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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fall 2014 Anime Season First Impressions: Part 3

Because a few series took a long time to come out, my first impressions post couldn't be complete until now.  Here's the final 'first take' on the fall anime season, with all the series now present and accounted for.

Ronja the Robber's Daughter:  There are two fatal problems with this show.  The first is that it's done in CG instead of actually animated, which looks awful.  The second problem is that it's insane to force a 4-5 year old girl with no special skills to go live on her own in the middle of a wild wood full of monsters.  That's just murder and the parents should immediately be put on trial for negligence.  I guess a third fatal flaw to this series is this jolly and happy family is in fact a menace to society, a group of bandits who do nothing but evil their whole lives long.  It's offensive to cast them as the main characters and put them in a sympathetic light.  Does anyone have any sympathy left over for their victims?  They're just the scum of the Earth and I hope some sheriff at some point comes in and cleans out the whole lot of them with fire and sword.  Fail.

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru: This show seems to be a cross between Madoka Magica and Vividred Operation.  This is not a bad thing.  I adore magical girl series because they tend to bring out the best in mankind.  Magical girls are the most virtuous, most attractive, most courageous, most loyal, most everything mankind has to offer to the cosmos and to the face of God.  If we were ever going to be judged as net positives or negatives, I would put our magical girls front and center to justify why we have a right to continue existing in this world.  When you adapt that mantle as your legacy, it's almost inevitable your series is going to turn out okay.  Yuuki Yuuna hit all the right notes in its opening -- beautiful art and animation, amazing plot and characters, snappy dialogue that gets to the point and people coming to decisions without hesitating or looking back.  My only worry is that all this setup will end up looking pretty shallow by the end, because the enemies are non-sentient and not all that interesting.  You'll note that the enemies in both Madoka Magica and Vividred Operation were sentient and that really drove the quality of the series.  We'll have to wait and see just how they manage to keep this story interesting in the future, but it will take a few more plot twists than what we've seen so far.  If it can maintain the quality of its first episode from here on out, it might well find a place in my rankings.  Pass.

Now to look at my revised list of shows I intend to watch this fall in order of how excited I am to see them each week (or in Sailor Moon's case, every two weeks, sigh):

1.  Sword Art Online II
2.  Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works
3.  Grisaia no Kajitsu
4.  Sora no Method
5.  Akatsuki no Yona
6.  Akame ga Kill
7.  Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru
8.  Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai
9.  Ore, Twintail ni Narimasu
10.  Amagi Brilliant Park
11.  Naruto
12.  Dragon Ball Kai Buu
13.  One Piece
14.  Sailor Moon Crystal
15.  Shirobako
16.  Yama no Susume Second Season
17.  Girlfriend (Kari)
18.  Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
19.  Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete
20.  Madan no Ou to Vanadis
21.  Nanatsu no Taizai
22.  Happiness Charge Pretty Cure
23.  World Trigger

We also had 23 shows on my watchlist at the beginning of the summer season, but that quickly shrank to just 16 shows by the end.  Will the same happen this season?  I don't think that's possible.  Last season had a lot of troll series that pretended to be one thing but then switched to another, like Glasslip and Aldnoah.Zero.  It also had comedy shows which quickly get old via repeat jokes.  These shows tend to start strong and then fade in the stretch, so it's no surprise I was following them in the beginning.  This season has no troll series and no comedy series to weight it down.  Everything we're seeing is how the whole series will be like, and every one of them is a romance/slice of life/shonen action series that will steer clear of boring repeat content and stick to their genre formulas.  If any show is in danger, it's Madan no Ou to Vanadis for its excessive fanservice, but I really like how fervently that archer guy protected his subordinate/maid/2nd in command ruler of his dukedom, so I don't see myself dropping that series any time soon either.  At most, I could see shrinking my watchlist down to 20 by the end of the season, a good deal larger than summer's 16, spring's 14 or winter's ridiculously pathetic 8.

