Winter 2014 Final Impressions (+Kill la Kill & Golden Time)

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Time to wrap up Winter and Fall, as well as declare show of the year for 2013.

So we’ll start out, as we always do, with the previous season. Here’s the last of Fall:

Kill la Kill: Absolutely amazing. Studio Trigger, the remnants of old Gainax, are a talented bunch of folks, and it shows in just about everything they do. This show is very reminiscent of a lot of the old Gainax classics, particularly TTGL. While Trigger is still a relatively small studio and their budget is limited accordingly, the talent is still there and they never cease to impress. This show hit the floor running at full speed and just never let up. It was an action-packed, comedic thrill ride from start to finish, with more awesome moments than I could possibly count and a cast of characters who were lovable and exciting. I can’t really gush enough about this show. I’m a huge Trigger fan and shows like this and Little Witch Academia make me feel confident in supporting them. Bottom line: An absolute must-watch. At least give it a shot to see if you like it. I promise you that it only gets better as it goes on.

Golden Time: Uuuuugh. What a disappointment. I wanted this to be good. I really did. I wanted the next anime from the author of Toradora to be just as good or at least half as good. This ended up being one of the worst pieces of dreck I’d ever seen. I think it just had a fundamental flaw in the formula. The main couple ended up together early on, so there wasn’t much left but to infuse endless forced drama into the series to make it “interesting.” What ended up happening instead was a torrent of groan-inducing stupidity. Characters acted in ways that people never would in real life. There was an unnecessary supernatural element that made the show worse every time it appeared. It even made the ending confusing. It just… wasn’t a very good show. As much as I wanted it to be. I would have dropped it had I not wanted so badly for it to turn around and be something great. Instead, I suffered from week to week watching a show I was less interested in with each passing episode. Such a shame. Bottom line: Just skip it. I think maybe 1% of the opinions I’ve heard have been positive. The rest have had the majority of the same complaints that I have. I think JC Staff put a lot of their eggs into this basket with the Vita game and everything else and the reception has been fairly poor. Too bad for them, I guess.

So on we go to wrap up last year.

Pick for Fall 2013 Show of the Season: Kill la Kill. There wasn’t much competition, honestly. I think the next best one was probably like… Miss Monochrome or Little Busters. There was a lot of really disappointing stuff in Fall like Golden Time or Non Non Biyori. (I really wish people would quit riding NNB’s d***, because it’s not very good. I’m upset that it sold well and got a second season over something else that actually deserved it.) That’s not to say that KlK only won because it’s a decent show in a sea of crap. No, it actually is a great show and definitely deserves its position. It’s a true runner for Show of the Year.

Speaking of…

The nominees for 2013 Show of the Year are:

Winter 2013: Problem Children/Mondaiji-tachi
Spring 2013: Date A Live
Summer 2013: Monogatari Series Second Season
Fall 2013: Kill la Kill

And the winner is…

Date A Live

Hate on, world. Hate on. Yes, I picked the harem show. Date A Live is wonderful in the way it approaches the genre (more often sarcastically and self-deprecating than not) and as I mentioned in my review of it last year, it hooked me harder than just about anything else in years. I’m super excited for June this year. The second season will be wrapping up with an exciting finale, the second PS3 VN will be coming out (my pre-order’s been in for ages), and the first season will get a dubbed DVD/BD release (and I pre-ordered that, too). I’ve also been tempted numerous times to start importing the novels. I don’t know how well that would work for me (I have enough trouble reading Japanese in a western writing format, much less the Japanese format) but it’s always so tempting to try, if for no other reason than to have some more of that beautiful Tsunako art on my shelf. I absolutely adore this series and I owe all of it to the first season of the anime. I couldn’t be happier to declare it my show of the year.

So with that out of the way, let’s wrap up Winter’s impressions. Just like Winter last year, everything I watched is over, so I won’t be carrying anything over to the Spring season and we’ll start with a clean slate there.

