Summer 2014 Anime: Halfway Impressions

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Summer’s really been flying by for me, and before I knew it, the halfway point for the summer anime season came by.  I guess maybe it’s not my place to say summer’s gone by too quickly since a lot of people are going back to school around this time (the perks of going to college now I guess?) but I will say the months have gone by far more quickly than I’d anticipated, and with them a whole bunch of new anime too.  Don’t enjoy the thought of some of these ending, though there are quite a few that are either two-cour or split cours so I still have a good amount to look forward to for some of these.  In any case, this season has proven to be pretty enjoyable with some series that display a lot of potential.  At the moment, I would say I enjoyed spring season’s more personally and I expect the fall anime to surpass these if they manage to live up to my expectations, but depending on how these stories progress they too could become something fantastic.  I think it’s too early for me to make any decisive conclusions about most of these series but here is my opinion on the ones I’ve been keeping up with this season:

  • Akame ga Kill!: This is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while, and indeed I’ve been enjoying it.  Admittedly it could use a bit more characterization and the early villains have been rather one-dimensional and disappointing when considering the setting and the nature of the story, yet recent episodes have definitely shown the series has a lot of potential and that the stakes are indeed high.  As is, AgK strikes me as a dark action Shounen, though it could very well prove to be even more than that depending on how the story progresses.  The episodes so far have been pretty enjoyable and the (quite literally) colorful cast is entertaining to watch, though I do hope I can expect more development from them in future episodes.  Since the anime’s pretty much only a quarter of the way through, there’s not a whole lot to say so far but it is certainly enjoyable and I’m hoping it lives up to its potential. (7.5/10)
  • Aldnoah.Zero: This is another one I’ve been hyped about for a while.  War-centric mecha series with Urobuchi involved and Hiroyuki Sawano in charge of the music, of course I’d be looking forward to this.  This strikes me as a series reminiscent of Gundam (at least from the 9 or so episodes I’ve seen of the original series) and also has some Code Geass parallels (can’t help but think of Suzaku when it comes to Slaine), though this one is also not far enough to say how it will turn out.  The series shows a lot of potential and is consistently entertaining with the strategies the protagonist and his comrades use to defeat enemies with more advanced technology and combat experience, but the one thing holding me back is that I’m not too invested in the characters as is.  Inaho (the protagonist) is rather emotionless and is a bit lacking in personality, though it could be that this ends up being a major aspect of his characterization in later episodes.  If anything, I’d say I’m most attached to Slaine and Asseylum, but there still hasn’t been enough time in the series for them to do much beyond the roles that have been established for them.  This series has a lot of potential (and honestly, I feel it could be the best one in this lineup if it makes the most of its setting and characters) but only time will tell how this will progress.  But one thing’s certain: that music is fabulous, and Hiroyuki Sawano never disappoints with his soundtracks. (7.5/10)
  • Ao Haru Ride: This is one I didn’t pay much mind to and only picked up because I heard some people say the manga was really good.  As it turns out, I’ve been enjoying this one a lot.  I’m not too experienced with shoujo romance stories but this one is very enjoyable.  Truth be told, it seems like it’d be close to what one might call a typical shoujo romance but it’s executed pretty well and the two leads have nice development.  Futaba and Kou are both very lovable characters and are definitely what makes the story as enjoyable as it is.  They have some pretty amusing tsundere moments but they also genuinely care about each other and it’s interesting seeing the juxtaposition of their past and current selves.  I’m not quite as attached to the side characters yet, but they have some time to develop and will probably grow on me.  Either way, this story is largely focused on Futaba and Kou, and in that regard, it definitely doesn’t disappoint me. (8/10)
  • DRAMAtical Murder: This one had an interesting premise so I thought it’d be worth picking it up.  I guess the source material for this one is a BL VN, not exactly what I’m used to but I figured that shouldn’t scare me away from what could potentially be an interesting story.  Sadly, I’m not enjoying this one all too much.  There are some interesting themes at work and I feel that with more detail and characterization this is one I’d be quite invested in, but the story only gets particularly intriguing about the halfway point and there isn’t a whole lot of substance to the characters.  Koujaku’s backstory was revealed in the latest episode, but that only puts him slightly ahead of the rest and is largely relevant to the circumstances of that episode and probably won’t be of particular note beyond it.  In any case, perhaps one day I’ll try the VN, or if I’m lucky maybe the last stretch of the anime will impress me, but as of now I just don’t have much love for this anime. (6/10)
  • Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei!: I enjoyed the first Prisma☆Illya so it was natural that I’d pick up the second season too.  This season does have potential and the more serious episodes centered around Chloe were pretty good, but I’m not sure if I enjoy this more than first season.  The first season had an established purpose from the beginning with a set goal, while 2wei just seems a bit aimless with random events as Chloe gets involved in Illya’s life, whether in attempts to kill her or random encounters with her family and friends.  Admittedly the latest episode was really enjoyable because of what it revealed about the Prisma☆Illya universe and how it established it as more than a random spinoff of the Fate series, yet that alone doesn’t make the entire package especially amazing.  It’s still enjoyable, and depending on what happens it might impress me more than the first season did, but at the moment I wouldn’t say it’s any better, and if it stays that way I might even say I enjoy it less. (7/10)
  • Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun: Pretty much picked this one up on a whim, but I’m enjoying it a lot.  Gekkan Shoujo is largely a bunch of comedic situations surrounding a group of characters involved with helping make manga, and it does a pretty good job with that.  It may not be big on development, but it really isn’t the type of story to focus all too much on that.  The characters are quirky and likable with amusing interactions and ridiculous circumstances, often at the expense of one character or another.  Gekkan Shoujo is quite an entertaining watch for me every week, and even though some might be disappointed that the characters don’t grow a whole lot or that the romance hardly progresses, this is a comedy at heart and when it comes to delivery in that area, I can say that I’m satisfied at the very least. (7.5/10)
  • Glasslip: I remember hearing a lot of people say this would be the next Nagi no Asukara, and while I never did watch that one myself, it’s one I’ve heard many great things about and wanted to watch at some point or another.  I have no idea if Glasslip really is anything like it at all, but putting that aside, I’m pretty disappointed in Glasslip.  It tries to establish romantic tensions with a bunch of drama, yet the characterization is lacking (for some, almost nonexistent) and for this reason I just can’t enjoy this story a great deal.  The story introduces a supernatural element but makes very limited use of it that almost seems like an excuse to pair two of the characters together.  It should also be mentioned that the direction of the story is rather confusing (and not because of complexity or any sort of mystery element) as the plot seems to be lacking in focus.  I suppose one could say that it’s a slice of life and that it doesn’t need to have a specific endgoal in mind, yet I don’t feel any real progress with most of the romances and the existing relationships are underwhelming because these characters are simply lacking in substance.  Perhaps this series will blow me away in the last few episodes and make something beautiful out of what exists, but I’m really doubtful about that.  One of the key requirements to making a worthwhile romantic drama story is to make memorable, well-developed (or at the very least, likable) characters and while I wouldn’t say this is an especially painful watch for me, I could hardly call it a fulfilling one either. (6/10)
  • Persona 4 The Golden Animation: Wasn’t sure what to expect with this one, and now that I’m at the halfway point I am once again not sure what to expect.  For the early episodes, I was expecting a comedy-based installment that revolves largely around Marie and assumes you’re already familiar with the story, whether through the anime (like me) or the game.  Well, most of that is true, though the last episode threw a curveball with more characterization from an individual that didn’t get quite so much of it in the original anime and quite a grim conclusion.  I’ve heard people say things about the bad ending or something, which I’m not quite sure about since I have yet to play the game, but now I’m not sure how this will progress.  Regardless, P4GA has been rather enjoyable for me and even if it’s not meant to be a full adaptation like the first anime was, it’s a nice addition and I feel like the next episodes will be more than amusing comedy side stories. (7.5/10)
  • Re:␣Hamatora: I watched through the first season not too long ago since I knew this would be airing during the summer season.  Sadly, I’m just not enjoying this season as much as the first.  I thought it had potential given the shocking cliffhanger from the first season, and it could still prove to be interesting in future episodes, but I just find this lacking in comparison to the first season.  I found the first season engaging due to the conflict between the major characters and the themes it covered (individuality vs equality, ability vs ordinary, etc.) but there isn’t much substance to it all in this season.  Some characters do get more screen time so I was pleased by that, yet most of the development has been rather underwhelming and there have been some darker events that seem more like an attempt at shock value than catalysts for development, and the last episode in particular feels like too abrupt a change to actually benefit the story.  It could be too soon for me to make that judgment and I would certainly be pleased if Re:␣Hamatora does something great with the last few plot twists, but I’m not too optimistic about enjoying this more than the first.  I just feel like some of the characters were really interesting in the first season but have lost their flavor here. (7/10)
