Blog Archive

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Spring 2015 Anime Season Second Take:

First impressions can be deceiving.  Many series can survive their first episode debut with the seeming potential to be good left intact.  However, that potential often falls apart in its subsequent episodes, which generally backtrack and betray its own starting off point, or simply wander off into the middle of nowhere, leaving you wondering why this is considered a 'story' at all, as it goes nowhere and does nothing with itself.

Here's a hint.  If you don't even know why this story is being told, as it's seemingly uninterested in pursuing any agenda or goal or theme whatsoever, you probably shouldn't be spending millions of dollars to bring said source material into animation in the first place.  What purpose, exactly, does Yamada-kun have?  It's just a bunch of random schmos put together for no reason doing nothing in particular.  That's it.  That's the 'premise' of the story.  It doesn't even have to be mentioned that this turns out to be a very boring formula.  Why did anyone think this was a show worth animating from the start?  The body switching which was the 'hook' for the first episode just becomes pointless in all subsequent episodes, because they don't do anything with it, nor do they have anything they could do with it that might justify its existence in the story in the first place.

The spring season has 17 watchable shows starting this week, now that Naruto and Ghost in the Shell are finally joining the lineup with new content.  This is a fine number, better than average for a season.  But this strength on the surface hides a pretty severe weakness behind it.  Almost all the good shows are just long running series or sequels to well known good shows.  As for genuinely new good content coming out this spring, you have only three shows.  Everything else ended up a total flop.

The three decent shows that actually started this spring are Kyoukai no Rinne, Hibike! Euphonium, and Danmachi.  Everyone else flunked.  Kyoukai no Rinne is hardly a new quantity.  Rumiko Takahashi is responsible for Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha, so we knew Kyoukai no Rinne would be good ahead of time.  Rinne borrows so many tropes and tricks of Rumiko's trade, that it may as well be a continuation of her earlier works instead of a genuinely new series.  Sort of like how Adachi's Touch, H2 and Cross Game could all easily mix together and be featured in the same series despite their separate titles.  That leaves only two series as the genuine new entries for 2015's spring season.

These two shows are the only claim to spring 2015's fame.  In a sense, these two shows represent the health of the current anime world, as opposed to resting on past greatness and coasting on momentum.  Just these two shows show that anime is 'alive' in any true meaningful sense of the word.

Hibike! Euphonium is probably a great anime.  We'll see.  But it has extraordinary production value, a unique setting, a great cast of both freshman and senior classmates, and a riveting yet subtle and realistic human drama.  It's hard to see how this could go wrong when based upon such a solid foundation.  At the very least it's a good anime, worth watching until the end.

Danmachi is, in a word, inconsistent.  There are times in Danmachi where the art and animation are fantastic.  Then there are times when all the animators took a break and went out to lunch and there are only scribbles left to represent what's going on.  The same is true of the narrative tone.  At times the series is deadly serious, talking about real things that matter with people whose hearts are up in their throats and their voices quavering with feeling.  Then there are times where everyone is acting like a complete clown and nothing they are doing would ever happen in the real world.  And the people in this show crazily swing between these two states at random, multiple times, in a single episode.  For a show like this, which has both the best and the worst of anime packaged into one bundled deal, it just makes you want to tear your hair out.  If only they dropped the dumb snake lady.  Or he got with Hestia instead of that useless stone-faced woman.  Or, or, or. . .  It's just so close to being a great anime.  But how can I endorse a show with so many glaring flaws?  It's hard what to make of Danmachi.  It's a good show.  I will watch it to the end.  But is it something I can really proudly use as a representative sample of why everyone should be watching anime all the time?  It feels like this show would end up turning more people away from the medium than it would attract them to it.  That's just how inconsistent this series sometimes is.

Which means Spring 2015's anime season only has two new shows to its name, and neither of them are quite great enough to be put on my list -- yet.  There's still time for both of them to improve so who knows.  With 17 watchable shows, there's obviously plenty of great anime coming out right now.  But if you want to know how much potential anime has in the future, the picture is a lot grimmer.  There weren't nearly enough new shows of worth this season.  Nothing is remotely as prominently good as, say, Akatsuki no Yona was.  Never mind even approaching the level of Shirobako.  Or Girls und Panzer.  Or that bolt out of the blue, Madoka Magica.  Even if Danmachi or Hibike! Euphonium do crawl their way onto my great anime rankings list, they'll no doubt still be stuck in the lower half of that list.  They aren't Shirobako.  As such, I can only think this bodes ill for the industry as a whole.  There are no new good ideas coming online.  At least, not nearly at the pace that they once were.  Nothing the present is doing is managing to overshadow the past.  Instead, the past is casting a long and deep shadow over the present, dominating eveyrthing.  I mean, come on, Dragon Ball, Ghost in the Shell, Sailor Moon, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure?  We're talking 90's anime here, not even 2000's, which is the best stuff the spring season has.  Remakes or continuations of insanely old shows are all spring has got.  Everything else crashed and burned.  Kyoukai no Rinne may as well be straight out of the 80's, since Takahashi's style hasn't changed one bit since that era.  Hibike! Euphonium and Danmachi are the only shows that even remind us what decade we're in.

What about the summer season?  Will we see an improvement in terms of young blood taking the lead next time around?  The answer is a resounding no.  There's practically no new blood this summer.  It's all sequels to successful old shows, like To Love Ru, Dragon Ball Chou, Working season 3, Fate/kaleid liner season 3, and so on.  It's going to be a great season, but not due to anything new.  Even the supposedly new series are in fact rehashes of older ideas, like how similar Charlotte is to Angel Beats in design/execution.  Venus Project looks good, but that's still just one new show.  This summer will have a huge density of great anime -- but no thanks to innovation.  This will all be due simply to perseverance and the longevity of the older great ideas.  The previous generation's glory.  Where is the new generation?  Where is the next Akatsuki no Yona?  The next Shirobako?  The next Sword Art Online?  :/.  2015 has nothing creditworthy to its name that actually started in 2015.  And that grim reality will probably extend into the fall season as well.

No comments: