In which Hayami Saori saves anime.
1. Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?
I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a concentration of cuteness as dense as that of GochiUsa. The girls are cute, the rabbits are cute, the little things Cocoa sees in town are “cute” and even the bread is cute (sometimes). This might make GochiUsa a one trick pony but that one trick is so good that the show doesn’t really need anything more. The new character, Chiya, is delightful in how she plays along with Cocoa eccentricities. The fact that she’s voiced by Satou Satomi doesn’t hurt. Given Satou’s character in Mahouka seems to be getting the shaft in terms of screen time it’s nice to hear her voice here. White Fox has done a great job of creating a welcoming, care-free atmosphere for the girls in this show to do their thing and it allows GochiUsa to stand out as one of the best shows of this genre. If the jokes stay fresh I have a hard time seeing this show going anywhere in the foreseeable future.
2. Love Live: School Idol Project Second Season
This episode amounted to a thinly veiled excuse for µ’s to go on a group camping trip and pump out some more songs to be sold to the voracious Japanese fandom but the episode was just so much fun that I can’t really bring myself to worry about the motivations behind it. Nico really stole the show this week both through her goofy chipmunk-related antics and her goofy facial expressions. It was all very silly but that works for Love Live and even the nonsense was punctuated by a few brief moments of emotional clarity that bring everything together. I’m also amused how much they’re pushing NicoMaki this season. I guess the people writing for Love Live lurk pixiv. As a big NicoMaki fan this only makes things better.
3. Isshuukan Friends
Isshuukan Friends is an interesting show in the way it combines the cast of genuinely kind and thoughtful characters that might be found in a typical healing-type anime and puts a more tragic spin on things. Isshuukan could have been a satisfying if not spectacular slice of life anime with a likeable cast of characters but the addition of Fujimiya’s memory issues makes the anime carry significant additional weight. Hase and Fujimiya’s interactions are so pure-hearted and good-natured that it’s hard to not get invested in their relationship. It’s thanks to that emotional investment that the more tragic moments cut as deeply as they do. Isshuukan friends doesn’t come at you as hard as some of the other anime designed to tug at your heart strings but that lack of overt emotional force does very little to reduce its potency which makes it a very special show.
4. Akuma no Riddle
It was a down episode for Riddle this week, although a down episode of Riddle is still one of the better shows out there. This episode served more to illustrate the rules of the game rather than present any sort of meaningful plot progression. The episode did its job and nothing more. If this turns out to be the rule for Akuma no Riddle going forward that would be disappointing but I tend to think that this episode will be seen as an exception to bridge from the initial set up to the actual gameplay rather than a move to a “assassin of the week” format. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part. Time will tell.
5. Escha & Logy no Atelier
I didn’t rank (or watch) Atelier last week because an adaptation of a fairly obscure JRPG was so far off my viewing radar that I gave it almost no thought and didn’t even read the synopsis. After hearing that it was more of a calming, atmospheric anime than a combat oriented anime I decided to give it a shot and I do not regret the decision at all. Atelier does a great job of creating this welcoming, small-town feel to it where everybody knows everybody and the greatest crisis the town faces isn’t invading barbarians but rather a broken axle in the windmill or some critters going after the local crops. Despite the inherent serenity of the setting, I find myself constantly afraid that Atelier will undergo a significant tonal shift that will make it much less enjoyable to watch but so far every time I’ve thought that was coming I’ve been wrong. Even this week when Escha and Logy visited some ruins that supposedly had bandits lurking in them, the only other people they discovered were a friendly witch and her traveling companion who were more than happy to help Escha and Logy with their quest. I will probably continue to be wary with this show but so far so good.
6. Date a Live II
This episode represented a return to the traditional Date a Live antics which means Tohka’s adorable, Kotori is sly, Origami is terrible and Kurumi is… well not really appearing much. The big development this episode was the introduction of the Yamai twins. Things can get messy when a harem gets too large but so far I think these two are solid additions to the show. Their back and forth banter as they argue over almost everything was quite entertaining. I will admit that the “spineless MC gets dragged along by the bickering female cast members” trope is pretty old but it mostly works in this case both because the premise calls for it and because the bickering is so entertaining. It remains to be seen whether this will actually work or whether this is another case of an author adding new characters when he’s out of ideas. So far so good though.
