All in all, this has been one hell of a stratifying season quality-wise. Either the shows are a noticeable cut above the swill that usually make the monthly Best Of lists, or they’re terrible to an almost depressing degree; either because of being wholly mediocre or being too ambitious for their own good, these shows don’t make use of whatever they have at their disposal. Out of these many, many bad shows though, there are a few that somehow manage to worm their way into my heart enough that I don’t want to give up on them.
So whether it’s because of some kind of defective neural wiring in the part of my brain that governs quality control or actual improvement on the shows’ parts, here are four that I went into fully expecting to be shit, thought were shit for a time, but now think aren’t quite as shit. The qualifications for falling into this group are as difficult to match as they are extensive; basically if a show isn’t like Hyouka and doesn’t make me want to play absentminded knife games with my fingers to stave off boredom while watching, it ends up here. So without further ado…
4. Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? of the Dead
The first season of KoreZombie was one half aggressively dumb comedy that managed to strike a surprising balance between clever running gags and parody, and one half dull plot that didn’t know what to do with itself. The first few episodes of the second season somehow managed to merge the two warring halves into one unpleasant whole that, while still pretty funny, didn’t have the same spark as the last season due to an evident lack of direction. The only remotely inspired part was the introduction of a new alcoholic character “fairy” that would council Ayumu during the increasingly Schadenfreude-tastic state of his school life.
The Turning Point:
Unfortunately, it came too late to put it higher up on this list, despite being of overall better quality than most of the other entries. Episode 7, when the school festival hit its zenith, is also what I’d call the zenith of the series. The jokes never got stale, and the timing was unusually good for something that couldn’t manage its gags nearly as well for the first six episodes. And the big revelation, which I won’t spoil because the surprise is what makes it so fucking great, actually caught me off guard. I now don’t regret sticking with this as long as I have, and I have this episode to thank for it.
3. Medaka Box
I railed horribly against Medaka Box in my first impressions post, and for good reasons. The first episode itself was an unbearable chore, focusing more on how “hilariously” perfect Medaka was and the many irrelevant tasks of her student council presidency. At least Shiranui wasn’t too annoying, I guess.
The Turning Point:
When the series became slightly more focused on the rest of the student council, mostly the torture that Zenkichi had to go through as a mediocre foil to the all-around perfect Medaka, and the unorthodox, always plot-convenient ways of the school itself, it finally became tolerable. And since episode 8 heralded the beginning of the first big battle arc, or so I’ve heard, I can only expect it to improve from here on out. Don’t get me wrong, Medaka Box is still woefully lacking in many ways, but the longer that it goes on, the more that I think that this isn’t necessarily because of bad content. If its goal was to get me to read the manga just to see if it actually lives up to my supposition, it certainly succeeded. Bravo Medaka Box, you crafty, shitty show, you.
I giggled at the heavy-handed gun innuendo in the first episode, but other than that it was almost as banal and pointless as Medaka Box. The episodes themselves were pretty hit and miss; when they focused on the actual gunplay with the occasional piece of awkwardly-inserted assault rifle trivia narrated with baffling enthusiasm, they were watchable and even pretty entertaining. When the one-note personalities were pitted against each other in protracted wars of attrition over who could out-bland everyone else, it was borderline unwatchable.
The Turning Point:
None of my negatives from above have abated in recent episodes, but they manage the odd feat of almost becoming selling points for the series. Everything, from the clumsy narration to the lack of depth to any of the characters, adds up to one surprisingly endearing whole that gets better with age. If there’s any argument for my ability to reason being compromised by a parasite gnawing away at my gooey grey brain matter, this is probably it.
1. Sengoku Collection
The formula of genderbent figures from the Sengoku Era is nothing new, but it almost never succeeds, something that Sengoku Collection has unfortunately not deigned to change. After a strong first episode, it spent most of the follow-up wallowing in poorly-executed, yet decently-written scripts. The characters mostly fell into stock archetypes, barely maintaining any level of interest. This is as close to wasted potential as a show can get, and I can’t even figure out why it doesn’t quite work, since nothing’s particularly wrong with it.
The Turning Point:
Sengoku Collection’s quality fluctuates too often to point out exactly where it actually ends up being good; it’s less a turning point and more several instances of being far above what it usually is. Of special mention is episode 4, where Masamune takes revenge on a crime lord in a plot vaguely reminiscent of Kill Bill, and episode 5, where Bokuden is made to look like a threat by a skeevy documentary filmmaker. There are many others with equally clever plots, but they just aren’t in the same league. If Sengoku Collection were more consistent, it’d be one fantastic show, but it just can’t shake free of whatever’s keeping it dismal.
It remains to be seen whether these shows will implode on themselves, or continue to improve to the point that I actually consider recommending them. I wouldn’t count any of these shows as “good”, but their entertainment value for me is undeniable, and I don’t know if I should feel ashamed of that or not.