleasing seeing the two get closer as the anime progressed.  If there are any complaints I have, it’s that the anime ended up being so short.  It would’ve been much more satisfying to have another season’s worth of this series and I feel the only character that really got solid characterization was Ritsu, and I suppose Usa to a lesser extent.  The side characters, while silly and entertaining, seem to be little more than the ridiculous personalities they appear to be and I wish they could’ve gotten more time to grow and prove themselves as deeper characters, likable though they may be.  In any case, Kawaisou is a pretty relaxing watch and I do find it worthwhile, though I wish the rest of the cast got more time to shine. (7/10)

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  • Haikyuu!!: Haikyuu!! just keeps on getting better and better and I must say I’m enjoying it.  While the story’s progression is a bit slow paced (especially in comparison to Kuroko no Basket, the series that really got me interested in sports anime), the series gives a lot of attention to its characters and their growth.  Hinata and Kageyama already showed pretty solid characterization even earlier in the series, but seeing the other members of Karasuno shine only solidified my opinion of the series in regard to its cast and the practice matches with Nekoma in recent episodes only prove that there are indeed some other interesting characters to explore.  The matches have also been pretty engaging, and while they’re not the Kuroko-status fast-paced and high energy super matches I’ve come to enjoy, it is interesting seeing how the characters grow through the obstacles they face in their matches and the strategies they use to deal with said obstacles.  It’ll be interesting seeing the different specialties of the other teams later on and I’m sure there will be some interesting strategies and growth to anticipate along with that.  The series has been pretty lighthearted so far (with a bunch of comedic moments) and there hasn’t been a lot on the line so far, but it’s only a matter of time until Karasuno participates in its first tournament, and I’m sure that will prove to be very engaging. (8/10)

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  • Isshuukan Friends.: Isshuukan Friends was my favorite anime of the season at the halfway point, and even after it’s finished my opinion has not changed.  Isshuukan Friends has remained an engaging and tasteful watch throughout and I’m glad to say that the premise never got old as the plot progressed.  The series continued to feel fresh with interesting developments while retaining the sweet, relaxing slice of life nature.  The last arc of the season proved to be much more tense and conflict-filled than in previous episodes, and even there I’d say the series continues to shine.  The characters continue to be fleshed out as more is revealed about Fujimiya’s past and Hase himself displays noticeable growth from the awkwardly possessive boy he used to be in the first half.  I’m big on characters when it comes to the series I enjoy, and I’d have to say Isshuukan Friends has a lovely cast.  Hase, while being far from the main attraction of the series, develops nicely and proves to be a likable protagonist by the end of the anime.  Fujimiya remains incredibly sweet and adorable while also displaying more of her own struggles and how they connect to the overall themes of the series.  Shougo is still the bluntly honest yet undeniably dependable bro he’s been since early on, and his interactions with the adorably huggable looking Saki are absolutely delightful.  Isshuukan Friends just does not disappoint and I’m sad to see it go.  I do hope it gets a second season sometime in the future, and while I do worry about how it can handle its themes and developments in comparison to this solid season, the fanboy in me would be delighted to see more romantic progression between the two pairings. (9/10)

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  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: As per the usual, SC’s adaptation has proved to be very entertaining and remains true to the spirit of the manga.  The first crucial arc of SC aired a few weeks ago, and it was handled very well just as it was in the manga and proved to be incredibly gripping and entertaining.  While most of the episodes still remain the Stand-of-the-week formula that we’ve seen in prior episodes, the more relevant episodes (so far only the Hanged Man and Emperor arc, but soon the Justice arc as well) are very powerful watches and even the more disposable episodes prove to be pretty entertaining with how the cast handles their predicaments.  One thing I can say about SC is that while its storytelling is of a much more repetitive nature than the previous parts, it has a lot more creative room because of the nature of Stands, as I mentioned in my halfway post.  But it’s not only the Stand element, but also the cast that make this engaging.  JoJo parts 1 and 2 had a much smaller main cast to focus on, and as such there was significantly less diversity in how the battles could be handled.  While Joseph made brilliant use of strategy in part 2, most of the fights still involved a fairly small cast using the Ripple to conquer their opponents.  In SC, there are many more major characters at play and none of the fights with the Stands feel too repetitive as different members of the JoJo crew are tested by their opponents in different circumstances and by more and more bizarre enemies.  Different characters get to shine in their own matches and the battles aren’t carried solely by the brilliance of the protagonist (though Jotaro can prove to be pretty clever and competent too, of course).  Joseph, Avdol, Kakyoin, and Polnareff all get some opportunities to prove themselves and SC is worth watching if only because there are a lot more ways the battles can be handled with that in mind.  The best of SC is still yet to come, and who knows how long it will take, but I very much hope the newer fans feel rewarded when the greatest encounters are finally animated. (8/10)

