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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Summer 2014 Anime Season Last Look:

1.  Sword Art Online II
2.  Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2wei
3.  Sailor Moon Crystal
4.  Fairy Tail
5.  Ao Haru Ride
6.  Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun 
7.  Naruto
8.  One Piece
9.  Dragonball Kai Buu
10.  Locodol 
11.  Yama no Susume: Second Season
12.  Hanayamata
13.  Akame ga Kill
14.  Hunter x Hunter
15.  Happiness Charge Precure
16.  Jojo's Bizarre Adventure:  Stardust Crusaders 

17.  Aldnoah.Zero
18.  Glasslip

The summer anime season is nearly over.  Fall season previews should be arriving shortly.  But it wouldn't hurt to take one last look at what just happened.

It should have been obvious to anyone that SAO, Fate/Kaleid Liner, and Sailor Moon were going to be great.  These shows are all time classics with massive popularity behind the franchise.  They've done a spectacular job adapting all three of these series and they're a wonder to behold every week.  Though the sporadic airing schedule of Sailor Moon is quite frustrating.  You practically forget what happened last episode by the time the next one comes around.

Fairy Tail's dragon festival arc is about to come to a close, and it's been a really satisfying ride.  I have to say this segment was better in the manga than the anime, because the anime was so censored so often that it just lost the impact that the manga version had of the same material.  Doing worse than the manga is okay, though, because we're talking about possibly the best manga ever.  Even if you are worse than the manga, you'll still be the 2nd best anime of all time.  I just hope the anime keeps going strong and plunges right into the Tartaros arc which is coming up next.  I don't want the Fairy Tail anime to stop airing again.  :(.

The two big surprises this season are Ao Haru Ride and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun.  The two shows couldn't be more different, but they share a standout uniqueness that makes them the best in their field.  Ao Haru Ride is a realistic romance story you could really see happening, with believable and complex characters full of strengths and weaknesses.  The relationships between the characters in Ao Haru Ride are so full of tension it feels like sparks are flying off them whenever any two are left alone in a room together.  The story is so expertly written, that it doesn't need anything blowing up or anyone dying to still deliver a story full of drama and suspense.  It's amazing how so many fundamentally good people can still end up hurting each other so often and so much.  That theme just requires such a fantastic writer to get across, when no one is the obvious villain and yet conflict still emerges all the same.

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is the opposite.  The situations are so unrealistic you can't help but laugh, and everything in the series is so silly you couldn't believe any of it ever happening.  Everyone is a comical extreme aside from our leading heroine, Chiyo, who has to observe and comment on the eccentricities of everyone else around her like an Earthling who has just landed on Mars.  However, the humor in Gekkan Shoujo is rarely physical, low-brow crap.  Instead, it's extremely clever writing where people's own natures end up creating unexpected or ridiculous situations without anyone ever intending to be stupid or evil.  Again, this is a story where everyone means well, but everything generally goes poorly anyway.  Their warped natures are just too much for their good intentions to handle, and Pandora's Box always opens by the end.  Whether you like Ao Haru Ride or Gekkan Shoujo more is really just a matter of what you're in the mood for.  They're both perfectly executed shows with absolutely flawless stories doing exactly what they want every episode.  Nothing extraneous and nothing off-putting, these shows just cruise from strength to strength.

My only objection to both these series is that they'll obviously end before their source material ends, leaving you wanting more but never getting it.  They're 'teaser' shows of just one season, and it's really difficult to turn that into greatness.  I'll also say that the rather simplistic themes of the shows limit their capacity for greatness, just like Natsuiro Kiseki.  There's nothing wrong with Natsuiro Kiseki, it just can't do anything more than it actually did, which means it can never compete with the shows that bit off larger themes to chew.  High School of the Dead is about the end of the world.  Gekkan Shoujo is about. . .god only knows. . .

Naruto, One Piece and Dragonball are all good as to be expected.  They're only the most famous shonen action series of all time.  With the last battle already resolved in the Naruto manga, I'm starting to wonder just how long the Naruto anime is going to continue though.  Will the anime end before the 'last' Naruto movie airs?  What about before the latest Naruto video game is released?  It just seems too sudden for Naruto to disappear.  At this rate, Naruto will end before Dragonball.  I have absolutely zero complaints with how the Naruto manga has developed so far.  The parallelism was perfect.  It's just fantastic how the writer managed to weave everything back together again when it looked so inseparably far apart during the middle of the series.  I'm just eager to find out what happens next, because I'm not really sure this spells the end of trouble for our heroes.

