Autumn 2012 Anime Season Digest – Half Point
A wise old man once said: “with a great season of anime comes great responsibility”. Okay, maybe he didn’t. Nevertheless after arguably two slow seasons we are finely experiencing a flood of quality anime. Some I will be writing about for the first time. Others I’ve already covered in my first impression posts and will check back and see how they fare.
This season there are so many series you are bound to find something that you like. Contrary to prior seasons even those series that I found to be bad or lacking nonetheless have something to offer. With that in mind most series in my bad category have a chance of crossing over to my good list by the end of the season. The ugly will forever remain ugly though. Such are the laws of nature.
Bakuman (Season 3)
Was there ever any doubt this series will be in this section? Despite the lack of proper romantic relationships and the appearance of slight plot hiccups (which I discussed in my first impression post) Bakuman is still going strong. Mashiro and Takagi’s hard work and the small obstacles that litter their path keep each episode fresh. The episodes don’t end on big cliffhangers like those we used to have during the beginning of the second season, but perhaps that is a sign of Bakuman hitting its stride and not needing petty surprises to hook you in anymore.
Status: With its usual shounen jump charms the 3rd season of Bakuman doesn’t amaze me but more than lightens my day. I’m also a fan of Nano.RIPE and absolutely love the opening theme song they made. This one will definitely remain a keeper.
Sakamoto’s safe approach enables him and Taira to survive the cruel survival battle that is taking place on the island. He later meets up with Himiko again, and this time forces her to join him. But as they try to make their way to safety they are attacked by both a dangerous animal and a much more dangerous team of men. You sure don’t get a lot of time to rest on your laurels when you’re in hell.
If you are following the autumn 2012 anime season you have no excuse not to watch Btooom! This is one series that, for now, gets it all right: a compelling story, believable characters, a deadly game with rules that are discovered over time. It’s the whole package. The best part of Btooom! is in the little things. Like when Sakamoto sees a corpse and is about to throw up but, reminding himself that he must not waste food, swallows his own vomit back down. The game is also a blast to watch (pun intended). Even though the players have bombs that mimic those found in the video game Sakamoto craftily realizes they do not correlate perfectly to those found within the game. For example, in the real world only the bomb’s initial owner can use a bomb but if you diffuse a bomb it now belongs to you. This was not possible in the Btooom! video game. There are other things like wind and enemy-capturing that weren’t available in the game but are key to surviving here in the wild. Add to this the teams that are probably being formed all around the island, the special features of each bomb and new twists the organizers might set in the future and you have one hell of a show to watch.
Status: Btooom! is doing a great job. No complains here.
From The New World (Shinsekai Yori)
The kids learn some disturbing truths before finding themselves in the middle of battle between rival clans of Queerats. They manage to escape the battle unscathed but since they encountered a fake Minoshiro they now return to their village as law-breaking criminals.
From the New World treads a peculiar road – the road of compromises. To fully enjoy the outstanding plot this series has to offer you must accept the fact that its animation is very limited. The series is far more enjoyable when people are talking or little things happen on screen. Make an episode about all-out war though and you are in for some chaotic strings of images that can’t quite be considered as animation. The visuals also suffer from inconsistencies. The main characters are drawn quite nicely but the Queerats can often look very poorly drawn. However From the New World manages to stand out in the music department with easily the best soundtrack an anime has had all year. As you can see this show is clearly unbalanced.
Status: Even though we are quickly approaching the 12th episode mark this series is still only beginning to unfold. Whether or not it will be able to win us over with its plot despite its visual and animation shorcomings remains to be seen.
There isn’t a whole ‘lot I can say about Magi at this point. The series is still in its early construction period. Aladin still doesn’t have a clear goal and most of the cast isn’t around yet to support (or thwart?) him. I don’t really sympathize with Aladin or Morgiana since the former is a careless child and the latter is obviously here as a support character. I hope the story will soon focus on other characters like Sinbad or Alibaba because they seem more promising.
Status: I need more time to decide if this is a good investment or something more kiddy-oriented that adults should pass on. At this point I would advise you to watch Hunter x Hunter instead, simply because I can vouch for its potential.
