This monthly roundup we have a first. An anime appearing in both the What’s Hot and the What’s Not So Hot portions. Which one of us is correct? Clearly me, but I’ll let you make your own mind up on how correct Scamp is.
Scamp: Knights of Sidonia
Knights of Sidonia has some issues, particularly regarding characterisation and how the main character is basically a giant Yuji Everylead the Bland surrounded by inexplicably interested ladies. However I’m able to look over that for the best goddamn sci-fi action and world building. I genuinely really want to know what’s up with the Gauna and their odd relationship with those magical spears that are the only things that can kill them. Plus the reveal of that giant half human, half gauna thing was superb. The best monsters are the ones that look like they’re alternate world monsters trying to recreate humans but got completely the wrong end of the stick and created this hideous monstrosity that in only a very vague way resembles a human. Gauna are terrifying but what’s weirdly more terrifying is that they’re aware of humanity rather than just being mindless monsters.
Shinmaru: Hunter x Hunter
Sorry, I tried to go for something new, something fresh, something different … but in my heart of hearts, there was nothing that struck me more this month than Hunter x Hunter. Nearly everything in the series built to last week’s ridiculously emotional episode. I remember when the remake began and most everyone was cross at how light-hearted and happy go lucky the beginning was.
Looking back now, I think that was the right move. Yes, Hunter x Hunter is a dark series, but how can we fear the dark if we don’t know the light? We’ve seen Gon at his happiest, as a plucky kid who perseveres through the worst circumstances with a dream of becoming a Hunter and reuniting with his father. We think he can overcome everything. Then the Chimera Ant arc happens. This poor kid is put through the grinder. He has to experience things nobody should, much less a kid that young. The pathos on display would not have been as strong if the series were relentless darkness from the start. And of course it’s not as if the Chimera Ant arc is all about darkness and nothing else — we see great humanity on display in the most unlikely places.
This has been a great month for humanity touching my heart with Hunter x Hunter and Ping Pong.
Inushinde: No Game No Life
Is it the best show of the season? Not by a long shot. Is it the most consistently entertaining, toying with profundity and maintaining levity at the same time? Kind of, yeah. Is the color palette permanently burned into my retinas? Definitely. I probably won’t remember anything more than the faintest details and/or how bright it is a month from now, but credit where credit is due, No Game No Life proves that Strip-Paintball can be fun /and/ skeevy.
What’s not so hot
Scamp: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
If you’ve been reading our weekly posts then you’re probably already aware that I’m not that into Stardust Crusaders. It’s been improving slightly lately, but not in ways that are fixing my significant issues with it. I’m not interested in the battles themselves and don’t get much enjoyment from seeing how they play out. Even when the solution is more imaginative, I find it difficult to care too much when the rules of stands is pretty arbitrary. The whole story is hard to be invested in when there is really only one plot point hanging over the characters and the rest is just filling space until we reach Dio. It’s decently fun and far from being a bad show, but it’s a long way off what I got from the first season. This is why it pains me to see people say it’s perfectly acceptable to jump straight to Stardust Crusaders. Yes you can do that, but why would you want to? You would be skipping the genuinely great anime to watch a merely OK one.
The finale redeemed the final arc of Chaika a bit with some fun stuff (including the most moe chest burst in recorded history) and a nice twist at the end, but it really isn’t as good as the rest of the series. The cartoony grimdark made me laugh much more than it creeped me out or whatever the intended effect was. Yeah, OK, kid with knives who wants to carve people up, you’re sure a creepy little goober. Yeah, sure, compartment full of bloody women, you’re definitely terrifying and not super dumb. And as hilarious as the chest burster moment is, it just makes the fake-outs look all the dumber. (Guess that’s why you go with the light-hearted scene — nobody actually believes that character is dead.) And personally, I like the shades of gray in the series more when it’s groups of characters who aren’t necessarily evil who are at odds rather than the whole revenge plot in this arc. Still, I enjoyed Chaika as a whole and am looking forward to the next part when it airs.
Inushinde: Knights of Sidonia
Brynhildr was my first choice to go here, but I came to the realization that it achieved all I wanted to, by being bafflingly dumb and strangely engaging for it. It’s definitely of shitty quality all around, but I wasn’t disappointed or revolted in any way.
On the other hand, there are quite a few gripes that I ended up having with Knights of Sidonia, especially in regards to the none-too-sudden onset of Anime Original Ending Syndrome. The final arc did touch on some intriguing plot points, but it only touched on them long enough to be awkward, and not long enough to develop a decent connection beyond the barest of context. It didn’t even try to keep several balls in the air at once; all it did was point to most of the balls and give their existence cursory acknowledgement. The end result was lazy and haphazard, two things that Knights of Sidonia avoided being up to that point.
While I’m happy that there’s a second season, the mad rush toward the end to catch up to key plot points was extremely jarring in what was an otherwise deliberate endeavor. There’s no doubt that it’s one of the best non-sequels of the season, but it fell short of the nauseating heights reached by Ping Pong.