Haikyuu has managed to not piss me off thus far although a large part of that may be the fact that no volleyball was actually played so it would have been hard for this episode to be particularly inaccurate. Still, what did happen was pretty faithful to the high school sports experience although Hinata and Kageyama’s hot headedness is a bit much. The real problem is that even when Haikyuu isn’t pissing me off, what’s left over is a standard sports anime. A well-executed sports anime but a sports anime nonetheless which isn’t exactly my cup of tea. The developments in this episode were pretty typical but it seems like the third years are in on the joke as they watch Kageyama and Hinata go through the standard steps of bickering teammates. Even then, the sooner they get over this the better.
8. Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin
I think that Ryuugajou can be a really solid anime if can just manage to resist some of its more LN-ish tendencies. However, that might be too much to ask given the source. Even if the more perverted and fetish-y moments stick around, at worst this is an entertaining show even if it smacks of wasted potential. We saw the introduction of a few new characters this week: a trap maid voiced by HanaKana which… ugh, an adventure club president and his assistant who look to be more plot facilitators than serious characters in their own right and last but not least, a self-proclaimed brilliant detective named, appropriately, Tensai. (which is written as “natural disaster” here instead of as “genius”) It’s Tensai where most of my interest lies as she managed to more or less carry this episode with her unique brand of self-assured charm. I really liked the way she confidently presents herself in ways that might be embarrassing to others but work for her because of her supreme confidence that those around her will eventually come to respect her. If a majority of the remainder of Nanana consists of solving mysteries with Tensai this could shape up to be a very entertaining show. If it’s something else, I can only hope that the writers have the chops to pull it off rather than devolving into light novel nonsense.
9. Baby Steps
Rather than rushing into competition Baby Steps seems content in taking its time to slowly build up the character relationships and allow the viewer to experience the grind of learning a new sport. I really liked the way they portrayed Ei-chan trying to replicate his first solid contact with the ball. It’s an almost universal part of the learning process where you’ll get something right once and you’ll know exactly how that feels but you just can’t replicate that consistently. Ei-chan’s excitement over new equipment and his insistence that his friend measure his elbow with a protractor were charming as well. The elephant in the room here seems to be the romance aspect of the show and in particular the last scene of the episode. In general I have to say that Natsu’s apparent obliviousness to the tension around her was kind of frustrating. This all really hinges on how they execute the kiss(?) we saw at the end of the episode. If they manage to believably transition out of this it could really add some weight to the romantic subplot but if they don’t actually do anything with this it will be quite frustrating.
10. Kenzen Robo Daimidaler
We’ve moved onto the list of shows that aren’t particularly good but are still pretty entertaining. Daimidaler leads this pack with a solid recovery from last week’s very poor episode. They’ve managed to get around the kind of rape-y feel of last week’s episode by training Kouichi in “look, don’t touch”. This doesn’t exactly make Daimidaler a wholesome show but it certainly reduces the unpleasantness experienced last week. The star of this week was Likantz Seaberry, aka “Ritz”. She has a magnetic personality and her back and forth with the penguin empire was comedy gold. If Daimidaler can lean more on her antics and less on the unwanted touching this could be a really fun show.
11. Kamigami no Asobi
While Kamigami no Asobi still has a nice sense of humor to it, I’m starting to wonder if I’m just watching this show to prove a point more than anything. It’s interesting to see what the gender-flipped version of my generic harem shows looks like in the name of broadening perspectives but at some point it becomes more a waste of time than anything. This certainly isn’t the worst thing out there but it’s incredibly inconsequential and my time might prove to be more valuable (not likely). Still, Hayami Saori cures a lot of ills and I will probably find myself watching this for her if nothing else.
12. Selector Infected WIXOSS
It’s getting close to time to put up or shut up for WIXOSS. I get wanting to take your time setting up the plot here but when the show offers next to no explanation of the game being played it’s hard to get invested in the action on screen. It’s a bad sign when your viewers have to read through this just to follow an episode of the show. For those of us who don’t wish to read all of that, it becomes nearly impossible to experience any tension when you really aren’t sure what a player can actually do at any given moment during a match. I have no clue if a player is about to win or lose if I don’t know what abilities they have and I barely know what the victory conditions are. The writing also seems pretty sloppy here which makes me wonder if Okada Mari is giving this one the same treatment Urobuchi Gen gave Gargantia: writing the first episode then handing off the show to secondary writers who have a general framework of where the head writer wants the story to go. WIXOSS has Okada’s name attached to it but I am not seeing the writing skill she’s demonstrated in the past.
13. Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
Kawaisou finds itself on the outskirts of dropsville as well. This episode really did nothing to push it either way. The flaws are still there and just as apparent but the visuals continue to be stellar and the brief moments of romantic development serve as oases in a desert of mediocre (but pretty) comedy. The “older woman who can’t hold down a boyfriend” trope is really played out at this point and the new girl, Sayaka, just seems like an awful person. Despite all this there’s a certain charm to the show that keeps me from completely giving up. In a shallower season this would be an easy keep because when Kawaisou is good it is very good, but as it is Kawaisou is hanging on for dear life at this point.
14. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei
Much like Kamigami, Mahouka is still on the watch list for next week almost entirely thanks to the voice of Hayami Saori. It’s almost admirable how thoroughly Mahouka is determined to fulfill the fantasy of every rejected teenager out there who feels disrespected by the world. Instead of telling any kind of nuanced story, Mahouka simply exists to glorify Tatsuya, aka “Handsome McAwesome”, and deify him as the perfect human being who was wronged by biased tests and prejudiced classmates among other things. Mr. McAwesome’s enemies don’t actually exist as people but rather as straw men that act as bowling pins for Handsome to knock over with ease while all the girls around him squeal. There’s something to be said for taking a look at the issue of people being labeled before you really know who they are but this isn’t really giving any kind of useful perspective on that and instead portrays Tatsuya as always right and anybody who stands in his way as foolish, jealous or both. People are going to complain about the “sister scene” this week but in my mind that was when the show did the least to hide what is actually going on here. You’re watching a angsty teenage power-trip with some imouto-fetishism thrown in there for good measure and nothing more. The fanservice here wasn’t a departure from the rest of the show but rather it was Mahouka showing its true colors. Despite all this I’ll keep watching partially out of morbid curiosity for how shameless this can get and partially because of the aforementioned Hayami Saori. God that voice is amazing.
15. Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii
SoreSekai is a show with some good ideas that are let down by some very questionable choices with regards to the characters and storytelling. First and foremost, I have a really hard time with the child king in this setting. The extremely businesslike and world-weary personality displayed by Livius would be much more at home in a character a few years older than he is. I’m not saying he should be an old man but if he was closer to twenty-five than to ten I’d probably have this show about seven spots higher on this list. It also feels like the show is still pulling punches in terms of dark it’s going to get and the complexity with which it presents its themes. Things got somewhat better on that front this week as I sensed greater nuance to Nike and Livius’ relationship which had been largely black and white up to this point. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to save SoreSekai. While it’s probably a more meaningful show than several of the anime above it on this list I just don’t enjoy watching it as much as the shows above it and ultimately when you’re this close to the drop line that’s how I’m going to judge things. Dropped.
16. Kiniro no Corda: Blue Sky
By being the more serious of the two otome game adaptations this season Kiniro no Corda also manages to be by far the more boring one. I don’t know if it’s because the market for them isn’t as large or if it’s just stylistic taste but I feel that the ceiling for writing in otome games isn’t anywhere close to that of visual novels with male leads. The floors are similarly putrid but I just see no indication that the otome game world can produce a White Album 2 or even a Myself;Yourself level offering. Kiniro no Corda certainly isn’t that as it boils down to pretty boys being angsty and fighting for no good reason while our passive MC stands around doing nothing much. The animation was also particularly poor this week, especially when we saw the main characters moving their bows at about half the speed of the song they were supposedly playing. The random boyfriend out of nowhere with no real explanation was the nail in the coffin for this one. There’s only space for one otome game adaptation on the schedule this season (if that) and Kiniro no Corda was clearly the inferior one. Dropped.
17. Kanojo ga Flag wa Oraretera
Flag certainly stepped up the pacing this week although that didn’t do much to fix the problems with the show. Generic light novel garbage played at warp speed is still generic light novel garbage and this episode completely failed at shaking that label. The central conceit of the show was almost dropped as the flags, rather than being a key plot driver, instead only showed up when it was convenient for comedic effect. The quirky characters in flag are almost completely lacking in charm and the jokes fall flat, especially with the excessive use of violence for laughs. Dropped.
The official power rankings can once again be found here. Mushishi leads the way once again joined this week by Ping Pong which is doing its best to trick me into watching a Yuasa show. I continue to be mystified by people’s fascination with No Game No Life. How it is that Outbreak Company never ranked but No Game No Life managed four first place votes this week I’ll never know. You’ll notice a “(2)” next to Gochuumon wa Usagi Desuka? this week because my fellow Pedantic Perspective blogger ParticularlyPeeved has joined me in voting for the correct show number one this week. It still remains to be seen what GochiUsa will do this week but to give you guys a sneak peek at next week’s rankings, it will be very hard to top what Love Live did in episode three.