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  • M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane: I guess technically I’m not at the halfway point because only 11 episodes out of 24 are out, but I doubt my opinion will change drastically with the next episode.  In any case, I can’t say I’m too impressed now that a decent amount of the anime is out.  The story is progressing at a very slow rate and I find that I’m losing interest very quickly.  It seems like the series is more centered around building despair and making things darker and more screwed up than creating a gripping, coherent, and well-developed story.  There are a few explanations given at this point, yet the connection between the main characters still feels ambiguous and the details about their backstories remain severely limited.  Furthermore, it seems like the cast has very little to offer and even the ones that aren’t completely unlikable freaks just aren’t given much time to develop or display much personality.  It has been fairly interesting seeing Akashi’s character fleshed out in recent episodes and Emiru’s characterization wasn’t too bad either, but other than those two it seems like much of the cast is severely lacking and I really do hope they get fleshed out in due time.  Half of the anime is still left so I suppose it’s possible the series can shift gears and change my impressions, but with how it’s been proceeding I just don’t know if that’ll happen. (6/10)

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  • Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei: I had pretty high hopes for this one early on and gave it the benefit of the doubt for a while, but I’m feeling more and more disappointed as the series progresses.  I wouldn’t go as far as to say this has become a dull and lackluster watch for me, but I feel like the anime has all this potential it just isn’t taking the opportunity to use, and much still remains unexplained.  The secrets behind the past of the Shiba siblings and the nature of the larger scale conflict in the background remain ambiguous and the characters, while fairly colorful, still haven’t developed substantially.  The series has given some attention to these aspects in the latest episode and I’m hoping that maybe the plot will proceed in a more captivating way, but as of the moment I feel that the series is mildly entertaining yet developing too slowly to make the most of the content it has. (7/10)

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  • Mekakucity Actors: This one’s been getting a lot of negativity this season, and while I must acknowledge the flaws present, I can’t deny that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this one.  Mekakucity Actors suffers a lot from rushed pacing and the fact that it’s only 12 episodes severely limits how it can present its story.  Much of the plot progression feels incoherent because of how quickly the series must go through the content and characterization is clearly unbalanced because of it, yet I can’t help but be captivated by the story overall.  There really is a diverse cast at work here with very interesting interactions, and a complex yet thorough plot in the works, and while this short anime really doesn’t get to make the most of either of these elements, it still gives an entertaining glimpse into the KagePro world and I’d be lying if I said it was dull or weak for me.  It’s far from being a perfect adaptation and there’s a lot I wish was handled differently, yet at the end of the day I can’t help but say that Mekakucity Actors has been very enjoyable all the same and I do not regret watching it.  If anything, it only makes me more interested in exploring the rest of the KagePro series, where I only had a slight interest in it prior due to my love for Vocaloid music.  Even if it’s not a top tier story, it’s gotten me interested in other installments that may be handled with more care as far as development and pacing, and those could very well prove to be even better than this anime by a good amount. (8/10)

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  • No Game No Life: NGNL has proven to be entertaining for me every week, and I feel it’s done a pretty solid job at what it aimed to do.  It may not be especially big on development and it has quite a bit of random goofy fanservice comedy, yet it excels at being a thriling and engaging watch when it really comes down to it.  The series presents some very interesting games that make for exciting competition, and for me these games never disappoint.  NGNL’s something along the lines of a One Outs story where you know for sure the main characters are gonna win with their intellectual brilliance, it’s just a matter of seeing how exactly it happens and finding out the process through what takes place.  It must also be mentioned that the story never takes itself too seriously and that Sora’s quite the colorful protagonist.  Intelligent, cunning, manipulative, and badass, yet far from perfect himself and with notable (largely amusing) character flaws.  Anyhow, I feel NGNL does a great job in presenting the story it’s aiming for, and while it may not be the biggest on depth, it knows where it’s going and consistently proves to be entertaining, and that’s really what it should come down to when watching anime, no? (9/10)