Locodol and Yama no Susume are pretty much as to be expected.  Cute girls doing a hobby together.  In one case it's show business, and in the other it's hiking, but either way it's just humor, fanservice, and a little bit of sincerity well mixed together for a pleasant stew.  This is another case of a story being flawless, but not tackling a large enough theme to reach high on my list of all time greats.

Hanayamata is where my complaints begin.  The show should have been about cute girls doing a hobby together.  Yosakoi looked really fun.  It could have been like the next Love Live.  But apparently the story had no intention of being either a song/dance show, or a slice of life show.  It heaped up tons of melodrama and made sure everyone was crying by the end of every episode.  People gush out, in emo fashion, about how horrible their life is when in fact there's nothing wrong in their lives at all.  This overlay of super-emotional whininess dramatically worsens a show that would have been just fine as an idol show or the next K-On!  Oh well.  It's still pretty, and that has to count for something.

Akame ga Kill has a similar problem.  If it had been serious in its art style and presentation, it could have been like Berserk or Claymore.  Instead it has a campy art style and random humorous interludes that make the 'dramatic' scenes all just look campy and stupid and contrived.  Akame ga Kill is more similar to Kill Bill than Berserk, and that's not a good thing.  But I still like the theme of assassins battling a corrupt regime and terrorists being the good guys.  This show is a sad example of when you bite off a big enough theme but end up poorly executing it, the reverse problem from all the previous shows I was discussing.

Hunter x Hunter is just a horrible declension from where it started.  Wish granting is the dumbest idea of all time.  And now we learn that the wishes have absolutely no drawbacks and Alluka could heal everyone in the world from all their illnesses or injuries at no cost if said assassin family had just let him, instead of keeping him locked up in a dungeon this whole time.  What a stupid plot device.  And how convenient for it to emerge just at the time Gon needs to be healed, while never being mentioned previous to this point.  This is just terrible writing gone berserk.  Furthermore, no one cares who becomes the hunter chairman.  It's utterly meaningless and besides the point.  It has nothing to do with the story.  It's just a giant waste of time.  I can't wait for this story to finally end, so I don't have to watch it anymore.

Happiness Charge Precure is plain terrible.  The writing is just bad.  The art style is bad.  The music is okay but nothing special.  ((Bring back the composer of Suite Precure please.))  The plot is boring and lifeless.  The characters are flat and annoying.  Rarely do so many things go wrong simultaneously.  I can't think of a single redeeming feature to this season.  Shirayuki Hime is better than the rest, but that's not saying much.  If this show weren't Pretty Cure I would have dropped it long ago.  I can't wait for the next Precure season to be announced so I can forget all about this debacle.

Likewise for Jojo's Bizarre Adventure.  If this weren't Jojo's, I would've dropped it long ago.  Only because of its famous reputation, and the actually good second part of the series, battle tendency, am I still watching this junk.  The fights simply aren't done well.  The bad guys have multiple opportunities to kill the good guys but always somehow manage to miss them.  The good guys fight like idiots but still manage to win through their 'main character shields.'  It's just maddening.  And then to make things worse, the heroes do all these vulgar things that should never, ever be mentioned or alluded to in any way right front and center in the middle of the damn screen.  It's just sick.  My precious Fairy Tail is censored just because Lucy happens to be nude, but these Jojo's scenes are okay?  What?  Really?  Ugh.

Aldnoah Zero makes no sense and never goes anywhere.  It's an extremely frustrating series.  Things just randomly happen.  There's no buildup.  Characters state their motivations, but even after explaining themselves they still make no sense.  Why do they feel that way?  There's no connection.  No one would actually be like that, their history doesn't connect to their present at all.  The music and the art is good, and the fight scenes are relatively interesting, but oh god the characters.  There are no characters in this show at all.

Glasslip is just straight insane and equally makes no sense.  In the end, what was it all about?  Who knows.  At this point, who cares.  Why did that boy have to live in a tent?  Why did that girl decide to pick up running just because the boy she liked was into cross country running?  It makes no sense.  Where did that swimming imouto come from and why is she involved in the story at all?  Ugh.  I just want this show to end.  A complete waste of what looked like a heartwarming romantic comedy.  It jumped the shark and flew over the moon so very long ago.

I managed to stick to watching 18 shows this season, but I can't say I enjoyed any more than 11.  The 18 just speaks to my ability to endure hardship, not the quality of the season.  There's a good chance the fall season will be an improvement.  Heck, there's a good chance the winter 2015 season will be an improvement over this.

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