2012 Summer Anime Season Retrospective
The 2012 summer anime season has ended and let’s face it – it wasn’t very good. But fear not, for I have found those shiny gold needles in the summer anime season haystack for you! There were one or two of those. I think…
Before we begin here’s a quick reminder. Being a bit burned out from watching 7+ series a season I decided to try a different approach during this summer season. I chose only series that I thought would appeal to me or generally looked like a good investment for my time. The only series I dropped mid-season was Humanity Has Declined, which I stopped watching because it just wasn’t my cup of tea. To read my full review of Humanity Has Declined, as well as the impressions the rest of the series have made on me mid-season, see Summer 2012 Anime Season – Half Point.
I love Kokoro Connect. I love it because it’s so simple yet rings so true. I love it because it is as intricate as its characters are. The characters in Kokoro Connect act absolutely real people. They have thoughts, feelings and a million other small factors that make them who they are. They are the center of the plot and what moves the plot. And their relationships and sanity are tested time after time in a series of cruel tests. As the series continues Taichi, Inaba, Aoki, Yui and Iori are finally relieved from their body-changing ordeal only to discover they now have “desire bursts”. When such a burst occurs to one of them he or she are controlled by it and lose their common sense on the subject. This totally shatters some of the characters and creates the biggest raft among the crew thus far. I won’t ruin the series by telling you what happens next because the biggest merit to Kokoro Connect is its story. The series is split into arcs. Each arc has a different subtitle, deals with a different ordeal and has a different ending theme. The first three arcs were titled Random People, Hurting Each Other at Random and Random Pasts. The final episode teases a future fourth arc called Random Ways.
Kokoro Connect is not entirely without faults. The story completely depends on the actions of normal children. This is its strong and its weak point. You might be disappointed by some of the episodes being a bit on the plain side. But that’s just how this type of show goes. It’s not a paranormal or a detective show where things are expected to begin peacefully and later get out of control. It’s a show about a couple of kids who are trying to keep their sanity and stick together throughout trails that seem specifically tailored to shock and weaken them. We still don’t know who’s behind all of their misfortune. If anything things are becoming more complicated on that end. Speaking of an end, this series doesn’t have one yet. As I wrote earlier the third arc ended at episode 13 with an obvious mention that another arc is about to begin. I hope it begins soon.
Verdict: I held very high expectations from each and every episode of this show and for the most part it kept me highly entertained in its simple yet touching way. It isn’t a must see anime but if you enjoy thoughtful and emotional series you will not regret watching Kokoro Connect.
Oda Nobuna No Yabou (The Ambition of Oda Nobuna)
Oda Nobuna No Yabou is a really confusing series. Each episode you are vaguely introduced to the current state of Nobuna’s campaign to united Japan. Then you are mercilessly thrown into situations where characters you’ve seen? before, but don’t quite remember who they are, act their respective parts. The scriptwriters even bothered to change the names of all the important characters a bit (for example: Ieyasu is called Motoyasu) just to make sure you’ll never find your left from your right while watching this. Yes, this is one confusing series but it’s also an entertaining one. Watching Yoshiharu use his wit to outsmart other warlords and win battlefronts for Nobuna is a joy. It’s also great that even though he is often made fun of by the girls he does have enough charm and ability to make them acknowledge him eventually. The music and visuals are top-notch and out of the hundred or so minor girl characters a few are genuinely cute enough for you to care (Goemon’s an awesome ninja). Halfway through the series some supernatural elements are introduced which the series could have done without. But let’s face it – if you suspend your belief enough to ignore the fact that most of the generals and elite soldiers are young girls than you won’t care much about adding magic into the fray. If anything Oda Nobuna No Yabou’s biggest fault is it’s mad-rush pacing. Battles are fought almost during all the episodes. If the pacing would have been just a little bit slower and people would talk more before jumping into battle I could have understood their situation better and perhaps enjoy the outcome a bit more. If Oda Nobuna No Yabou ever makes it stateside I hope whoever brings it over includes a nice episode guide with detailed explanation about the historical situation behind each battle. That way I can fully understand, and thus fully enjoy, all the intricate details behind this series’ story.
Verdict: Flashy and attractive enough to entertain. Your enjoyment from this show will greatly depend on your knowledge of the period and the working man (which are all in women form of course). If you don’t enjoy an all-girls crew in your anime or am allergic to lolis than you should stay away from this one.