Seitokai Yakuindomo *: I always thoroughly enjoy SYD. It’s really all in the delivery of the jokes. The anime is blessed with perfect comedic timing. It’s the second season (and there have been nearly enough OVAs to be their own season) so anyone who is a fan knows what to expect by this point. One surprising thing was the budget. SYD has always been very low budget, but they had a surprisingly decent one this time around. I think they blew like 90% of it in the first episode, though. S’okay. It was worth it. That episode was amazing. Bottom line: SYD fan? You know what’s up. If you haven’t tried the series, start at the beginning and see if you like it. I highly recommend it. If you didn’t like the show, there’s nothing new for you here.

Saikin, Imouto ga Yousu ga Chotto Okaishiin Da Ga: This show… was a lot of hits and misses. There were some good parts and some not good parts. The fanservice was generally pretty great. Self-censored in annoying ways a lot of the time, but a good effort. The characters were okay. Everyone felt pretty one-dimensional, though. There wasn’t really any depth to be found there. But for what it was, a weird semi-incest romcom with supernatural elements, it was okay. My biggest hangup was how it ended. Even the little sister herself said it was anticlimactic. Like, she literally said those words in the show. I don’t know if I’d watch a second season of this, though. Bottom line: If you’re just looking for another harem show, I guess you can go for it. There’s not really anything special about this one, though it’s not inherently bad or anything.

Space Dandy: So good. Space Dandy was soooooooo good. It was surprisingly good in a lot of ways. I also liked that they made it take place in the same universe as Cowboy Bebop. (Fans of the episode “Toys in the Attic” are in for a real treat.) And it’s just such a great series. Due to a bit of extra-dimensional blundering on Dandy’s part in the first episode, nothing is really canon in the series. Just about every episode features one or more of the main cast dying or the existence of the known universe ending in some way or another. It’s pretty funny and allows the show to go to a lot of extremes. There are also some downright amazing episodes with some real Bebop flair to them. Episode 5, in particular, was one of the best episodes of anime I watched all season. The show is just a treat, visually, musically, and in every way imaginable. I also really liked how the world premiere was on Toonami in an English-dubbed format. I have no idea how Funimation pulled that little miracle off, but it was super cool to be among the first in the world to see it every week in my native language. And the dub is actually really damn good. I can’t think of a single sub-par performance. Bottom line: Definitely check it out. This is one of the good ones.

Saki Zenkoku-hen: And here we are with the newest season of Saki. As always, it’s amazing. Tense action, incredible visual flair, cute girls, and just enough fanservice. I absolutely love this show. It speaks well of it that it has so many fans who have no idea how to play mahjong but watch it anyway. When I watched the first season, I had no idea what was going on, but I was always on the edge of my seat. The show really knows how to keep the tension going. And, as always, it keeps such a large cast of characters in check by giving them all their moment of glory and backstory time. Bottom line: Same with any sequel. If you like it, jump it. It was a great season. If you don’t, don’t bother. If you want to try it out, start at the beginning (and don’t forget Achiga-hen before this!).

D-Frag!: This was a surprise for me this season. I didn’t really know what to expect going in, but I came out with a lot of laughs and several characters I liked. For as wacky as the series often got, it was very down to earth sometimes and I really appreciated that. It kept everyone relatable. This was definitely a show I didn’t expect to be in the running for show of the season, but I’m always happy to have those surprises. Bottom line: If you’re looking for a good comedy series, definitely check it out.

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren: So speaking of unsatisfying endings (ImoCho), this was one of the other ones. KyoAni is a great studio that makes good shows and has an outstandingly talented animation team, but they’re so afraid to approach certain subjects (namely physical romantic contact) and they love to screw with canon. In the case of this series, it wasn’t always that bad of an idea. Dekomori was a great character and she never existed in the novels. That said, I’m really glad they pushed more toward the canon this season and brought Satone into the picture, as she immediately became my favorite character. Unfortunately, while the rest of the season generally felt like a step-up from the first, I had a lot of complaints. The romance never went anywhere. Rikka become the worst girl in the show as she turned into a jealous, weak-willed idiotic moéblob. According to the novel readers, Satone was deprived of her best moments as KyoAni decided to just skirt around them in unimpressive ways. But there were some good things, too. Like I said, it was an overall improvement on the first season, I suppose. Bottom line: Sequel stuff. If you like the first season, try it out. If you don’t, don’t bother. I wouldn’t get into the series for this season if you skipped over it before, though. I’m not so sure it’s worth it anymore.

pupa: Eh. Sucked. Short series with no real content. Each episode was almost nonsensical. There were a lot of plot threads developed that never went anywhere or were completely dropped. They didn’t even give it a good ending. It was some boring childhood flashback in a way-too-happy tone. There was honestly just one episode of the sister eating the brother and I think the only word at the end of those several minutes was something like “Delicious.” I’m not sure the staff had any idea what they were doing with this series when they opted to animate it. It was just… all over the place. Bottom line: Don’t even bother.

