It really was high time I started including the year in these monthly roundups. I’ve been doing them since 2009, albeit in a slightly different format back then, so that means there’s been many different January Roundups. Some January’s have been better than others. Some had Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood still airing. Others had to do with Rio Rainbow Gate. I’m glad we live in a world where both can co-exist peacefully.
Scamp: Ghost in the Shell Arise
The best thing I watched this month was the Code Geass OVA, but I already wrote about that. Instead I’ll cover the other second episode of an OVA from an established franchise with a different writing team behind it that still keeps the spirit of the original intact. The second episode of Arise was a big improvement on the first. Partly because it had fantastic action sequences, with the Logicoma proving once again that CG mecha are the future and anyone holding onto 2D mecha are old and smelly. That spider robot doing its best audition for Attack on Titan’s survey corps flying around these giant city highways in this fantastic car chase sequence was brilliant. More importantly though, I could actually follow the story this time, which wasn’t really the case for the last episode. They’re building up a neat little story with these episodes and I’m really interested to see if it holds together for the next two episodes.
Shinmaru: Hunter x Hunter
It’s been a while since a series has so clearly been the best thing I am watching from week to week. (Though Samurai Flamenco is creeping up there. YEAH, I SAID IT.) Hunter x Hunter has slowly, steadily built toward this final assault on the Chimera Ant King and his Royal Guard. Several layers have been placed: the personalities of all parties involved, their thought processes and particular movements, their ambitions, etc. All these moving parts set up and colliding in this huge puzzle that goes to hell almost immediately. The way Hunter x Hunter has deftly unfolded the scenario by moving back and forth in time and heightening the tension and adrenaline to ridiculous levels has made the battles so exciting. The animators have brought their A-game this month, as well. There have been some cool art shifts at key moments that have heightened the experience. Having this show be around for more than two years has been a pleasure.
I feel that this needs plenty of justifying, especially considering that I don’t enjoy the actual show. For all of its piss antics, gratuitous crotch shots, and weekly molestation, the ED manages to justify Imocho’s existence by being the most inexplicably disturbing minute and a half of the season. It isn’t that the ED by itself is great, though, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth putting here. It’s that no matter what kind of dramatic turn the series might take, it will always be ended by a mascot schoolgirl doing terrifying things. It’s a not so silent protest of the absolute dreck that precedes it, instantly nullifying any piss shenanigans. I’ll probably end up dropping Imocho at some point, so I felt that I had to give credit where credit was due. Imocho proves that anything can be made better by shitty denpa and existential terror.
What’s not so Hot
I think think OP is a good symbol for Nobunagun. At first I saw it and thought “oh snap, something different presented in an interesting fashion”. A heavy metal OP made a nice change of pace from endless jpop. But then I watch it some more and realise the actual animation in the OP is the same you see in every anime OP ever just with different colours and I realise that while heavy metal makes a change from jpop, it’s not actually good heavy metal. For all its eccentric presentation style, Nobunagun is remarkably stale. The formula is really rote. Normal girl gets magical power, rejects power originally, then goes through training, then first real battle. There’s so little done to spice things up, and what they do change comes off poorly. Perving on the clones was just outright creepy and made me uncomfortable, and all the dialogue is pretty bland. As much as I like shifting colours, they do so little with the framing of shots to make them more exciting and dynamic. It’s a layer of poorly applied polka-dot wallpaper over something that ultimately isn’t that interesting anyway.
Shinmaru: Nobunaga the Fool
A double dose of Nobunaga! I’m sure y’all have noted by now that I love dumb shit. (Of course, I wouldn’t be an anime fan if I didn’t like dumb stuff, but I digress.) I generally like things that Macross creator Shoji Kawamori dips his fingers in. Whatever one can say about the man, he certainly has a flair for the ridiculous and bombastic while keeping characters likable enough that the viewer can stick with them in these crazy worlds. With Nobunaga, however, I wasn’t feeling the craziness beyond, of course, tuba-toting Leonardo da Vinci voiced by Tomokazu Sugita. It’s a mishmash of historical figures with generic anime personalities in a setting that is somehow both absurd and boring. It’s dumb, but it’s the genuinely dumb kind of dumb and not the fun kind of dumb. Maybe it gets more enjoyable weird (I dropped it after the second episode), but this season I just don’t have the time or patience to wait and see.
Inushinde: Wake Up, Girls!
Did you know that the entertainment industry has a tendency to be crass and exploitative? Yamakan sure does. Did you also know that it isn’t all sleazy reporters, indoctrinating dance instructors, and obessive fans, and that many people involved work with each other to create a supportive, mutually beneficial environment? Yamakan sure doesn’t. Wake Up, Girls is annoyingly cynical, while lacking the writing to come across as anything but heavy-handed in its approach. The shaky art and characters constantly try to out-bland each other, and it’s difficult to pinpoint what it’s trying to do without assistance, which is helpfully provided by stupidly villainous, sleazy creeps in each episode. I wouldn’t say that it’s atrocious to the point of being unwatchable, and the main girls are at least somewhat sympathetic, but it says everything when girls with idol ambitions literally recite a pledge to be mindless puppets.