Senomiya Akiho has a dream – to complete the robotics club real life-sized robot. But her club doesn’t have the funds nor the manpower for such a feat. That is to say, she only has pocket money and is the only member in the club. So she forces her childhood friend (and avid gamer) Yashio Kaito to join the club. After a while the robotics enthusiast Hidaka Subaru, the former Karate club member Daitoku Junna and the neet computer genius Furugoori Kona join the team. Together they will try to complete the giant robot Akiho dreams of.
I’ll be straight and to the point here. The notion behind Robotics;Notes bored me to tears. I don’t care about robotics at all. It’s a hobby I never did manage to enjoy or appreciate. It’s a good thing then that Robotics;Notes doesn’t focus one bit on robotics (or notes). It’s all about the characters, and there sure are some adorable goofballs among the crew. Right from the get-go Aki-chan won me over with her enthusiastic approach and cute figure. And when Furugoori came strolling along I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She is completely bonkers!
As you can see Robotics;Notes has some really nice assets in the character department. The use of tablets for personal communication is also really cool. In fact it surprises me that Robotics;Notes is the first show to feature tablets so prominently considering the technology has been there for years. The rest of the show fairs just fine. The art is pleasant, the music is also pleasant (reads: forgettable) and the story matters little. But for this show that’s just fine with me. There is a more serious issue at hand regarding the destruction of the world as we know it in the very near future, but at this point in the show it seems irrelevant. Maybe after they build the giant robot it will actually be used to save the world from something…
There are a few small trifles that I found to be disturbing in this show though. I initially though Kaito and Aki-chan are identical twins since they are such look-alikes. The fact that the show lists them as just friends seems fishy to me. And then there’s the Elephant-Mouse Syndrome Aki-chan suffers from. This syndrome causes her to experience five minutes of time in one second (that is, she freezes for five minutes and then experience those five minutes in a single second before unfreezing). The interesting thing is Kaito seems to be suffering from the exact opposite – he manages to see and act really fast within the time span of one second (just like superman). Are you sure he an Aki-chan are not brother and sister? Oh, well. Maybe the electronic waves emitted by this tablet-filled island are causing people to have identical hair and faces. Oh, and it also gives them strange superpowers. Go figure…
Status: Still watching this. Robotics;Notes is interesting, if not spectacular. And on a last note Belldandy from Oh My Goddess! also appears here, albeit in a petite digital form. I wonder if she is here to lure in old anime fans?
In the not-so-near future everyone has a device called psycho-pass implanted in them. The psycho-pass constantly measures their “crime level” and if it gets muddy enough you will be asked to undergo therapy treatments. There is a special police force that tracks down those potential criminals whose psycho-pass is muddy and nicely asks them to accompany them to therapy. If, however, the potential criminal refuses their suggestion the police force might use their specially designed gun to stun him/her. Furthermore, if the subject’s “crime level” is too high they might actually be marked for deletion, in which case the gun will kill them instead of stunning them. Into this special force enters Tsunemori Akane. She is a supervisor, which means she supervises the Enforcers as they take on criminals. The Enforcers are latent criminals in themselves who have agreed to cooperate with the police instead of rotting in prison. But Akane can’t really grasp the fact that the Enforcers are criminals and meddle more and more in their decision process.
Psycho-Pass had a lukewarm start. The first three episodes are simplistic to a fault and really come down to finding the culprit, pointing the gun and shooting him down. Certainly not what you would expect from a series with so many famous people in the staff roll. Thankfully episodes 4 and 5 introduce a storyline that makes clever (if still not outstanding) use of the advanced world Psycho-pass is set in. The inspectors and Enforcers encounter a group that kill important internet talents and set an impersonator who then uses the dead talents’ avatars to continue preach in their name. These episodes are an improvement over the first ones but don’t lack problems of their own. First, the inspectors and Enforcers are way underpowered. They don’t have any special equipment, just that one gun. When the hackers use a special holographic program to make everyone in an offline party look the same the policemen can’t do a thing about it. But this offline holographic parties are supposed to be common (Akane says that much) so how come the police doesn’t have a hologram disperser of some sort? Later on the hackers try to stall the police by making a room’s holodeck go haywire. The special guns the Inspectors and Enforcers carry all have a special feature that enables them to connect directly to the Oracle (I’m assuming it’s a super computer). Why don’t they use that link to instantly kill the holodeck or to turn off the electricity in the building? And the funniest part? They catch one of the hackers alive and kill him on the spot without bothering to interrogate him. Yeah, real smart you guys.
