Summer 2013 3-Episode Thoughts

Now that at least three episodes have set in for this season’s lineup, here are my current thoughts and expectations for the rest of the season. Ranked by my evaluation of their quality.

16. Inu to Hasami wa Tsukaiyou

Studio: Gonzo
Progress: Dropped (1/13)

[HorribleSubs] Inu to Hasami wa Tsukaiyou - 01 [720p].mkv_00:11:07_07-04-13

You know, I expected to see a disaster in this anime but nothing to this extent. Nothing speaks as lifelessly self-insert as a faceless protagonist without a speck of his own personality. The plot is absurd and makes precisely zero sense, with a premise that comes out of the hands of a trashy C-grade writer. The book and scissors obsession is a gimmick with no substance to it, and plot holes appear more frequently than Free! has undressing scenes. This quality is at the level of doujinishis, but what’s worse is that at no point was the “comedy” worth even a chuckle. As for production values, the visuals are nothing bad but nothing praiseworthy, and the incessantly stupid music that aims to build tension ironically delivers the opposite effect. This is in part attributed to atrocious writing, but average audiovisuals certainly don’t help.

Score: Painful (2/10)

15. Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi

Studio: Madhouse
Progress: Dropped (1/13)

[Vivid] Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi - 01 [11FE4442].mkv_00:08:03_07-07-13

Only in anime would the protagonist be a loli gravedigger. The character designs themselves are unrealistic and blatant pandering—demolishing many of the horror elements by their mere nymphet absurdities (others as well include the bishounen clothing, loli jelly-belly eyes, and candied eye colors). Now I could get past the substandard artwork if weren’t for the awful, awful pacing. Starting with an infodump after in medias res, the work lacks a proper transition into the story merely to shovel information down our throats. There was some nice comedy with the Humpnie Humbert gag, as well as taking the villain for Ai’s father, but it inappropriately shifts to a brutal sequence of murders. What a stodgy transition between comedy and drama! There’s also no establishment for the character drama, and the mystery doesn’t build any tension because the work takes no time to build any atmosphere. Then they go on to establish that the girl isn’t even a gravekeeper! Oh my god, slow down please.

Score: Awful (3/10)

14. Choujigen Game Neptune: The Animation

Studio: David Production
Progress: Dropped (2/13)

[HorribleSubs] Hyperdimension Neptunia - The Animation - 01 [720p].mkv_00:13:39_07-13-13

The setting changes and differences in architecture has been interesting so far, but they’ve been pretty generic designs without any true establishment of, say, culture among each country. But that’s besides the point. It’s hard to take such worldbuilding seriously when the political leaders are all cute girls in exhibitionist clothing, and all of which pose (and moan) in ways that totally don’t sound lewd. Apparently, this is supposed to be high brow stuff guys, satirizing common tropes in all things moe. Yet, all that’s been seen so far is moe pandering, which makes Neptune fall in the category of titles it (ostensibly) pokes fun at.. Pure maidens are often sickened in suggestive poses with occasionally phallic creatures, while another half-attired girl (generally one with mammoth tits) aims to save the day. Also, what’s with the extremes in breast sizes, i.e., pettanko and oppai? Can’t we have some normal-sized girls in here? Everyone knows B cup stands for best cup. David Production (and Neptune) pls.

Score: Awful (3/10)

13. Danganronpa – The Animation

Studio: Lerche
Progress: Dropped (2/13)

totallydidntstealthisimage

Story? What story? This is the scientific method. You take 15 cliches, put them in a closed room, and observe the results. Fun, right? As expected of another Seiji Kishi failure, the logic is frivolously dumbed down, and the mystery is as complex as the character archetypes exhibited here. No larger context is provided, time passes as is convenient, and hypotheticals (like the fridge stocked daily) are given without any complications. It’s hard to watch the show without falling into another plot hole, despite the fact that much of the fun of hypothetical game scenarios like this is trying to come up with your own solution.. Each character’s train of thought has been severely impaired as well, and the quick assumptions and finger pointing has been too obviously streamlined. Please go back to directing another season of Jinrui, Kishi.