Tantei Opera Milky Holmes: Alternative One –
Kobayashi Opera and the Five Paintings
Tantei Opera Milky Holmes: Alternative takes place in an alternative universe where detective Kobayashi (the girls’ mentor) is still alive and Milky Holmes never lost their Toys. The girls arrive to visit Kobayashi in London and happen to find a client in need of their detective services. She is looking for an oil painting stolen from her half a year ago. As it turns out other paintings from the same artist have also begun to disappear around town. Kobayashi and the Milky Holmes girls take the case and set out to find the culprit behind the paintings theft case.
Without a doubt Tantei Opera Milky Holmes: Alternative is the way a Milky Holmes anime should be. The girls have their Toys and are at top-notch condition. They are serious about solving the case and with their mentor Kobayashi around to guide them they don’t lose their focus. The plot, while a bit simple, is done in good taste. This OVA really is the first time we see the girls in full swing. I was surprised to see how effective Cordelia is as a detective. She has such an amazing Toys, but I would never have noticed if not for this OVA because in the main series she is too busy being a lunatic to use it. The OVA ends with the girls apprehending the culprit who stole the five oil paintings but several key mysteries remain unsolved and a continuation is expected.
Verdict: Milky Holmes can get even better than this OVA, but this alternative version is leaps and bounds better than that awful second season. Here’s hoping this OVA continues to move in this direction and possibly open the door for a better (third?) anime series.
Mysterious Girlfriend X – The Mysterious Summer Festival
Ueno and Oka want to go to the summer festival together. Going alone will expose them as a couple so they invite Tsubaki and Urabe to join them on a double date. It seems that a special string that can grant your romantic wishes come true is being sold at the festival. But when Urabe tries to get her hands of such a string she ends up more entangled than she thought. It falls on Tsubaki to rescue his girlfriend, which he does using the mysterious power of saliva!
The Mysterious Summer Festival is an OVA that was bundled with the limited edition of the 9th volume of the Mysterious Girl X manga in Japan. But don’t let the OVA label confuse you – The Mysterious Summer Festival is an extra episode for the TV series. It features the opening and ending themes from the original series and is just a minute or two longer than your usual TV episode. This episode continues the development in Tsubaki and Urabe’s relationship. Or rather it reminds us that they have become a fully-fledged couple. They still are the unconventional couple, but as charming and youthful as ever. The most interesting thing about this OVA is arguably the ending, in which we witness another couple with a weird tendency – a girl who who is in love with a mysterious boy. Yes, it is a couple mirroring Tsubaki and Urabe’s relationship and they even have their unique body liquid (tears) that help prove their love to each other.
Verdict: The Mysterious Summer Festival is a nice extra episode that should be watched after the TV series. It’s no replacement for a second season (which will hopefully arrive in the future) and does not stand on its own. Those who already watched the TV series will find more of what they liked here. Others should try watching the TV series first.
Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online is a reckless rollercoaster – a series that will constantly surprise you, both for the better and the worse. Some episodes are terribly impressive while others are just plain terrible. I have a lot of issues with this series. The battle choreography is excellent but the fights are fought so slow it seems like they were shot in slow motion. When fast strikes are used they are blurry and unattractive. It’s like I’m watching a real MMORPG and there’s a lag spike in every battle! I’ve also noticed that SAO has an impressive music score but the music volume is so low that you can hardly hear it, let alone enjoy it. These are just two of many “double-edged” issues SAO has. Sadly Sword Art Online is slowly, but consistently, losing its focus and becoming less and less enjoyable. In one of the episodes Kirito finds a computer terminal and somehow manages to hack into the Sword Art Online system, find his way around and get the data he wants from there. And he does so in 5 seconds. Moments like these demolish any feeling of realism SAO might have had, and yet this series consistently tries to present itself as a serious life and death struggle. It just doesn’t work. I can’t feel any danger, don’t feel any compassion or sorrow for those players who die and am thoroughly unimpressed by the MMORPG game mechanics. The best thing about SAO is really the growing relationship between Kirito and Asuna. But it’s not enough to support the series and the last two or three episodes in the first season are really down the gutters.
Status: To be honest I only classified Sword Art Online as good because it was much better relatively to other series during this season. SAO is mediocre at best and at this rate I’m not sure it will ever improve. I’ll continue watching it during the next season and hope for the best, but if you haven’t started watching it yet there are much better series with similar outlines. If you want a solid science fiction about MMORPG check .hack//Sign. If you prefer a more action-oriented fantasy story with MMORPG elements check out The Tower of Druaga. Both series are better than Sword Art Online in their respective fields.
