In which half the shows are “on the fence.”
Two weeks in and, yup, I still love Glasslip. Sure it borrows significantly from PA Works’ other shows but there’s enough here to make Glasslip a distinct show with its own unique flair while still maintaining the PA Works style. I love the way they’re pushing the pacing of the romance after the more sedately paced premiere. I think this is an advantage afforded to Glasslip by the fact that it is an anime original rather than an adaptation. It’s much harder to have major progress on the romance front when you’re writing an indefinite number of light novel or manga volumes but when you know you have only thirteen anime episodes to work with it’s okay to have a confession in episode two. If PA Works plans to continue make use of opportunities like this then I have a hard time seeing Glasslip falling far from here as PA Works is yet to let me down with any of their anime originals.
2. Ao Haru Ride
Ao Haru Ride is another show that follows a specific style pretty much by the book. The style in this case, shoujo romance, is something I find myself wanting to like more often than actually liking but Ao Haru Ride did a pretty good job in its premiere. I feel that it enhances the manga in many ways and I like the relationship between Futaba and Kou much more in the anime than I did at this point in the manga. The visuals are solid and reminiscent of IG’s previous work on Kimi ni Todoke. The biggest concern I have at this point with AHR is how the adaptation team will handle the process of adapting a very long ongoing manga into a one cour TV anime. If anything is going to sink Ao Haru Ride, that seems to be the most likely culprit but until that happens I remain cautiously optimistic about the show.
While the second episode of Barakamon was by no means bad, I still found it to be a significant step down from the premiere. It almost felt like we had been thrown several weeks or months ahead of where episode one left off with new characters and no real explanation of where they came from. The new characters were also kind of a pain as it felt like they were more designed to be sicced on Handa and inflict as much suffering as possible rather than the genuine, good-natured townsfolk we had seen last week. The episode as a whole lacked the feel of a slowly developing change in outlook from Handa that the first episode had and instead it felt like he was barely holding on against the onslaught of the new characters. I still think there’s quite a bit to like here but I can’t say I’m as gung ho about Barakamon now as I was a week ago.
4. Yama no Susume
Yama no Susume is back and I couldn’t be more pleased. I find the new half-episode runtime suits the show much better than the first season’s three minute episodes. Previously it felt like the episodes were being cut off prematurely but twelve minutes feels about right for a show that’s more plot heavy than the Teekyuus of the world but light enough that full length episodes could become a drag. The show has a really nice niche for itself as calming comfort food that doesn’t aspire to be much more at that but at the same time doesn’t fail to deliver on unwarranted ambition. The subject matter helps as well since I personally have an affinity for mountain climbing and camping although I do think the girls are some goddamn casuals for camping right next to a house rather than out in the rough. Outdoor snobbery aside, I’m really glad to see that the spark I saw in the first season was no fluke.
If PA Works isn’t going to save anime, Manga Time Kirara just might. The publication seems to always spawn the best in cute girls doing cute things and Hanayamata looks to continue that tradition. Simply following the template of other Kirara shows like Kiniro Mosaic or GochiUsa would have been enough but Hanayamata, being adapted from a non-4koma, appears to have the potential to be more than just animated junk food and actually deal with more in depth themes about finding your passion in life. If that turns out to be the case Hanayamata could end up being a stand out within the genre but even if it doesn’t there are far worse fates than being a traditionally cute slice of life anime.
Compared to the premiere which had a lot of things going on in a short period of time, the second episode of Aldnoah.Zero felt like a real drag. The number of interesting moments or valuable takeaways from this episode were dwarfed by the seemingly interminable periods of humanity just getting their butts kicked. I feel like we got the point that the Vers Empire is much more powerful than the earthlings once they blew up five cities at once. The amount of time that was spent just watching humans get slaughtered felt excessive. Other than the pacing issues the actual meaningful points of the episode were actually decent. I’m definitely curious as to what the heck is going on with Inaho and why he seemingly has no reaction at all to anything that happens around him. On the other hand, I’m pretty tired of the cartoonishly evil Vers soldier. One of Gen’s greatest strengths has always been his ability to create a grey morality but so far this world of evil Martians gleefully stomping helpless humans feels pretty black and white. The episode also ended at a moment with a lot of potential downside. We’ve just seen trained human soldiers have absolutely no answer for the Martian tech and now we’re going to have a bunch of teenagers in training robots take on this unstoppable force? It all sounds very anime but it’s the kind of anime that I generally have no interest in. I trust Gen to not be that cliché in his writing but I’m not sure how he’s going to get his characters out of this one.
7. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Things Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun has going for it:
- Chiyo being really cute
- A solid sense of humor
- A charming cast of characters
- Really great reaction images
Based on all this I feel like I should like the show a lot more than I do but I find myself merely lukewarm on it. Instead of just enjoying the jokes the show builds around the process of creating shoujo manga, I keep expecting the show to get stale. I suppose it’s a testament to the skill of the people at Dogakobo that something I thought was so uninspired as a manga is really working well as an anime. If Nozaki-kun can continue to be fresh for the next few weeks expect it to move up this list significantly but for now I’m still on edge.
