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Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer 2014 Anime First Impressions: Part 2

Jinsei:  This series isn't good, but it isn't exactly bad either.  It has inappropriate and pointless fanservice scenes.  The people don't talk in a natural way.  The situations seem forced and unrealistic.  Even so, there's good humor to be harvested here, and the characters are all likable enough.  There's no point discarding this series while it's still entertaining.  Pass.

Majimoji Ruromo:  A very boring show.  A random loser gets the unearned power to have his wishes granted.  He proceeds to halfheartedly pursue his perverted heart but always gives up midway and instead does the 'decent' thing.  A very boring character and a very boring premise.  Very different from Lelouche gaining the power of Geass and deciding to conquer the world with it with fanatical, life-sacrificing dedication.  Can we have more Code Geass please?  Fail.

Persona 4 Golden the Animation:  This show was pretty much the same as the original Persona 4, which is to say bad.  I hate the art style, the fight scenes, the speech mannerisms of the characters, and pretty much everything else about this show.  Oh well.  Fail.

Zankyou no Terror:  A mysterious show that will take more time to explain people's motives, the background setting, etc.  Nothing in particular looks bad about it, but until I know what's going on, I can't say anything that's happening is good either.  This show merits further investigation.  Pass.

Tokyo ESP:  An episode full of mindless violence where the strong bullied the weak, while the government kept acting like this was a minor crime or terrorist incident when in fact it was a full-out genocidal war.  I'm unimpressed by both sides of this conflict.  One seems demented while the other is completely incompetent.  However, from next episode on it will be equally powered espers fighting each other, so at least one issue will go away.  This show has a lot in common with Deadman Wonderland, Ga Rei Zero, and Read or Die.  So long as the esper vs. esper fights are action packed and exciting, there's value to be had in continuing watching.  Pass.

Rokujouma no Shinryakusha?!:  This was an excellent beginning.  Before the first absurd thing can even sink in, a new absurd thing immediately introduces itself equally out of the blue.  The characters pile up all inside this tiny room, and hilarity ensues.  However, an initially humorous premise can get tiresome very quickly unless the humor stays fresh and novel.  How can this successful beginning translate into future reliability?  I really don't see where the story can go from here.  I hope I'll be surprised by the author's brilliant ingenuity, but I have a sinking feeling this will be more like Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretora than Haruhi Suzumiya.  Pass.

Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:  If I had to use one word to describe this series, it would be 'immature.'  The casual reliance on ecchi fanservice could be forgiven if it was standalone, but the actual problem is that it's part of a larger pattern of indulging in childish desires.  The characters in this story are all arrogant, rude, violent, and demanding of each other.  No one backs down, tries to be nice, or attempts to understand one another.  It's just verbal, physical, and sexual abuse on all fronts at all times.  It's like everyone is still in their terrible twos, incapable of empathy for anyone else, demanding the whole world center around them and bow down to their whimsical desires.  This series should try again once its characters have grown up and learned how to treat each other politely.  Fail.

Meanwhile, Aldnoah Zero had an excellent second episode.  However, it's unclear where the series will go from here.  Suisei no Gargantia also had an excellent initial two episodes, and look how that went.  Barakamon had a terrible second episode, featuring stupid statements like there's no such thing as talent (tell that to Mozart, who started composing music by age 3), allowing kids to run rampant all over a guy's house while breaking stuff and hitting him, and a psychopathic nurse that attempts to kill her patients instead of heal them.  Rarely have I seen such a dropoff in quality between episodes 1 and 2.  But no matter, with Rokujouma no Shinryakusha?! and Aldnoah.Zero doing so well, the summer season is still looking better than ever.

Meanwhile, the second episodes of Hanayamata and Ao Haru Ride were so good I was left thinking to myself, boy do I have a good eye for anime.  The fact that I put them in my rankings immediately was completely validated by this week's episodes.  They were both fantastic, some of the best stuff I've ever seen.  Not only does so much happen within each episode, but it also leaves the ground open ended for yet more progress and possibilities to occur next week as well.  That's good storytelling.  It reminds me of Mikakunin de Shinkoukei, which also managed to pack a punch every episode while still leaving you wishing for more.  The art and music for both is just fantastic, too.

