It’s been a little more than a week since the return from my trip to the United Kingdom, something that I desperately needed, and I feel more relaxed than ever. However, all that frolicking about in a foreign country and cheap food came at a steep price all its own: I lost almost complete track of the latest anime episodes, only bothering to keep up with Ika Musume, Mawaru Penguindrum (Of course), and Haganai for some reason. Many people confronted with this difficult situation would do one of two things: Hide from the outside world long enough to catch up on their backlog, or let it slowly accumulate while pretending that it doesn’t exist. Fortunately for the activity of this blog and those readers out there concerned with how up to date I am on the latest anime, I’ve somehow chosen the former.
Anyway, the now compulsory monthly review is nigh, and I hope you’ll enjoy!
Kept Up With Through Thick and Thin/Spotty Wifi
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai
Haganai remains one of those shows that I both find interminably boring and impossible to sit through, or uproariously funny and impossible to pause for whatever reason. The ones where the club fucks up their many games played together are often in the latter category, with the episodes focusing on their real life interactions leaning toward the former.
The second half has been much more consistent than the first, with the whole cell phone bit being the highlight thus far, but that still doesn’t make it average out to be anything but… well, average. In the end it’s good cheap entertainment, but it has absolutely no staying power as a whole, and will likely fade into obscurity once it’s had its run.
Shinryaku?! Ika Musume
It’s more of the same Squid Girl, whether you like it or not. If you like it, you’ve been watching and keeping up to date with her antics and shrimp eating. If you don’t, then you haven’t. Nothing else needs to be said, so moving on.
Penguindrum has gotten bombarded with criticisms after quite some time of relative critical immunity. As Kevo put it best, and I believe it sums up a good portion of what those watching it think, it’s the kind of show that you can find loads to gripe about but find yourself enamored with nonetheless. And yes, Penguindrum’s far from perfect. Despite it being my choice for favorite show of the year, I think that’s a fair assumption to make. Everybody is well within their right to dislike it if they don’t like entire flashback episodes or almost inexplicable twists, but they’re pulled off with good enough quality that I find it easy to look past these rocky storytelling devices.
If one thing does rub me the wrong way about it though, it’s that Penguindrum bears the unmistakable scent of a pet project, one that’s made just because Ikuhara thought it’d be a good idea. If Penguindrum were a horrible wreck, it’d still be made without any changes regardless of whether those changes would improve the quality any. It isn’t something that was made to be liked and enjoyed, it was something that was made because Ikuhara thought it was a good idea. While its quality is pretty high story-wise, it does make me a little uneasy that the mark of the auteur is plastered all over this thing.
Whether you think it’s pretentious rubbish or one of the best things airing right now, it’s going to be one of the most interesting shows of the year, and if it ends well it just may be one of the best.
All Caught Up With
The surprise that I had when Ben-To ended up one of the more entertaining shows of the season is pretty damn palpable. It’s nothing that will shake things up, but it’s proof that you can take an absurd, simple premise and make it something charming enough to carve out its own niche, provided the shiv in question is made of charm. While it varies in quality much like Haganai, the worse episodes aren’t quite so boring, and the tongue in cheek presentation makes it difficult to dislike despite its faults.
Who would’ve thought that seeing girl put together a Karuta club would be so enjoyable? It’s almost irritatingly earnest at times, draped in a thick layer of unflinching optimism and shoujo-esque relationship twists. Thankfully though, it seems Chihaya’s feelings for Taichi and Arata take backseat to the actual Karuta, making it much more enjoyable than many shows of its ilk. The new characters haven’t had much chance to develop past their original selves, but in some way they all have that charming, sincere nature that makes Chihaya such an enjoyable protagonist.
I’m not going to go into all this crap about just what genre it is, suffice it to say that Chihayafuru is one of the most interesting, heartwarming titles of the season, and Chihaya is just precious.
The level of competence that Fate/Zero has demonstrated throughout is nothing short of staggering, simply because of how unexpected it was when compared to its previously animated brethren. The fight scenes are well choreographed, the story is moving along at a decent clip with just the right amount of resolution, and Rider and Waver continue to make waves as the dynamic duo of the year, even if they haven’t fought Caster yet like I hoped they would. I think it’s fair to say that we all want Rider in our lives, and I for one can’t wait to see him kick more ass as the first half winds down.
So yeah… Guilty Crown. What is there to say? This month, it took a sharp dive in quality, focusing on terror plots that made little to no sense and it shows no sign of getting better. The characters are all shallow, the plot’s meaningless… it’s just overall not holding up well, especially with the high expectations for the early episodes. But hey, at least it looks nice and fares better in my memory than…
Last Exile: Fam of the Silver Wing
Unlike Guilty Crown, I don’t have many bad things to say about Fam of the Silver Wing. The idea of a pirate being drafted into a fleet, forced to take over enemy ships before she’s allowed to leave, is something that allows for plenty of interesting situations. The politics have potential to be fascinating, the dogfights are impressive, and the characters aren’t too shabby. However, while I don’t have many bad things to say, there is one glaring problem that I can’t help but focus on: I can hardly remember what happens episode to episode.
I’m pretty sure my memory isn’t going, since I can recall most of the other shows of the season in good detail. But there are times in Fam of the Silver Wing where some prior piece of background knowledge is brought to the forefront, and I can’t for the life of me remember when it might have occurred. I don’t know if it’s just me having this problem, but it doesn’t really bode well if I can’t recall why I should be engaged in a show.
Hunter x Hunter
Much like Haganai, this is a popcorn kind of series for me; something to be watched and promptly forgot about until next week. It’s surprisingly good, watch it if you get the chance, that’s all I have to say.
Mirai Nikki has become one of only two shows that I’m bothering to consistently blog this season, and for good reason. So far, it’s been proof that pedigree does not equate to actual quality. Even though Yukiteru’s been making borderline suicidal moves, something that makes me think that subconsciously he doesn’t even want to live anymore, the zaniness of the plot creates a mood unlike anything else airing this season, helped in part by the wonderfully creepy Yuno.
I’ve said it in one or two other posts, but nothing else outside of Batman captures the manic energy and nitty-gritty violence of… well, Batman. And I think that’s something to be applauded.
I don’t think it’d be too much of a stretch to say that UN-GO didn’t really get off to a great start. While the mysteries weren’t necessarily weak, they didn’t leave any room for guess work or deduction on the part of the audience. It thankfully neglected to spoon-feed the plot to the audience like Gosick and the like did, but there was a load of untapped potential there that was apparently left alone. That is, it was left alone until Episode Seven.
I don’t know what happened, but it took an even greater turn for the bizarre as it had our helpless protagonist trapped in an illusion devised by a prisoner. It was almost reminiscent of Satoshi Kon, particularly his work on Paranoia Agent. While the writing was pretty damn solid before, it’s at this point that it really started to spread its figurative wings and move on to something greater. Whether that’ll hold true for the rest of the series’ run remains to be seen, but I’m happy to be more than a bit surprised by this strange turn of events.
This officially covers all of the shows that I’ve kept up to date on, but it’s by no means a comprehensive list. The second part will have the series that I’ve dropped or neglected to keep up with for whatever reason, so look forward to it.