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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Limping to the Finish Line:

22 summer anime series are still currently limping towards the finish line.  There's one month to go before the fall 2015 season begins, so around four episodes are left in every series.  I won't be sad to see most of these series go.

Working, for instance, has deliberately slowed down the pace of its romantic conclusions just to drag out the story and squeeze every drop of humorous blood from it that it can.  By all rights the story should already be over by now, but instead we're stuck watching four more episodes of agonizing Takanashi not confessing to Inami no matter how obvious it is they like each other.  I've liked aspects of this third season, like learning why Yamada ran away from home, but overall it's been less funny and more repetitive then any of the previous entries.  Or should I say entrees?

With such a lackluster third season, ranking it at #21 is probably too high.  I like to give credit to anime series that go all the way from beginning to end, but that doesn't get you very far if the story still isn't as good as just a part of another, better story.  Like, for instance, Da Capo, or Railgun.

Miss Monochrome's jokes are pretty repetitive and the show just isn't that good anymore.  The same is true of Wakaba Girl.  Though both of these stories are just 5 minute shorts so nothing much was expected from them in the first place.

Ranpo Kitan is barely watchable.  It wastes too much time on messed up nonsense and has few intriguing mystery aspects to make up for it.  Mostly just watching Kobayashi act insane is the only fun part of the show anymore.

I've never been a fan of Gakkou Gurashi, because the characters in the story are too fatalistic.  They should be figuring out a plan on how to beat the zombies and preserve humanity from extinction.  Instead they're just wasting their time playing games and hoping someone else will solve all their problems for them.  One of them is just living in denial and refuses to even accept the problem much less try to solve it.  The moment humans cease to assert control of their environments they become subhuman.  At that point they may as well just be plants.  Humans were born rulers.  Kings.  We would never submit to playing second fiddle to a bunch of zombies.

Naruto is pretty much on filler again, thus worthless.  Covering a few panels of the manga in twelve episodes or whatever they have planned is filler, no matter how you look at it.

Non Non Biyori was filler from the very beginning, and you can tell, because there's zero characterization in any of the episodes.  Everything about everyone in the show was already revealed previously in the previous season, except I guess Hikage who didn't get much screen time in the first season.  She's a great character in this season simply because we haven't seen her before so we're still getting to know her better, unlike all the others.  There are strengths to this series, like the beautiful setting and the good sense of humor -- baby Renge toppling over the curry was great -- but it can't measure up to the author's actual work.  This is just fluff.  Sort of like how Galaxy Angel Rune felt compared to the original irreplaceable cast.  Since this filler is infinitely better than Naruto filler, I still count it towards the franchise's episode count, but I was expecting an actual season of Non Non Biyori, not this, when I ranked it at #61.  I'm going to have to punish it for disappointing me.

Kyoukai no Rinne made a foolish decision by only choosing chapters from the beginning of the series to animate.  (It's currently on chapter 75).  With 300 chapters or whatever to choose between, it could have selected only the funniest and best moments to animate.  Since the manga is so episodic, no one would notice the difference if massive segments of the series were skipped, in fact, the anime has already skipped tons of material thus showing they were already on the right track, but just weren't bold enough to follow through.  The black cat exam, for instance, is great stuff.  Also the damashigami who's in love with Kain is a great new character they could have introduced.  It doesn't look like any of the good stuff will be animated though, as the series winds down with various short stories of no importance.  Most of the manga is worthless one shot repeat gags, so I guess the anime is just being faithful by sticking to the same formula, but sigh. . .

Durara Ten isn't in the least exciting.  Everyone's just being a dick and getting into meaningless fights.  Why should we care?  What stake does the audience have in all this back and forth?  The story drags too slowly and is too full of its own self-importance.  It thinks we care when we just don't.  I hate the middle sections of stories.  They just pointlessly drag things out.  Stories should be like donuts.  They should have an introduction and a climactic conclusion, but there should just be a giant timeskip in the middle.  No one cares about the middle.  No one likes the middle.  The donut is beautiful and perfect precisely because it lacks a middle.  So too with good stories.  Once they've introduced the initial conditions, they quickly obliterate them.  Once past the introduction, all we're interested in seeing is what changes -- and yet all these 'middle' writers keep delivering more of the same, when we're long since sick of it.  March Madness eliminates half their teams every round of the tourney.  They don't play round robin crap like the World Cup.  March Madness has no middle.  Donuts have no middle.  Stories need to get with the program.