Meanwhile, Dragon Ball Kai is reminding me of a tremendous problem with Dragon Ball as a whole.  The original Dragon Ball series, which is drawn and animated at a childish level, with terrible background music, endless filler embedded within every episode, and long pauses that extend every scene to a painful torture, is simply unwatchable.  Even the biggest fans of the series would be hard pressed to sit down and marathon Dragon Ball.  Dragon Ball Z was much better than Dragon Ball in all ways, and even Z needed to be updated into the new Kai form before it could take on the role of an epic series.  How much more so, then, did the original Dragon Ball need a Kai remake?  And just editing the original anime wouldn't work very well in this case.  The drawings were so bad that it wouldn't look good no matter what you did with the original source.  Naturally, a remaster would be better than nothing, where huge portions of each episode were cut out as unnecessary filler and the remainder strung back together into a coherent story.  But really Dragon Ball just needs to be redone from scratch.  And this is where the problem lies.  Dragon Ball doesn't seem like it's going to get a remaster, but the Dragon Ball portion of the story is around 2/5 of the manga as a whole.  If you leave 2/5 of your story on the cutting board, the remainder isn't a complete story, plus it lacks the continuity a long series is supposed to thrive under.

Dragonball Kai, as it stands, just introduces a ton of characters out of the blue you know nothing about.  These characters know all about each other -- but you know nothing about them.  To make matters worse, important details about the past are still relevant to the future of the series. For instance, the fact that Kuririn is killed in the past is why he can't just be revived by the Dragon Balls once more.  Or how Goku ended up marrying Chichi and having his son Gohan.  Or how Goku used to have a hard time against foes like Tenshinhan, Yajirobe, Piccolo, Kuririn and Yamucha, which gives you more respect for them than their disastrous showing against Nappa, and more respect for Goku for advancing so quickly ahead of his peers.  Or the source of many of the techniques they use in the future against later villains.  Starting in the middle of the series just doesn't make any sense.  Just look how bad it made Tokyo ESP's first episode!  They did the exact same thing, except with a far less important work, and people are screaming about how they mangled the manga there already.

Perhaps cutting the beginning of a story is better than cutting the end.  It's easier to 'get up to speed' than 'forever in vain wait at a cliffhanger,' but if 2/5 of a story is missing from any section of a story, that's still an unforgivable amount.  And just the fact that a Dragon Ball anime exists does not mean that section of the manga isn't missing.  It's so badly adapted that you're better off never watching it at all, even though the source material is about as good as the portion covered by Kai.  With 2/5 of Dragon Ball basically non-existent, I can only rate Dragonball to be 3/5 as good as the complete form would have been.  It's great that the Buu arc got animated, but that was only 1/5 of the manga or so that was missing.  The Dragon Ball portion is 2/5, and it still hasn't gotten the Kai treatment it needs.  Until something is done about this beginning portion, Dragon Ball is still a phantom/shadow of its true self, and its true worth is still dessicated.  Instead of 6th place, 27th place is more fitting -- smack in the midst of many other unfinished series like Haruhi Suzumiya and Full Metal Panic, who I have the exact same complaints about.

With all this said, the summer season is now fully underway and my impressions can be wrapped up with a list of what I'm watching and in what order of excitement I'm holding for these series weekly' releases:

1.  Sailor Moon Crystal
2.  Sword Art Online II
3.  Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2wei
4.  Glasslip
5.  Hanayamata
6.  Ao Haru Ride
7.  Locodol
8.  Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
9.  Fairy Tail
10.  Naruto
11.  One Piece
12.  Jojo's Bizarre Adventure:  Stardust Crusaders
13.  Yama no Susume: Second Season
14.  Dragonball Kai Buu
15.  Hunter x Hunter
16.  Happiness Charge Precure
17.  Aldnoah.Zero
18.  Akame ga Kill
19.  Rokujouma no Shinryakusha?!
20.  Zankyou no Terror
21.  Tokyo ESP
22.  Jinsei
23.  Haikyu

23 shows is a huge haul.  I suspect the numbers will go down as I gradually grow tired of the weaker series (like I did Isshukan Friends), but for now the summer season is probably the best the world has ever seen.  How often do you get Sailor Moon, SAO, Fairy Tail, Naruto, One Piece, Precure, Hunter x Hunter, Jojo's and Dragonball all in the same season?  Basically all the heavy hitters, all the classics of animedom, are here and present and attending, like a fireworks grande finale.  Even if I had designed the airing chart myself for this season, I couldn't have done much better than what the production companies have decided to make.  This is a dream lineup.  No wonder I found six newly ranking shows from it.  I might even add some more by the end.  Aldnoah.Zero and Rokujouma no Shinryakusha?! have a fair bit of potential if things swing right.

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