Spring 2012 (+Fate/Zero & Pirates) Final Impressions

Apologies on how long this took to get to. As mentioned in the previous post, I was waiting to see what was going to happen with Saki: Achiga-hen. It looks like the last three episodes will be coming in at a later point, so I’ll hold off reviewing that one, but to make up for it, with Fate/Zero done, I’ll be doing my pick for Fall 2011’s show of the season and 2011’s show of the year.

So here we are, starting with Fate/Zero, which started in the Fall and had a split run.

Fate/Zero – Absolutely fantastic. The novel was great to begin with, but the anime did an amazing job of adapting it. It did suffer in a few places because it lacked a lot of internal dialogue and situation descriptions that helped to spice up the mood and impact of the novel, but it also expanded on a lot of the story. We got a bit more information on Rin’s disappearing friend and her trip to find her and we got a lot more information on Kiritsugu’s past. Overall, I’d say it was extremely well-done and ufotable has once again proven that it’s not so hard to create an amazing Type-Moon adaptation. DEEN and JC Staff could learn a thing or a thousand from them. Bottom line: Highly recommended. Don’t pass this one up. I do recommend reading the novel over watching the anime, but if you don’t read the novel, you’re certainly not getting a terrible version. The gap isn’t anywhere near as big as, say, the FSN or Tsukihime anime.

And with that, time to wrap things up for last year.

Pick for Fall 2011 Show of the Season: Fate/Zero, no contest. The only other show I really enjoyed as much was Tamayura, which is a completely different kind of show (and has a noticeably lower budget). It was enjoyable (and I’m super glad it’s getting a second season, especially after that OVA whet my appetite), but certainly not Show of the Season material.

And now that we’ve got that settled, it’s time to determine 2011’s Show of the Year. The nominees are:

Winter 2011: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Spring 2011: Steins;Gate
Summer 2011: Kamisama Dolls
Fall 2011: Fate/Zero

And the winner is…

Steins;Gate

Poor Kamisama Dolls. It never stood a chance. Man, last year was packed with so much awesome that I’m surprised the world survived. Madoka, Steins;Gate, and Fate/Zero are all easily some of the best anime the world has seen in at least a decade, if not more. Madoka alone broke a ton of records. As mentioned back during my Winter 2011 final impressions, it was 2ch’s most discussed show ever during the first run, beating out the previous record holder Haruhi Suzumiya, which is just about as big as anime juggernauts come. It also had a convention dedicated solely to Madoka before the series even finished airing. That’s amazing as hell for a 12-episode series. But, like I said during my Summer impressions, Steins;Gate just blew me away. It’s an amazing series and most opinions last year for Show of the Year were split between Madoka and Steins;Gate. I have to give Madoka credit where credit is due. I also have to give Gen Urobuchi a lot of credit, since two of the four nominees were his. The man is a literary god.

And with that out of the way, on to the only carry-over from last season. (Bit of a correction from my last set of final impressions: Rinne no Lagrange will be covered at the end of Summer due to the split season, not here.)

Mouretsu Pirates (Bodacious Space Pirates) – This one was a bit of an oddball. It was good, but it was very static. There wasn’t a whole lot of action and most conflict was resolved with electronic warfare from within a ship, often with no indication of who the enemy was. It was enjoyable based almost entirely on the characters (and the technobabble, if you’re into sci-fi tech, which I’m not particularly). It was very reminiscent of a 90’s anime, and it seems that between the original novel and the anime, they actually kind of ran with that concept as they redesigned a few characters. The second half of the show was filler, not because they didn’t have enough novel material, but because the show was delayed for so long that at the time it was originally announced they didn’t have enough. However, this isn’t a downside. The second half is different in tone to the first, but it’s actually a little more exciting and even more reminiscent of some 90’s anime. And it certainly didn’t skimp on the character development and interaction it had before. Bottom line: Worth watching for the novelty of a “new, classic series” alone, but a good series in its own right. I recommend it, but it’s a good idea to watch the first five episodes together. They were screened in Japan as a movie prior to airing, and that would work pretty well given that their pace is pretty slow when spaced out. After that first arc is over, you’ll know whether or not the show is for you.

This season’s carry-overs are Hyouka and Saki: Achiga-hen – Episode of Side-A. Hyouka will definitely be over by the end of the Summer season (it’s actually only got 9 episodes left), but I’m not sure about Saki. I have no idea when the last three episodes, announced mid-season, are going to air or how (TV? Internet?). I’m banking on Internet, like Bakemonogatari. I just hope the wait isn’t that long. So without further ado, onto the Spring shows that finished.