I'll bring up Fairy Tail because Fairy Tail is the epitome of good writing in comparison.  Fairy Tail meets new allies and enemies virtually every arc.  We get to see their situations for the first time, what their special moves are, how they feel about each other, etc.  Then they're defeated -- and quickly.  Fairy Tail fights don't drag on and on like Goku vs. Frieza or Luffy in Dressrosa.  Right after Wendy is introduced, she and Natsu journey to another world together where they experience things they've never seen before in their lives.  There's a sense of adventure in Fairy Tail.  Like a roller coaster that never slows down.  Right after they finish fighting Grimoire Heart, which itself interrupted their S Class Exam, they're suddenly fighting Acknologia and then bam! 7 year timeskip and they're participating in the Grand Magic Games and then -- whoa!  Dragons invade!  You never get to catch your breath.  The situation keeps upending on you and all you can do is gawk starry eyed at where the story is going next.  There is no 'middle' to Fairy Tail, just a lot of new beginnings one after the other and great new characters like Yukino and Mavis and Cheria pouring in all the time to keep things refreshing.

Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls has way too many characters.  I still can't even identify the main cast yet, I see them so rarely, and this whole second season they've just pouring in new girls from all corners of the Earth.  It's impossible to attach emotionally to anyone because you don't even know who these people are, aside from some shallow catch phrase or accessory they always wear.  The original Idolm@ster took the time to really develop the personalities of its characters.  This time they're just interested in promoting their looks.

Even Sore ga Seiyuu has become somewhat repetitive -- woe is me I'm an unpopular voice actress and I'm no good at my job -- I get it.  It's funny the first time, but it gets pretty old after you've done it nine times in a row.  I'd like to see more development and change.  It's the same as Durarara.  We're stuck in an  endless middle where nothing ever happens and there's no reason to care.

I said Charlotte needed one of the biggest plot twists in anime history or it would be total garbage -- and then Charlotte had one of the biggest plot twists in anime history.  The new, improved Charlotte is a genuinely good series, it may even be a great series, unlike the crappy middle section.  Again that cursed middle.  I wanted to throw something at the TV when they just kept repetitively saving different power users every week with nothing changing in the slightest from iteration to iteration.  It was like watching endless eight again, with only the swimsuit designs ever changing from ep to ep.  Now we've got death, time travel, blind rock bands, snapping at annoying grief counselors, and an awesome 'kids, don't do drugs!' punchline, with more still in the pipeline.  The show is moving.  It's expanding beyond our predictions, doing things we never thought of.  It's alive again.  I'll wait until the ending and then decide how I feel about the show as a whole.

To Love-ru has the problem of being so censored you can barely even watch it until the blu-rays come out.

One Piece's slow pacing is awful.

Princess Pretty Cure hasn't been very good ever since Towa was introduced.  I just don't like her.  It was such a flop of a mid-season climax that she joined the group.  So predictable, overdone, and repetitive.  Before Towa, Princess Pretty Cure was actually innovative and exciting.  It's hard to remember since it was so long ago, but it had a lot of new tricks up its sleeve.  Now, not so much.

The shows that have done absolutely nothing wrong so far, just delivering one solid ep after another, are as follows:

Fate/Kaleid Liner
Fairy Tail
Joukamachi no Dandelion
Classroom Crisis
Rokka no Yuusha
Kuusen Madoshi

These are the only shows that keep the story moving forward at a good pace without repetitive 'middle' junk.  You're always excited and surprised to see what happens next.  Joukamachi especially, with its huge cast, hasn't even gotten through introducing everyone, and even so the cast is definitively changing every episode despite the fact that the introductions aren't even finished.  Now that's good pacing.  That's just brilliant story telling, keeping us on our toes at all times, desperate to see what happens next.  Gate also hasn't had a single episode where nothing changed from beginning to end.  There's always something new and cool happening in Gate.  I'm really digging that the protagonist is divorced.  When has an anime ever pulled something like that?

I expect Fairy Tail and Fate to be awesome.  Joukamachi and Gate were pleasant surprises.  Classroom Crisis, Rokka no Yuusha, and Kuusen Madoshi would be better if they weren't in bad genres to begin with.  No matter how well written a story, if it's confined to a bad subject, it will end up bad.  Fighting bugs is a boring subject.  "Who dun it?" is a boring subject.  And business is definitely a boring subject.  It's impressive that they're still good shows just through excellent execution, but they chose the wrong genres to start with so they'll never go far.

So in the end, though I'm watching 22 shows of anime this season, I'm only happy about four of them.  The rest are all disappointments in some form or fashion.  These four have been flawless gems, though.  I can't point at a single problem with a single episode that's aired this summer with them.  If nothing else, these are the four people should be tracking at all costs.

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