Muv Luv: Total Eclipse
Muv Luv: Total Eclipse is one of those series that had potential for greatness but did every bad move possible. The story is boring. From a fairly early stage the characters are all taken to a remote part of the world where they are guranteed to rot in boredom while the rest of the world fight off the BETA alien threat. Consequently there are almost no battles in this mecha series. But I could forgive both the story and the (almost nonexistent) battles if only the characters were appealing enough. Amazingly the characters are Muv Luv’s biggest turn-off. The main characters are all selfish and stiff people, while the supporting characters have such a thin shadow they are not worth even mentioning here. The two characters that receive the most screen time are Yuuya and Yui, which are forced into becoming lovers in the most unrealistic way possible. Since both of them have terrible personalities and can’t stand each other they spend most of their time arguing. It seems that arguing is the best recipe for love because even though that’s all they do by the end of the 12th episode Yui has already fallen hard for Yuuya. Heck, even after they establish their strange love for each other they keep arguing. I’ve used one of the many many scenes in which they argue as the series’ screenshot because this is the real essence behind this show. Two people arguing and not a BETA in sight. I’m sorry but watching two people argue for ten or so episodes is not my ideal way to spend my time, nor is it remotely enjoyable in any way.
Status: I’ve dropped this series after the 12th episode. It’s hilarious to think this series is heading for a 24 (possibly more) episodes’ run when the first 12 episodes did so poorly and showed so little. It’s a boring, and at times infuriating, series that will only disappoint you dearly. Do not watch this.
One Off is a four episodes OVA that tells the story of Shiozaki Haruno – a young girl who lives in a small mountain city. Her city was built around the mountain and the houses were built so far away from each other that most people use scooter on a daily basis to get around. Even a trip to the city’s (only) café forces the residents to get on their scooters. Haruno has become accustomed to the forsaken city which she calls her home. Time doesn’t move very fast here but Haruno has her friends to keep her company. One day her parents hire a new employee to help around the house. But Cynthia B. Rogers is not your regular employee – she’s an Australian with a very outgoing attitude who’s been traveling around the world on her huge bike. Haruno can’t help but see the obvious difference in character between her and Cynthia. When faced with the bustling Australian woman Haruno begins to think that she doesn’t have what it takes to leave the village and wonder the world. Since this is exactly what she eventually planned on doing Haruno gets a bit depressed. Cynthia notices that and tries to cheer her up.
Where do I start? One Off is a train wreck, and not an impressive one at that. It basically fails at everything. It doesn’t have a story, the music is appalling, Haruno’s voice acting is terrible (I lost all the respect I had for Gotou Saori) and the character designs look terrible (they look like a bad plagiarism of the anime Tamayura). Cynthia is a very stereotypical foreigner. You see, she’s a blond and a beautiful foreigner to boot so everyone admires her even though all she does is act like a complete fool. She tries to help Haruno feel better about herself, but there’s no real incentive for us to care. One Off has no hook: It doesn’t have any interesting characters or an interesting story and it sure isn’t a visual or audio wonder.
Verdict: I’ve only bothered to watch the first two episodes and will not be watching the last two in October. This was really really bad. It’s a complete waste of time.
Salmon-chan (Shake-chan in Japanese) is a short 6 minutes OVA created by Japanese students as their graduation work in art school. It’s an amateur OVA. These are actually pretty common in Japan since they serve as a perquisite to graduation in some art schools. But very little of those amateur OVAs find their way into the net. Salmon-chan follows a fish that was unfortunate enough to be born with several human features. The poor fish just want to be eaten like any other Salmon in Japan but both humans and animals don’t have any craving for such odd a fish. Thus begins a round of comical one-shots in which Salmon-chan devises creative ways to convince others to eat him/her/it.
Salmon-chan isn’t a full-fledged anime. It’s a bare-bone OVA with simple animation, almost no talking and some little musical notes to spice it up. I won’t judge it because so little of its kind are accessible for us to see. It’s no Kowarekake no Orgel but if you are interested in amateur animated films you might want to watch it before it disappears into the ether forever. Unlike the other series in this summary Salmon-chan is not a commercial title and as such isn’t available on any rental service (Hulu, Crunchyroll and the likes). You’ll have to download it if you wish to see it. And when you’re done with the OVA you can also download a paper model of Salmon-chan.
That’s it for the 2012 summer anime season retrospective. If you’ve seen a series I haven’t mentioned and want to recommend it or would like to offer your take on one of the series I did cover voice yourself and leave a comment below!