Upotte!! – This was kind of a mixed bag. Some of the episodes weren’t super great, but some of them were amazing. And some of the fanservice was extraordinarily meh, while some of it was way beyond fanservice. (Check out the “self-lubricating” gun, ’cause holy crap.) Overall, though, this was a decent watch with a fun cast and a neat concept. The episodes that actually focused on some gunfights and warfare were pretty good, even by action series standards. I don’t know how well it performed, so I’m not sure if we should expect another season of this, but I certainly wouldn’t mind one. Bottom line: Worth checking out for the odd concept alone. It’s a pretty enjoyable series even beyond that, though.

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia – Honestly, this is one of my favorite shows this season. I had no idea Shin Oonuma was directing it. I was mostly picking it up because of some recommendations to the manga that I had received long ago and never got around to reading. Oonuma, being one of my all-time favorite directors (who is apparently going to be directing the upcoming magical girl Ilya anime, get hype), was icing on the delicious Yuuko cake. The series was great. It had some of everything: Comedy, romance, action, horror, suspense, drama… You name it, it was probably in there. The only problem I had with it was the way the ending was handled. To keep spoilers to a minimum, I’ll just say that the explanation at the very end was unnecessary and it would have been better to just end it after hearing the character’s voice off-screen. It wasn’t terrible for a filler end, but it could have been handled better. Bottom line: I can’t say for sure whether or not it’s something that can’t be missed, because that will ultimately depend on personal preference. However, for me, and for the things and people I like, this was right up my alley and I highly recommend it.

Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? OF THE DEAD – More of the same from the first season, really, but I’d say that the execution was a lot better overall. This season tended to lack much of a plot and was pretty much entirely based on the characters and zany situations. It was hysterical and I loved it. We also got to hear a lot more of Eu’s voice between the little sketches at the end of each episode and one plot segment that ran some of the final few episodes. The only real flaw is that they didn’t really handle the antagonist well and they also didn’t really wrap anything up. It was also unfortunately short, at a run of only 10 episodes. I’m sure it’s not the last we’ll see of the series, though. Bottom line: If you watched the first series all the way through, I highly recommend the second season. If you liked the first season then you’re in for a treat. If you didn’t much care for it, then this may change your mind.

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san – Well, this was the long-awaited actual series from when the Nyaru-ani shorts were running. I have to say I’m a little disappointed. It started out so great, being an easy contender for the best show of the season, but it just kinda petered out about halfway through. I don’t know if the anime lost its way or if the source material did, but while the gags kept coming, there was a noticeable shift in tone. The last episode was waaaaay off of anyone’s expectations for the series, and most people, certainly including myself, found it very boring and pretty much the exact opposite of what anyone watched the series for in the first place. Bottom line: Starts strong, but gets weaker near the end until it’s barely even a shell of its former self. Watch it if you feel inclined, and you’ll probably enjoy it, but don’t force yourself through it. If you stop enjoying it, then it’s probably not going to get any better.

Medaka Box – This one was kind of a mixed bag, too. I loved the characters, and the situations through most of the series were certainly comical, but we only got a tiny glimpse of what the series ends up being like in the manga and the reason so many people love it in the first place. We got the first battle arc near the end (which was a very jarring transition, as I’m sure it was in the manga given the stories I’ve heard about how it came to be in the first place) and we got a filler episode that was in the spirit of later manga content (according to what everyone else said). They were all great, but it just wasn’t enough. Fortunately, there’s a second season coming that was announced at the end of the first, so I’m excited about that. Hopefully it’s a lot longer, since people were saying it would be quite a while before the anime would ever get to the true genre shift point, where it goes all out from how it used to be. Bottom line: Pick it up, if only as a preview of things to come. The first season is good, but the second season will almost certainly be leagues better.

Kids on the Slope (Sakamichi no Apollon) – And wow, this show. Now I never read the manga, so I can’t really complain about what was cut (apparently a lot of it since they crammed a nine-volume manga into a 12-episode series), but from the standpoint of a first-exposure, the anime was amazing. With Watanabe directing and Yoko Kanno on music, it was bound to be good from the start. Speaking of the music, that was definitely the main draw of the anime. All of the jazz session scenes were absolutely amazing. The highlights of the season, really. The music was great, the emotion was excellent, and we even got to see a jazz showdown at one point. The show did a lot in the short time it had to drive emotions and impress the hell out of everyone. Bottom line: Don’t pass it up, for sure. This is one of those series that only comes along once in a great while.