8. Zankyou no Terror
Speaking of shows I should have liked more than I did, Zankyou no Terror (don’t call it ZnT) had a first episode that seemed to inspire a ton of praise among the western anime community but I was mostly unimpressed. I didn’t find the on-screen action particularly compelling but merely mildly interesting. The characters were mostly strange and off-putting and couldn’t help but feel that a lot of the lines were delivered for the viewer’s benefit rather than being part of natural dialog. Things like “don’t take me back to that day” or “like at the institution” feel more like they’re teasing me with future plot threads rather actually being the way people talk. That off-putting, inhuman characterization may be the point, but I generally don’t care for the type of shows that create this type of atmosphere and these types of characters. Still, the talent working on Terror is certainly notable and I didn’t absolutely hate the first episode so I’ll keep watching but I get the feeling I’m doomed to like this a lot less than everybody else does.
9. Futsuu no Joshikousei ga Locodol Yatte Mita
Can I just go back to calling this show “lol idols”? It was much easier that way. Through two episodes lol idols seems to have had about five minutes of really nice content in each episode and then a lot of middling or worse slice of life stuff in between. The second halves have been clearly better than the first halves which is probably preferable to the alternative. The highlight of this episode was easily Nanako’s visit to Yukari’s apartment. Seeing the nervousness on both sides was really sweet and created a human touch to the show that was absent when the girls were just doing goofy idol stuff. Yukari’s manga choices might have helped a little as well. The episode ended kind of an odd note which highlighted the difficulties of adapting a manga into neat TV episode length chunks. The two parting ways would have been the perfect place to the end the episode but instead we were left with two minutes to kill and they used that for a scene that felt like it would have been much better served as a cold open next week rather than the conclusion to an episode. Still, lol idols has done enough to keep met engaged for another week which is about as much as I could have hoped for from it.
Oh Space Dandy, what are we going to do with you? Every week we get some really funny moments or ideas that often end up being forgotten by the end in a mess of surreal moments that mostly are lost on me. I loved the concept of the misunderstanding contest but the show didn’t really run with that instead opting to move onto a more trippy path that I didn’t really connect with. Space Dandy strikes me as the type of show that would have a ton of appeal for creators with all the interesting artistic choices it makes both visually and in terms of storytelling and the episodic format with different directors each week allows for a lot of different perspectives on the creative process. Unfortunately, most of that is lost on me given my background is completely lacking in creative endeavors. Space Dandy probably hasn’t gotten any worse but my patience seems to be running out and given this summer is proving to be much more stacked than the winter season was it may end up on the outside looking in.
We’re on to the tournament arc and wouldn’t you know, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a typical tournament arc in a shounen sports manga. Haikyuu is unapologetic in how by the book it can be and while it is a good example of a show that follows this template, it isn’t a template I particularly care for. The awkward exposition used to describe each time for the viewer’s sake and the general artificial feeling around the whole event is hard to shake. I’ll give Haikyuu another week but it’s going to have to show me something that will keep me interested beyond what we’ve seen to this point or it’s welcome to dropsville.
12. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei
Apparently Mahouka’s solution to its main character being too overpowered is to create a second overpowered character to rival him. The whole power level bloat thing isn’t particularly good writing but Mahouka hasn’t demonstrated good writing yet so I can’t say that it’s surprising. In addition to questionable writing, the show is proving to have serious pacing issues. The fact that each arc is stretching past a half dozen episodes should be a sign that there’s a lot going on in each arc but Mahouka feels like it’s just dragging things out. It feels like literally two thirds of the show could be completely cut and the show would be no worse for the wear. We’re avoiding getting to any actual conflict in favor of what exactly? There’s no real purpose to any of what we’re shown. I’m sure the author has these big ideas in his head about this expansive world that he wants us to be a part of but it comes off as mundane and pointless rather than immersive.
I said before the season started that Jinsei will probably suffer mightily due to having a male main character and that seems to be the case here. The main characters existence seems to suck the life out of the show as each girl feels the need to present her ideas to him and he responds by having no opinions or thoughts whatsoever. The main character reads the questions and then proceeds to do absolutely nothing. The main character has approximately the utility of a blow up doll with a Microsoft Sam voice box installed except it’s much harder to get him to make helicopter noises. There’s literally no reason for him to exist. This would be more of a shame if the rest of the show was remotely compelling but instead it seems content to define each girl’s personality based on her area of expertise. These one-note characters then will duke it out in dumb and occasionally lewd ways. You could make the argument that Jinsei is a metaphor for life (Jinsei literally means life) in that both are occasionally absurd and mostly without meaning. Since I’m not looking for nihilist propaganda in my anime I won’t stick around to push that metaphor any further. Dropped.