We did finally get some news this month. At first I was rather dismissive about the shutting up shop of Bandai USA, because why the hell would I care about what distributors in America? That is, until I realised this was a wider strategy on the part of Bandai in Japan, which meant they were also shutting down Beez, their European branch. Damn, they have some stuff I want to eventually buy when I have money! But maybe I’m just a backward thinker here. Sometimes I wonder why on earth I give two craps about a physical copy of the release, especially since anime seems to be moving in the direction of the super-expensive collector edition box sets. As much as I love Madoka, I cannot justify that price if we get similar prices to what the US is getting. I should really get a Crunchyroll account again, because that’s what I really care about. An instant easy access to anime that also helps the creators.
I wonder when my last A Grade was?
A large part of me really wants to mark this lower for all it’s pointless meandering dialogue and pedo smut. But there’s just something about this series. It’s taken a pretty standard boring formula and, with the combination of Shinbo at his nuttiest and Nision’s long-winded dialogue, create an anime that is truly unique. In many ways, the flaws I may have with the series are necessary evils to achieve its goal. Yes a lot of the dialogue feels pointless and yes the smut is off-putting, but take those away and you diminish what makes it tick in the first place.
B+ Daily Lives of Higschool Boys
I was all prepared to give this an A after the first episode, but each one since then has gotten progressively weaker. But still, behind all that there’s a satirical edge that puts Nichibros far above its peers. The comedy has more than just in-the-moment laughs. It’s those kinds of jokes that stick with you beyond the experience of watching it. The mockery of pretentious nonsense dialogue in the Wind is Troubled sequence. The pinning of every problem a teenage boy has on their mothers. The fact that they devoted an entire episode to mocking obnoxious teenage girls. It has that edge to it, I just hope the downward trend doesn’t continue.
B Thermae Romae
You know that empty feeling you get after you finish a great anime? I’m not entirely sure why, but I got that after I finished Thermae Romae. This show was fun, clever, witty and surprisingly charming. It didn’t have much to it, but the repetition of the jokes actually ended up adding to it. The small wait you got before Lucius’ eyes sparkle upon eating a new brand of food makes the eventual payoff that much sweeter. As much as I want more, keeping it to 3 episodes ensured the joke never got old. Still a shame they animated it in the stupid shitty flash, but a great little series nonetheless.
B Persona 4
It’s the usual case with Persona 4. Some episodes that feel like they should work are let down by poor delivery and pointless straying away from the main story. But then we’ll change episodes, or even change scenes, and suddenly Persona 4 is back to being brilliant again. A scene nails the timing of a joke or reveal. The direction the story takes is fascinating. How it turns an established formula on its head and does something clever with it. Persona 4 could have been great if they put more time and effort into it. What we get instead is something that flashes brilliance, which is at least enough to keep my enthusiasm for the series high.
B- Future Diary
Fucking Future Diary. Episode 15 was fantastic, brilliant, completely nuts and yet cleverly plotted. It throws out these kinds of episodes every now and then, only for the subsequent episode to promptly fall back to an awful lot of it being stupid. I don’t know why the author feels like he needs those dumb slapstick moments. It’s not like the crazy parts aren’t plenty funny by themselves. It’s when it melds the two that it shines. It’s even more annoying than Persona 4′s dumb moments because Future Diary’s highs are that much higher, yet its lows are also that much lower. Future Diary at its best is top 30 material. I’d like to see what this mangaka makes next, just to see if he can fix the problems this has.
B- Aquarion EVOL
Aquarion is dumb. Whatever you take away from its relatively high ranking in this list, don’t mistake it for me thinking this show is incredibly clever or anything. But there’s something just inherently funny about the concept of basing an entire series around adolescent raging hormones powering giant robots. They’ve just gone so far and are so dedicated to this concept that the jokes and unintentional humour it pulls from these situations are very entertaining. I can’t say I give two shits about the plot, but I am most certainly entertained by how it has stretched its premise.
B- Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing
Oh Fam. Fam Fan Fan. I feel like I’ve exhausted everything I had to say about this series already. Apart from Fam and maybe the music, everything else about this series is great. But so much of the screentime is taken up with indulging in Fam’s mind-boggling brainless energy that it drags down everything with it. Someone drop a giant anvil on her head, and then maybe I’ll be back on board with this series.
B- Natsume Yuujinchou 4
I guess I have to give credit to Natsume for producing some very solid episodes this month. The franchises strength has always been its storytelling. Single episodic stories still works for this series. But it’s also incapable of shaking that feeling that there really is no more overarching story to tell anymore. The fact that they went back into Natsume’s past again to dredge up another comparison between young and old Natsume shows the strains of where this franchise is desperately searching round to find something new to distract us with. To be fair, it is working, but eventually fandom will collectively throw their hands up in despair claiming “I do not care anymore argh!”. Or maybe that will be just me.