That’s it for this season. As mentioned, Hyouka is a carry-over and I don’t feel right talking about Saki: Achiga-hen yet. The initial 12-episode run is over and I could certainly discuss it, but the last three episodes are supposed to continue the remaining rounds of the tournament semi-final, so the story isn’t quite over yet. I’ve heard that even by the end of the 12 episodes, the series was ahead of the manga. I don’t know if that meant translations or the actual manga (which would mean it’s being animated in sort of a Toradora style, where the series creator just handed over the script and said “Here’s what I’m going to be doing, you can go ahead and animate it”). Assuming it meant the latter, we may end up waiting on the manga to catch up, which could be quite some time given its slow release schedule. I’ll make sure to give it a proper review when it’s done, possibly not waiting until the end of the season it finishes in. However, in the mean time, I’ll go ahead and do this…

Pick for Show of the Season: Guess what? It’s Saki: Achiga-hen – Episode of Side-A! Yes, I know it’s not really finished, but the initial TV run that was all we were supposed to have in the first place is. And while it may not be objectively the best show this season (that would probably be Kids on the Slope), it’s certainly the one I enjoyed the most. Saki Sunday was the best day of the week for me for three whole months and I’d give just about anything to see that again. (It’s a shame that the original series is moving so slowly that we won’t see a second season of it for another several years.) Saki is just one of those rare shows that moves and engages me on several levels. The original is in my top three anime of all time and this side-story, while not quite as exciting (due to general lack of powers and a far less interesting main cast that’s frequently overshadowed by their opponents, who are mostly awesome, and the plethora of returning characters from the main series) is still an excellent series and it will be dearly missed once it’s 15-episode run is truly complete.

Don’t expect me to do that often. I didn’t do it with Fate/Zero because we were only at the halfway point of the story. Saki: Achiga-hen was honestly supposed to be over by now. We just got lucky that they tacked on three more episodes. As far as it was intended to be, it’s done, and that’s the only reason I’ve already made my decision here.

Oh, and I dropped Naruto SD (1 episode), Nazo no Kanojo X (3 episodes), and Sankarea (10, yes, 10 episodes). They were all crap. Sankarea in particular pissed me off because it kept stepping away from the plot for stupid filler flashbacks or flashbacks that were awkwardly inserted (I’m told because they came later in the series and due to lack of expectation for another season they were trying to cram them in where they could). Then on top of all that, it got delayed for a week because of a soccer game or something. I decided it wasn’t worth waiting another three weeks for the show to be over when I really hadn’t liked it that much from the start. I was promised a zombie romantic comedy. Sure there were zombies, romance, and comedy, but at no point did those things every come together. There was pretty much no romantic development between Rea and Chihiro, there wasn’t much comedy to begin with, and we were honestly light on the zombie content aside from the cat. Rea was very rarely treated as a zombie and more as delicate glass girl who would be broken at the slightest touch and had to be protected from everyone and everything and then locked away. Pretty much all of the romantic development came from Ranko, and it honestly just made her a worse character. She was great when she was the type that wasn’t fawning all over the lead, but apparently it just wasn’t meant to be. It was annoying. Screw that show.

So the next entry will (hopefully) be either Saturday or Sunday. I’m waiting on Ebiten to air this season and then I’ll have seen all of the premieres for this season, so I’ll be writing up my initial impressions. I’m honestly not even sure who’s subbing it. Even looking at the Fansub Wiki, there’s a question mark next to the one group listed and I don’t even know who they are. There’s no telling when it’ll be out, but I’ll do my best to write up initial impressions when it is. I certainly don’t want to put it off, because those take a good while and having it done over the weekend is probably the best I can hope for, or it may end up waiting until the next weekend if I can’t. I doubt there will be anything else to post before that, but I can’t be too sure. I’ve got another import on the way that could, if I’m extraordinarily lucky, show up by week’s end, or if I get lucky and get the last few pieces of my new fightstick (the fightstick itself should be delivered today, with the last pieces, a plexi cover and an art print, coming in whenever Art gets them done) then you may see something else from me before that. More than likely, those will come after.

Wow, this ended up being quite a long-winded impressions post for as few series as I had to discuss…

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