Score: Awful (3/10)

12. Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya

Studio: Silver Link
Progress: Dropped (2/13)

[UTW]_Fate_Kaleid_Liner_Prisma_Ilya_-_02_[h264-720p][3874DE96].mkv_00:06:29_07-29-13

Unfortunately, the novelty wore off. I couldn’t get through half of the second episode before switching to watch another Chinese cartoon. There’s not much to say that the screencap above doesn’t already. The comedy is always cheesy, and the campiness of the show can feel overbearing once you realize that you’re watching a mahou shoujo spinoff.

Score: Bad (4/10)

11. Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen

Studio: Manglobe
Progress: Watching (4/13)

[HorribleSubs] The World God Only Knows - Goddesses Arc - 04 [720p].mkv_00:13:24_07-29-13

The premiere’s pacing is atrocious, skipping so many chapters that it spent the first half flying through 70+ chapters of the manga. I think even devoted manga readers would have trouble keeping up. Then we’re thrown into the middle of more goddess garbage that has nothing to do with the bare bones of Kami nomi’s formula, losing the previous charm of the find girl, make girl fall in love with Keima pattern (it was derivative but guilty entertainment nonetheless). Fortunately, the show starts to settle and go back to its fun self. I’ve had a good laugh whenever Keima flippantly switches between lovestruck and cold/calculating, as he tries to make prior characters fall in love with him again. These episodes have been better particularly because of Keima returning to his fun antics. Still, it’s a shame the comedy hasn’t actually occured very often, in favor of cloying romantic drama (and as stated, more goddess garbage) instead.

Score: Bad (4/10)

10. Love Lab

Studio: Dogakobo
Progress: Dropped (1/13)

[Commie] Love Lab - 01 [708F7A56].mkv_00:08:51_07-07-13

Love Lab takes the premise of a generic romcom by nature, so it all comes down to how well the story is told. Unfortunately, the character intros are hackneyed as is the plot. The pacing following the two’s first encounter is all too rushed, immediately segwaying into gag comedy without so much as a thought of what happened previously. The gags themselves have been decent at times, but they already seem to follow the same mold—commonplace takes off boke and tsukkomi with little variation of punchline originality. Some of this would be excused for if it actually slowed down its pacing, and went to establish the characters more than their archetypes before getting into the comedy. Moreover, Love Lab is too narrow-scoped in its humor and overall goals. Also, despite their shared “lone wolf” dilemma, they’re adored by everyone else in the school. Wat. Character artwork, backgrounds, color palette, soundtrack—everything on a production level is uninspired and trite. Not terrible, but personally not very funny either.

Score: Bad (4/10)

9. Stella Jogakuin Koutou-ka C³-bu

Studio: Gainax
Progress: Watching (4/13)

[Commie] Stella Jogakuin Koutouka C3-bu - 01 [8DD4FBF5].mkv_00:14:30_07-07-13

To feature something as dissonant as little girls paired with guns, it’s a little surprising that the comedy itself has been pretty hilarious. Stella C³-bu plays cute (but never over the top) antics, then riveting them atop with eccentric behavior. It’s difficult not to stop and laugh at their silliness. The airsoft mock battles are attractive, but just… cheesy. Actions are exaggerated, as well as random conflicts surfacing like Yura receiving such a ridiculous notion as “shell shock” in the middle of an airsoft battle. The realism isn’t quite there in how actual airsoft battles are enacted, despite the immoderately serious mood (already aside from the cute girls doing so well in the tournaments over generic faceless males). A lot of it is also oversimplified, e.g., in how it integrates the most popular “cool” guns as well as lacking a lot of tactic and wit in the strategy. The drama portions, particularly with Yura’s insecurities, tend to be lacking and slow down the rest of the story’s pacing. This is largely because the characters themselves hold little depth, as the story focuses on the gun environment and general cuteness of the ensemble overall. And uhm, I don’t know what the heck happened in that latest episode.