This will be the first time in a while I'll be watching a lot of shows to completion that don't actually get into my rankings as a result.  However, if they sufficiently impress me, I could just increase my rankings to 175 and induct all of them into my hall of fame too.  This is because my 'series watched' count is already to 526, which divided by three, my criteria for greatness being "you must be in the top 1/3 of watchable shows", translates to 175.  It's traditional to wait until I have enough 'series watched' to make a jump of ten new ranked shows all at once, from 170 to 180, but if I feel a burning desire to recognize these shows I can always break that tradition and add in my quota immediately.  That wouldn't leave much room for the winter 2015 series though, so I'll just see how things play out for now.

What would it mean to be added to slots 171-175?  In essence, it means I think this series is better than many other series I've watched in full, have fond memories of, but lack some critical quality that would really put them over the top and become essential viewing for every human being at some point in time during their stay in the mortal coil.  This usually has to do with a show being unique and carving out a niche for itself, which is why you have to add it to your viewing experience, since nothing else can serve in its lieu.  Yama no Susume, for instance, is the best take on hiking and camping, a huge positive range of the human experience, anime has ever tackled, so it found itself in a pretty nice spot to become a memorably great show.  Ginga E Kickoff, for the same reason, was the first anime to get soccer right, the most popular sport in the world, and so it found a perfect niche for itself to join the rankings.  Unless you have a hook like that, just being entertaining won't be enough to find yourself in the top 1/3.

If Shirobako or Amagi Brilliant Park or Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru or whoever wants to enter my rankings, they have to prove to me they're going to stand out more, be more memorable, and have a better claim to fame than all these other series that I've already concluded fall short of my standards of excellence -- Asura Cryin', Gunbuster, Mirai Nikki, Howl's Moving Castle, Laputa, Magic Knight Rayearth, Ninja Scroll, Noir, Tenjou Tenge, The Girl Who Leapt through Time, Trigun, Vision of Escaflowne, Whisper of the Heart, X, Blade of the Immortal, Tokyo Mewmew, Disgaea, Sora no Manimani, Kiddy Grade/Kiddy Girl-And, Chu-bra, Ookami Kakushi, Kanokon, Asobi ni Iku Yo, Seiken no Blacksmith, Yosuga no Sora, Fortune Arterial, Hidan no Aria, Ga Rei Zero, Moshidora, Astarotte's Toy, Saint Tail, Shuffle!, Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki, Kodomo no Jikan, Sola, Prism Ark, Read or Die and hundreds of other shows that present a lesser degree of competition.

This is by no means an easy feat.  A lot of those shows have been in my rankings before.  Being great means being better than all of them.  But if Yuuki Yuuna, Shirobako, Amagi Brilliant Park, or Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso really executes well, I could see all four of them reaching that standard.  Practically all of the shows listed above have some sort of fatal flaw that keeps it down, for instance Prism Ark is way too confusing because it starts the story in the middle of the sequence of events instead of at the beginning.  The strength of the fall season right now is that none of these rankings candidates have displayed a fatal flaw yet.  Naturally, that could easily occur over the course of the show many months from now, but it means that these new shows already have a leg up on all their past competition.  So far they've done nothing wrong, so they're all still in the running.  That's why every new show has a chance to leapfrog over the hundreds of old shows that didn't get in.  The shows that didn't make it are flawed -- new shows all start off flawless (the old shows that were flawless are already in my rankings so new shows don't have to compete head to head with them.)

Just imagine if you were playing the U.S. Dream Team, with Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippen and all the rest, except one of the members of the team was a random cripple in a wheelchair.  That's what Read or Die or Ninja Scroll is like -- it has a lot of strengths but it has some glaring weaknesses too.  Now take a good college team, like the Tar Heels or the Blue Devils, and throw them up against that Dream Team -- who will win?  That's what a new show feels like, full of potential, not proven, but at least not exposing any glaring weaknesses in their play.  Can these newbies really handle a handicapped pro level of competiton?  All we can do is wait and see how things play out.  You never know until the final buzzer, right?

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