C- Bodacious Space Pirates
OK, this is starting to get silly. We’re 4 episodes in and nothing has happened. The series quickly turned into Odin. Space sailing with lots of characters running around pushing flashing buttons. The writing and dialogue may be down to earth and well-written, but its all useless if it goes nowhere. Please start to make some stuff happen Space Pirates. You have been completely outclassed my Aquarion. Friggen Aquarion, the show with some of the dumbest writing around, yet it’s still far more entertaining than you are. Where’s that energy your crazy OP indicates there will be?
I think I watched this back in December, but forgot to include it in that monthly roundup, so here it is instead. Maybe I skipped it because I hadn’t a clue what to write about. It was certainly colourful and energetic and a joy to just look at if you’re into that kind of thing. Storywise though, it was a mumbled jumbled mess of ideas that didn’t form a coherent process that just left me feeling dazed and kind of annoyed. It had that Cencoroll problem of, as a first episode, I’d be interested in checking out more, but as a once off it feels disjointed and pointless. It they decide to pick up more, then cool. With Black Rock Shooter coming up, there is precedent set for one shot episodes turning into full series. It’s just a shame they picked, you know, Black Rock Shooter instead of the likes of Cencoroll or Kyousogiga.
D+ Recorder to Randsell
It’s not bad, I guess. There is something rather bizarrely amusing about the sight of what appears to be a grown man acting like a child. But that’s kind of all it has, and it doesn’t really do enough with it. Thermae Romae and Detroit Metal City proved that your one gag can be pushed if you use it right, but this doesn’t. Inoffensive and OK for a quick grin, but I can’t work up the effort to watch anymore.
D+ Brave 10
Brave 10 gets a lot of basics right and that makes it tolerable to watch. The characters all have distinct personalities. They give you an instant idea of what the plot will be about. The pacing is done correctly so that key events happen at key stages of the show. In many ways, whoever has adapted this has done a great job getting the best out of this story. But it’s so unremarkable and bland, I just found it hard to give a crap about what’s going to happen. It’s just sorta average, and I don’t have the patience for average.
D Hunter X Hunter
There was a point in episode 14 where I realised I had to stop watching this. The characters took out the numbers that would say who they had to fight. The classic shounen tournament model of being excited about which characters would be facing off. That is, until I realised I did not care about a single one of the potential match ups. Killua vs Gon? Nah. Kurapika vs Leorio? Meh, really don’t care. If you’ve gone 13 episodes and I still don’t care about any of the characters, you don’t deserve anymore attention. Dropped.
D Basket Army
Back in 2008, I remember seeing episode 1 of some random web series pop up on torrent trackers in the middle of a season. I had no idea what it was. It never appeared on any season preview or anything. But, on a whim, I downloaded it anyway and ended up absolutely loving what I saw. That series was Time of Eve, and because of that I’m always willing to give whatever crazy OVA series pops up a chance. But based on the first episode, Basket Army isn’t worth your attention. We’ll have to wait a bit longer for the next Time of Eve.
D- Senki Zesshou Symphogear
In the end, there’s only so long I can watch something this stupid ironically before I cave in. Rio Rainbow Gate was special in that regard, and Nymphogear lost it pretty quickly. A combination of nothing happening for large chunks of the episodes and the desperate attempts to be self-aware that just felt pathetic sapped my enjoyment out of it. It’s a fucking dumb show, even dumber than Aquarion if you can believe that. But it lacks the underlying humour of the concept that makes Aquarion work. Girl Singing while Fighting is cool and all, but they do nothing with it.
My god this show is bad. Bad bad bad. The horrific BGM that tries to dramatically cut out every single time someone shuts a door or turns around. The cuts to dolls in a desperate attempt to create a creepy atmosphere. How they use the storytelling device of “ooh something happened but we’re going to draw it out for longer by not telling you”. The entire 3rd episode consisted of almost nothing other than that. Plus there was the end of episode 3. If you’re doing all this creepy atmosphere thing, maybe it would be tolerable if there was a genuine sense of the normal being creepy. But it’s as if they went “boy, this story sure is boring. Quick, kill someone” and we get a character die by falling on their umbrella. Fucking stupid beyond belief.
E+ Highschool DxD
The only reason I was watching this was as a though experiment to see how long my theory that it had strong feminist leanings would last. Turns out not very long. It turned very quickly into the girls actually conforming to sexualised stereotypes rather than subverting them. But it did serve as an interesting counterpoint to Nisemonogatari. Despite there being tits everywhere, Highschool DxD is not sexy, while Nisemonogatari most certainly is. It’s like throwing some tits on-screen is meant to be humour. It’s like the difference between a gentleman’s club stripper and a crack whore. One goes a lot further, but the other is most definitely sexier.