Score: Bad (4/10)

8. Servant x Service

Studio: A-1 Pictures
Progress: Watching (4/13)

[HorribleSubs] Servant x Service - 04 [720p].mkv_00:11:09_07-29-13

Servant x Service‘s premiere has a good charming mood that attests to the realism in play with the mundanity, but this quickly goes to hell in future episodes, resorting to commonplace jokes and lacking any of the originality or insightfulness that titles like Working!! were able to accomplish. It’s not necessarily the joke’s timing that is off, but the quality of the jokes themselves. The worst is shown in the light of characters such as Ichinimiya’s tsundere imouto, as well as all the otaku pandering gimmicks prevalent in other such supporting characters. Working!! deals with these without having such problems; why can’t SxS? Another one that remains the focal point of a lot of jokes is Lucy’s breast size and her bras.. Please stop. Hasabe pervades a nice easygoing charisma to the environment, but often is the result of many deus ex machina solutions and is overly perfect (to a fault). His capricious relationship with Lucy deserves compliments though, as his charm works quite well in bouncing off many character’s behaviors.

Score: Bad (4/10)

7. Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui!

Studio: Silver Link
Progress: Dropped (2/13)

[FTW]_Watashi_ga_Motenai_no_wa_Dou_Kangaetemo_Omaera_ga_Warui_-_01_[720p][84EDF505].mkv_00:02:17_07-10-13

There’s a clever use of visuals and sound to complement the self-deprecating humor. This direction makes Watamote more bearable than the manga counterpart. However, I just don’t find the core writing very funny to begin with. “I can’t get any boys! Oh, another ‘woe is me’ joke!” Hahha so funny. :\\\ The monologues and the same old jokes seem to be repeated verbatim. I feel I would enjoy the show’s direction more if the jokes had a little more variety.

Score: Bad (4/10)

6. Free!

Studio: Kyoto Animation
Progress: Watching (4/13)

[HorribleSubs] Free! - 03 [720p].mkv_00:07:04_07-18-13

Apt to its title, Free! doesn’t know what it wants to be, often wavering in place among manservice, slice of life comedy, sports swimming, and shounen-ai romance. The story goes in all directions without taking a significant step in any of them. Fortunately, a lot of KyoAni’s humor remains in tact. Much of it goes hand in hand with the pandering, such as Haruka undressing in public, but it still leaves you laughing if you don’t enjoy the pandering by itself. It’s not a surprise then that this humor is fueled by gimmicks: Haruka’s hard-on for swimming, boys with girl’s names, or Kou’s, I mean Gou’s, fetish for obscure arm and shoulder muscles. However, much like a lot of SHAFT titles, somehow it’s still done in creative ways to keep one amused by the sleazy writing. The soundtrack is intrusive at many occasions, either because of its distinctive chords (e.g. obnoxious dubstep, though really, it would be hard to not include dubstep without being obnoxious in the first place) or because of absurdly high volumes and scriptless dialogue. You have to love KyoAni’s splurge on the visual details though. When watching a yaoi, you may as well watch it in hi-def, with the most intricate attention toward every fibrous muscle on their fabulous bodies.

Score: Bad (4/10)

5. Gin no Saji

Studio: A-1 Pictures
Progress: Watching (3/13)

[HorribleSubs] Gin no Saji - 03 [720p].mkv_00:20:45_07-29-13

Another noitaminA show, an interesting dainty surprise. Gin no Saji has well appropriated comedy that’s suitable to its agricultural context, and the realism with the farming has also been surprisingly well-done. The show applies fun jokes atop an edifying experience, dashing quick dreams of riding a horse beside a girl by shoveling manure at viewer’s faces (literally). The cast receives little development, with Hachiken taking the hackeneyed self-insert position without a clear aim for himself. However, this direction choice largely works with the focal point of the work—the farming. He learns with us, entrancing newcomers into an existing and vastly developed culture. The life lessons can feel unwieldy at times particularly with (silver) spoon fed morals, but thankfully they don’t come up as often as the farming experience or the comedy itself.

Score: Good (6/10)

4. Gatchaman Crowds

Studio: Tatsunoko Production
Progress: Watching (3/13)

[HorribleSubs] Gatchaman Crowds - 01 [720p].mkv_00:11:22_07-13-13

Gatchaman Crowds features a fairly simple story with a sentai style format. However, the screenplay really brings out the life of the storytelling, whether it be in the body language of the cast, the bursting visuals, or splendidly done animation. There’s often more depth than meets the eye. Futuristic sci-fi technology is integrated quite seamlessly into the work, mysteriousness permeates nicely into the atmosphere, and characters have quality traits. There’s an excellent use of color palettes to keep a very rainbow-ish and vivid animation, as well as fantastic Gatchaman style artwork and general slice of life ones (for example, the watercolor textures and the artificial brush strokes giving the show a somewhat surreal feeling, one chalked up as a daydream or imagination just as much as the subdued colors do). The use of electric pop and hip hop beats gives a good sense of rhythm to the action, and the retro tracks give a fun sense of thrill. It seems pretty clear now that characters other than Hajime aren’t going to receive much focus. This is partially fine due to the wide range of personalities and immediate attention towards the GALAX technology, Gatchaman, and aliens instead. However, the integration with GALAX has been a little heavy-handed, being awkwardly suspenseful in vigor (preventing spoiled milk can’t possibly be this exciting!).

Score: Good (6/10)

3. Genshiken Nidaime

Studio: Production IG
Progress: Watching (4/13)

[HorribleSubs] Genshiken Nidaime - 04 [720p].mkv_00:18:39_07-29-13

As another season of one of the most underrated shows, Genshiken’s new cast remains in tact with hilarious wittiness and dynamics. One can’t help being nervous with the new characters in play (especially with the focus on fujoshis), and surprisingly enough, they perform just as well, receiving much needed development early on in the season. The integration of older cast members has also been a delight, so we don’t feel too alienated by the new ensemble. This allows us to appreciate Genshiken from each perspective, taking simple archetypes and offering their original point of view. Moreover, every culture reference is done appropriately to each character’s personality, as well as offering lovely callbacks to previous seasons. The realistic, down to earth charm of the series is as agreeable as ever. Like the rest of the series, this is a slow-hitting show, but the subtleties in its script offer an otaku experience like none other.

Score: Great (7/10)

2. Monogatari Series: Second Season

Studio: SHAFT
Progress: Watching (4/26)

[HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_00:07:01_07-29-13

Monogatari‘s second (or technically, fourth?) season is all about creativity. Starting off with clearly and visibly the best girl, Hanekawa takes the forefront of the storytelling, both perspective-wise and in fanservice. This POV switch has offered a lot of sweet additions to the Monogatari formula, ranging from a unique narration standpoint to new scenery as well as new character dynamics. Each encounter Hanekawa faces becomes a different way for her to find out who she really is. These one-on-one scenes are exactly what make Monogatari‘s characterization done so splendidly. Whether discussing the facets of love with Senjougahara or wearing Araragi’s clothing and sleeping in his bed, each of these conversations is a new cornerstone into carving Hanekawa’s identity. The artwork stays ever so fascinating, and I can only presume what dainty wittiness comes next in the succeeding arcs.

Score: Great (7/10)

1. Uchouten Kazoku

Studio: PA Works
Progress: Watching (4/13)

[HorribleSubs] Uchouten Kazoku - 04 [720p].mkv_00:18:03_07-28-13

Uchouten Kazoku is like a suave, finely handled dish. Every moment in the story is done so smoothily, arranging glib characters among a beautifully rendered city. The history is given gently and subtly, the city is fleshed out through encompassing landscapes, and PA Works makes excellent use of its signature detail towards nature. Furthermore, our knowledge of the world is never given so promptly; Tomohiko Morimi takes it at such a fine tempo it’s impossible to not sit back and enjoy slurping on this exquisite course. My opinion of the show hasn’t changed, and the family’s history as well as tanuki hierarchy has been continually explored. And golly me, I can’t stop gushing my love for Yasaburo. Who better to take the throne for best character of the season?

Score: Excellent (8/10)

How My Predicted Scores Match Up

I was a bit optimistic with my negative ratings on select shows. I expected Inu to Hasami to be terrible, but not that terrible. This is probably the last time I check out the gimmicky titles. I also overestimated the intelligence of Neptunia. I should have looked more into those kawaii girls instead of presupposing this was all the work of literati and intelligentsia. The rest of the season has been around where I expected it to be, with Uchouten Kazoku being the biggest surprise. Having seen only one of Morimi’s works, I was hesitant to consider him as a writer to be so consistently perfect, but this show has (pleasantly) proven me wrong.

Overall

As expected, this season has been nothing short of fantastic. It’s not often I see titles in an anime season to be this good, let alone on a summer. With five show all above what I would consider “Okay”, this season may look to be the best this year. I have lukewarm opinions on the Fall lineup so far, but whatever. Summer season: tanoshii!

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