Sakura Trick: The goddesses of yuri have blessed us with an adorable show about girls kissing wherever they can find a place without other people. Or sometimes around other people because either A) they’re barely hidden or B) screw them. Whatever. It’s cute. And it’s also very funny, which is to be expected from a 4koma adaptation. I really do like this series, though. It’s cute, it’s fun, and it’s got some really uhh… hardcore? yuri smooches. Like damn. Tongue and everything. Too much for Japan, apparently, as the show sold poorly. Such a shame. I really did want another season of this. It was definitely something I looked forward to every week. Bottom line: Unless you’re just 100% opposed to girls kissing each other, watch this. It’s enjoyable even beyond that.

Go!Go!575: While this was just a few episodes of promo for the game that came out around the time of the last one (and another episode coming up… eventually?), it was still kind of fun. I liked the OP theme and I liked the characters, but it really did all lead up to you hopefully playing the game. That’s fine, I bought the game, but I just… haven’t had the time to open it or play it. I’ve kind of been in the middle of Eiyuu*Senki since the beginning of the year and I’m still not done. Yep, approaching 3.5 months and I’m still on that damn thing. I’ll get to you eventually, Utakumi 575, I promise. Bottom line: Not really anything here for anyone that doesn’t want to play the game, but if you want to play it then I guess check this out, even if you don’t want to import it.

Wake Up, Girls!: This was my dose of idol anime for the season. It was… okay. It wasn’t bad, but it was kind of uninteresting in a lot of places, the antagonists were almost comically evil, there wasn’t a ton of musical variety, the voice talent was a little too new, and the animation was super bad like 60% of the time. Yamakan does what Yamakan does, though. Anyway, it wasn’t bad, though. Not by any means. It was just kind of unimpressive. Bottom line: Check it out if you’re looking at what could be one of the next big idol series, but if idols aren’t really your thing, you’re not missing anything here. Even if they are, you still might not be.

Sekai Seifuku ~Bouryaku no Zvezda~: And here we have the surprise hit of the season. This show spared no effort to better itself every week and just go absolutely nuts in how it approached damn near everything. It was hilarious, with a few spectacular action scenes, and a really interesting overall plot. The cast of characters was charming and everything was just really enjoyable. It had a few interesting elements to it, too, like an entire episode dedicated to some kind of random No Smoking campaign. It was weird, but it was also absolutely hysterical in how they went about doing it. Everything here was just great. There wasn’t a single thing I hated. Unfortunately, like Sakura Trick, it sold poorly. While they set it up for a second season, I don’t know if we’ll see it. It seems that they’ve set it up as some big multimedia project, so maybe success in some other areas could lead to another season. I really hope it does. Bottom line: Please try it out. This show deserves some attention. Original content can be very hit or miss and this one turned out really well.

Dropped:
– SoniAni -Super Sonico The Animation-
– Mahou Sensou
– Wizard Barristers ~ Benmashi Cecil

And now for the last order of business…

Pick for Show of the Season: And my decision is… a tie! Yeah, I can’t really decide. No matter how hard I think about it, I’m not sure which I like more: Saki Zenkoku-hen or Sekai Seifuku ~Bouryaku no Zvezda~. They’re both outstanding. Saki certainly doesn’t pale in comparison to its previous seasons (the first of which is still my #3 anime of all time) and Zvezda was just such a great new series that I was so thoroughly impressed by that I can’t pass it up either. I think I’ll just have to settle for a tie on this one (which means 5 runners for Show of the Year) and we’ll see how that goes. Something like this might be nice every once in a while, right?

So that’s all I’ve got. We’re done here for now and I’ll be moving right along with initial impressions once I get everything checked out, which will be some time next week. I’ve got some imports coming, too, but I don’t know when they’ll be in. Hopefully by next week.

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