  • Sword Art Online II: Call me insane if you must, but as is right now, SAO S2 has been really enjoyable for me and one of my favorite watches of the season.  Believe me, that’s not something I expected either.  There are a number of things about the first season that disappointed me (episode 14 especially) and I was not especially optimistic about this season, yet I’ve been enjoying this a great deal and would say that it’s definitely a step up from the 7 episodes out now.  S2 actually tackles some of the characterization that S1 neglected and makes Kirito feel more human rather than a robotic deus ex machina that can never fail.  Beyond that, Sinon’s character is far more fleshed out than any other heroine in the first season and actually has substance compared to characters such as Asuna and Suguha.  If anything, I’d say the biggest flaws SAO S2 has are the failings of the first season more than its own problems, and while this season isn’t exactly perfect, I feel like it has improved a lot of what disappointed me in the first season while returning to at least a slightly increased tension in comparison to the low-stakes, unconvincing conflict of ALO.  I’m not sure how the rest of this season will turn out, and maybe something will disappoint me as much as episode 14 (god forbid, I seriously don’t think that’s possible and I most definitely hope it isn’t) but right now I want to hold on to the hope that S2 really is a sign of the series getting better and that it will only be upward from here on. (8/10)
  • Tokyo ESP: I saw that Faylan and Yousei Teikoku were doing the OP and ED and thought “Hm, I should check this out.”  Probably not the best of reasons to pick up an anime, and I’m not too fond of the OP, but the ED is really nice so I guess it’s worth it.  In any case, this is a typical but enjoyable story about people with special powers in modern society.  Reminds me a bit of the whole Minimum issue present in Hamatora, though with more emphasis on the hero aspect given the nature of the lead characters, Rinka and Azuma.  It feels rather Shounen and I doubt the thematic emphasis will go beyond that direction, but this is still a pretty enjoyable watch at least.  The characters are fairly likable and there’s a pretty decent variety among them so I can’t say I’m too disappointed. (7/10)
  • Tokyo Ghoul: This right here would be my favorite of the season.  I only picked this up because I heard some people say they liked the first episode and that the manga was really good, but I’m glad that I did start watching this.  This series focuses on the ambiguous morality aspect that I love in stories, and the contrast between humans and ghouls is a pretty compelling element throughout.  The characters are really likable and don’t just fall under the good or bad label.  They all make choices that fit them to survive in the world they live in, and this inevitably puts them at odds with others around them.  Tokyo Ghoul is consistently entertaining and proves to be a gripping watch for me every week.  I’ve heard manga fans say that this is a botched adaptation and that the anime rushes through way too much to properly cover the material.  Perhaps this is true, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the manga was indeed far better.  From an anime viewer’s perspective, however, this one has been an incredible watch throughout with more potential to improve.  All I’m waiting for is Kaneki to get more development.  I wouldn’t say he’s a bad character, and his personality is understandable given who he is and the nature of his circumstances, but aside from the change that brings him into the main plot of this series to begin with, he hasn’t changed a great deal.  From what I’ve heard, Kaneki goes full badass and becomes an incredible character in the manga.  I have no idea if the anime will cover this much, but if it does get to that point, I’ll be eager to see it happen.  In any case, I’m not quite convinced to give it a 9/10 yet, but it’s very possible and either way I’m still very satisfied with this watch. (8.5/10)
  • Zankyou no Terror: As it happens, the last series on this list is one of the fan favorites of this season.  With esteemed Bebop staff such as director Shinichiro Watanabe and composer Yoko Kanno on this one, it’s no surprise that many had high expectations of this one and it seems that people are responding well to it overall.  As for me, I’m in the “It’s still too early to say” faction.  While I do enjoy the mind battles and the clash of wits throughout, my enjoyment is held down by the limited characterization presented in the first half.  The main duo is fairly likable and constantly entertaining, yet their motive for the terrorism is still ambiguous and this fact bugs me to no end.  We do get glimpses of their pasts and a vague idea of their childhood (all the more so with Five) but little is actually revealed and so the full extent of the characters of Nine and Twelve is hampered as a result.  I will say that the next episode should be incredibly intriguing and that there’s a lot more to expect from this series, but my main concern is characterization and with only 5 episodes to go, I can’t be too sure how much of that will be present by the end. (7.5/10)