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  • Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin (TV): Once again, the 11-episode length makes me sad as it severely limits how much the story can do and how much the characters can develop.  In spite of this, Nanana proves to be an entertaining watch with an interesting world and likable cast.  As I mentioned in my halfway post, Tensai remains awesome and shines in many scenes throughout the series.  The treasure rooms are quite creative and are a nice mix of puzzle-solving and physical ability and it’s interesting to see how the two mix with the characters attempting to overcome the obstacles they face.  There’s some pretty good action too, and while I wouldn’t say the fights are the greatest out there, they’re generally pretty entertaining.  While there’s a good deal more to some of the characters than appearances would suggest at first, there isn’t a lot of time for them to develop and I feel many of them would benefit a lot from another season that could allow them to display more and get more screentime.  The series does a good job of making the most of what it has, but I do wish it could get another season so it could show off more of its potential and get back to focusing on the main plot and central conflict.  It’s filled with interesting ideas and is definitely entertaining, though there’s a lot it doesn’t get to do because of how short it is. (7/10)

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  • Selector Infected WIXOSS: And so we come to my final series on the ongoing list, and my feelings remain about the same as before.  I’d say the story has proved to be even more shocking and engaging with some of the later twists and the plot consistently proves to be pretty entertaining with darker turns and more confusing complications.  All of these complications lead up to a conclusion that leaves a lot of questions, though there is a second season in store for us viewers in the fall and so I have high hopes for what’s ahead.  As for the characters, I do think they benefited a bit more from the plot developments and there is certainly some growth among the major characters, yet I still feel something’s missing.  They’re still heavily reliant on their circumstances and conflicts to build their characters and while development does exist, it’s still pretty limited.  In spite of such complaints, however, Selector remains an engaging, if limited, watch and I eagerly await the second season. (7/10)

Now for how I would rank each of these series on a personal level:

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

I wouldn’t say the rankings have changed drastically but there are some notable shifts.  Isshuukan Friends and No Game No Life remain my two favorites of the season, as I had anticipated.  I moved Mekakucity Actors down below JoJo as Mekakucity’s flaws became more detrimental while JoJo has finally hit some of the better episodes, though at a slow pace.  Moved down Mahouka quite a bit since very little of note has taken place as far as development, yet the potential still remains for it to get higher on that list if it plays its cards right.  I moved Nanana above Kawaisou since I found its style more engaging and Kawaisou was hurt by the fact that it ended before it could flesh out its side characters.  Added Black Bullet under it this time around, as it proved to be entertaining and had some strong moments yet was limited a great deal by its execution and short length.  Selector remains at its position, though my opinion of it has improved with its plot developments.  M3 and Blade & Soul remain at the bottom of the list, which, like my top 2, remains rather unsurprising for me.  I guess I made a bunch more changes here than I did with my fall ongoing list a few seasons back, though for the most part my impressions remained true.

In any case, those are my concluding thoughts on this season.  It seems like there are a lot of things to look forward to from the next season so I’m pretty excited about that.  I didn’t pick up much from winter so I didn’t bother to give my thoughts on the ongoings as that season progressed, but I’ll be sure to give updates on my summer series as well as the carryovers from spring too.  Also, like I mentioned before, this month will be pretty busy with Anime Expo and my vacation to Japan, so I must say in advance that I will not have a lot of time to post and activity will be particularly slow in the latter half of this month.  While I will likely make a post about Anime Expo soon after it is done and about my trip to Japan as well, there will be little time for other posts in between and during these and as such, my posting will probably slow considerably in the weeks ahead and it will take quite a while for me to get back to the many reviews I wish to post.  I’m hoping I can clear those in a somewhat timely manner (especially since I’ve still only picked up a few things on that summer list, which I’m still adding to), though I imagine it will all take a while.  This summer should certainly prove to be an entertaining one for me, and it’s interesting how despite its considerable length in comparison to pretty much any previous summer break in my life, I’m most worried about whether or not I can finish everything I’m supposed to get to in time.  Even if I don’t, I’m sure it’ll be a worthwhile few months for me all the same.

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