Status: I’m still watching this because I like the aesthetics and the “Minority Report” theme. The story and directing are desperately in need of improvement, but I have faith that as the series continues some of the stories will converge or lead to one elaborate case worth our time.
The Pet Girl of Sakurasou (Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo)
Due to his bad habbt of picking up stray cats Kanda Sorata is demoted from the regular high school dormitory to the infamous Sakurasou dormitory. There he meets a colorful crew of tenants: the playboy Jin, the genius (yet hyper) animator Misaki, the Hikikomori Ryuunosuke and the lousy dormitory landlord Chihiro (who’s also his homeroom teacher). Even though they are all uncommon people he manages to get by. That is until the strangest of all students arrive in town. Her name is Shiina Mashiro and she is a once-in-a-decade genius artist. Unfortunately for Sorata Mashiro’s genius tendencies all focus around art and when it comes to daily life she cannot even chose her panties by herself. So the Sakurasou residents assign Sorata for “Mashiro Duty”.
To say that you must suspend your disbelief in order to enjoy Pet Girl is not hardly enough to prepare you for this show. The characters are all extreme caricatures. Right now I’ll just focus on Mashiro, who can draw amazing art but won’t wear clothes if no one tells her to. There’s a limit to these things. Sure, some remarkable people in history are known to have been strong in one aspect of their life and weak in other aspects (Einstein anyone?) but this is ridiculous. I feel Pet Girl forcefully made Mashiro into a moron (in the real sense of the word) just to appeal to the moe crowds. The (quite offensive) name of the series also indicates this might be the case. But Pet Girl suffers from many other annoyances: too many lines are pure cliché, people are too eccentric, girls fall for the main character for no reason (he is a loser) and emotional scenes are strained unnaturally for extra juice.
That is not to say, however, that Pet Girl isn’t enjoyable. It deals with thoughtful subjects, like self-fulfillment and mutual support. But like all other things in Pet Girl, these subjects are not dealt with as they should so they aren’t as good as they could have been.
Status: I am enjoying Pet Girl and will keep watching it for now. But mark my words. If this series ends with Sorata making a video game with Mashiro making art for it, Jin writing the script and Misaki doing the animated sequences I am so going to give this series “The Ugly” title for this season.
Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online has fallen from grace a long time ago. The end of the first season was rushed and tasteless, but nothing could have prepared me for the atrocities that awaited me in SAO’s second season. Kirito clears Sword Art Online and returns to the real world. This was the series’ biggest opportunity to shine. An episode that shows what happened in the real world while everyone were trapped in SAO could have been interesting. An episode that shows Kirito’s rehabilitation after two years of plant-like status seemed mandatory. And what do we get? Nothing. The show nonchalantly skips ahead to a healthy looking Kirito who isn’t afraid to put on the same VR helmet that almost killed him. He discovers that Asuna is still in a comatose state and that her parents have arranged her to marry a research assistant called Sugou. Sugou has been a close friend of the family so the family decides unilaterally that he will be Asuna’s husband. Since Asuna is in a coma and a proper wedding can’t be held they intend to formally marry the two by adding Sugou as her husband in the family register. Hello? Earth to Sword Art Online? What parents would be so heartless as to marry their own daughter to a man while she is still in a coma. Think this is funny? Get this – Kirito and his sister are not related by blood and she is in love with him. To save Asuna Kirito once more dons his VR helmet and enters the MMORPG Alfheim Online. Of course his Alfheim Online avatar is identical to the one he had in Sword Art Online (because we wouldn’t want to see any original character designs at this point right? Yeah…). It so happens Kirito’s sister has been playing Alfheim Online with an avatar that looks exactly like Asuna and she is the first person Kirito meets in the game. Of course Kirito doesn’t realize his sister is the player he teams up with, despite the fact that her in-game avatar sounds exactly like his sister AND his sister has a giant poster of her avatar in her room. Yeah, SAO dropped to that low a level.
Sword Art Online’s most prominent trait is its continuous descent in quality. From what could have been a promising series remains only the stench of foul scriptwriting and the ever increasing-ridicule that was once its characters. Even though on the surface Sword Art Online might strike you as a decent show once you stick to watching it you will discover that what awaits you beneath the surface are only disappointment and disgust.
Status: Dropped after episode 17. But you probably already dropped this series long ago anyway.