I would stop there, but there are quite a few ongoings that have carried over from the spring season so I might as well give my thoughts on them as well:

  • Haikyuu!!: Fabulous as ever and consistently engaging, Haikyuu has only improved with more and more episodes.  The tournament matches have been incredibly exciting and definitely raised the enjoyment level.  With higher stakes and more strategies to use, Karasuno’s latest encounters have been some of their best and the characterization is still as nice as ever.  The match with Dateko in particular was fantastic and provided some of the best payoff in the anime yet as characters managed to triumph over an enemy that towered above them before.  The current match with Aoba Johsai has also been engaging with Oikawa as a powerful opponent, and it seems like the next episode will be something I’ve been waiting on for a while so I’m really looking forward to that.  Sad that Haikyuu’s run is almost done, but maybe it’ll get a season 2?  I believe it deserves one. (8/10)
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: JoJo’s pretty much the same as usual with fabulous badassery and over the top conundrums.  This season’s worth of episodes haven’t been anywhere near as intense as The Emperor and Hanged Man ones, but they’re pretty enjoyable.  The Lovers was an interesting Stand that had one of the best payoff victories and Death 13 was pretty entertaining too.  Next week’s will be quite enjoyable as well so I’m looking forward to seeing that in animation.  Sad to think I’m gonna go all fall without JoJo though, with this season ending I’ll only get the early glimpse of Stardust Crusaders for now.  It’s a shame, because it isn’t until some of the later parts that SC really shines, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some were disappointed in this season compared to JoJo 2012 with fabulous Joseph in Battle Tendency.  I’m still enjoying this season, but topping Battle Tendency is a tough act, especially with a weekly wait between episodes. (8/10)
  • M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane: Well if there’s one thing I can say, some of the backstory has finally been revealed and we know what the deal is with that mysterious girl with the Corpse now.  There were some good moments, and the episode with Mahmu and Emiru in particular was pretty well done in my opinion.  However, I’m still not enjoying this a whole lot.  My complaints about characterization are a bit less extreme now, but I’m still not too invested in the plot itself.  Not sure what direction this story is going in and I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not, either.  This series has a bit of time to improve itself, but my enjoyment is still limited and I have no idea how much that will change, if at all. (6/10)
  • Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei: If nothing else, the last few episodes of the Nine Schools Competition were pretty engaging.  Tatsuya’s big fight was pretty badass and seeing the hardcore magic sequences with fabulous Madhouse production values was quite a sight.  The encounters that really matter are definitely entertaining at least, and there have been even more bits and pieces of what the deal is with Tatsuya beneath the surface.  Still, much of his background and his circumstances are still ambiguous, and this bothers me considering we’re around 3/4 through the season.  Not sure if it was this way in the LNs, but I feel like this much being concealed from the audience severely limits how attached I can be to his character.  In any case, I’m looking forward to the Yokohama Disturbance arc (which I think started already, though I haven’t watched the latest episode), hopefully it won’t disappoint. (7/10)

So not too much has changed with the two-cours from last season.  I’d say they’ve all improved to some extent (except JoJo, which has pretty much been the same, if maybe a bit less given the lack of high stakes tension-filled episodes) but my impressions are still largely what they were when the spring season concluded.  As for how I’d rank them all:

  1. Tokyo Ghoul
  2. Haikyuu!!
  3. Sword Art Online II
  4. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
  5. Ao Haru Ride
  6. Akame ga Kill!
  7. Aldnoah.Zero
  8. Zankyou no Terror
  9. Persona 4 The Golden Animation
  10. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
  11. Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei!
  12. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei
  13. Re:␣Hamatora
  14. Tokyo ESP
  15. M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane
  16. DRAMAtical Murder
  17. Glasslip

That’s how it is at the moment, but I’m not sure how long things will stay this way.  Tokyo Ghoul will probably remain pretty high for me, but I’m not sure if it will be #1 for me by the end of the season.  In particular, I’m expecting Akame ga Kill, Aldnoah.Zero, and Zankyou no Terror to improve to some extent by the end of the season, and if I’m lucky then perhaps Re:␣Hamatora will too.  The rest will probably stay around the same range even if they shift a bit, but I’ll just have to see how that goes with the weeks ahead.

In any case, that’s that for my thoughts on the summer ongoings.  I noticed that there are a lot of my dreaded 7.5s in this lineup.  There’s certainly lots of potential and I’m betting some of those 7.5s will bump up at least to the 8, but I can’t be too sure just yet.  So far, there isn’t anything that stands out to me in the way some of my favorites of spring season did.  However, I would say this season does exhibit more potential than spring and could very well turn out to be even better if some of my more hyped series don’t disappoint.  I’m still expecting the fall season to carry the best titles of the year, but only time will tell how those turn out.  For now though, I’m content with what’s airing this season, and even if it’s not the best, it’s at the very least enjoyable for the most part, and that’s not such a bad thing.

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  1. Tokyo Ghoul sounds like something I should check out. Glad to hear that the new SAO season is good. A lot of people were slagging it off, when it started, although some of them disliked the first series so I should take their opinion with a pinch of salt.

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