In which I have startlingly few shows to talk about.
1. Hanayamata (Episode 12 [END])
Hanayamata ended pretty much exactly as I expected it would. Upon seeing the close bond Hana shared with her friends, Hana’s mother decided to let her go back to Japan briefly in order to perform with her friends and achieve the goal she spent so much time working for. It’s a predictable conclusion to be sure, but a good one nonetheless. Hanayamata had given me good content up to this point, I expected more good content and I got exactly what I expected. The final performance sequence was a fitting conclusion to a very vibrant show. The one place I took issue with the finale was Hana’s declaration that she would convince her parents to let her stay in Japan. I was hoping that she would be shown to accept that family comes first and that while she treasured the time she had with Naru, Yaya, Tami and Machi, she couldn’t stay with them forever. It seemed like they were going this direction in the previous episode but Hana never quite reached that level of reflection instead staying relentlessly positive to the end. I supposed it’s in character but I can’t help but be a little disappointed since dealing with this issue in a more genuine manner and showing the corresponding growth in Hana would have elevated Hanayamata even further.
As it is, Hanayamata is still a very good example of its genre. The non-4koma source and Yoshida Reiko’s scriptwriting gives the show a more cohesive narrative structure than other slice of life anime and it’s able to deal with weightier subject matter because of it. While the animation wasn’t the best, the show had a vibrant color palette that worked well with the often flashy uniforms and movements in yosakoi. While the show did handle some more involved issues than most shows like it, Hanayamata never quite managed to follow through on some of its more promising subplots. Both Sally’s status as a part time teacher and Hana’s impending departure for America felt like they were resolved a little bit more neatly than they should have been. The show gave indications that it might take these issues more seriously but at the end of the day things stayed relentlessly happy. Which is fine, I don’t feel like a show like this should have serious downer moments, but some more realism in how the issues the show raises were resolved could have made this even better.
Final Verdict: 7/10
2. Yama no Susume (Episodes 11 and 12)
Or NoSubs no Susume I suppose. I finally gave up on waiting for subs for this show and watched episodes 11 and 12 raw. I probably missed a lot of details (although it was hard to miss the loudmouthed Americans still hanging around) but the show is straightforward enough that I don’t think I missed anything that important. I was touched to see how heartbroken Aoi got over her failure to reach the summit of Fuji. There’s no shame in succumbing to altitude sickness the first time you climb that high but it’s also understandable that Aoi would feel disappointment and guilt over the fact that she couldn’t make it to the top and that she kept Kaede from summiting as well even though Kaede surely would have made it without her. The following episode was finally an example of a reconciliation episode between Hinata and Aoi that actually involved something worth reconciling over. In contrast to the manufactured drama of episode five, Aoi’s sadness and guilt felt genuine and Hinata’s efforts to cheer her up were actually justified. I also liked the use of the first season ED as Hinata and Aoi were climbing together. It’s a peppy song that really fit the moment and was a nice way to cap the first cour of Yama no Susume’s second season.
3. Ao Haru Ride (Episode 12 [END])
Ao Haru Ride was a direct adaptation of the manga to the very end. The people at Production IG made very little effort to speed things up or change anything to provide a conclusive finale. On the one hand, the ending pretty much leaves you hanging and wasn’t exactly satisfying for the viewer. On the other, I felt the deliberate pacing was a strength of Ao Haru Ride and changing that would have probably made the whole anime suffer rather than just the ending. Ultimately, this show amounted to little more than an advertisement for the manga. Which is fine, it’s a good manga, but it put a low ceiling on what Ao Haru Ride could be. That said, Ao Haru Ride did a pretty good job of reaching that low ceiling, which is all you can ask of a staff handed this assignment. It wasn’t the most compelling romance ever and it stumbled into a few more standard shoujo tropes than I’d like but on the whole it was a solid, if unremarkable, shoujo romance which isn’t a bad thing.
Final Verdict: 5/10
4. Barakamon (Episode 12 [END])
Barakamon stayed true to itself to the very end, which is a blessing and a curse. It seemed like almost every episode had at least one genuine heartwarming moment and the second half of the finale had plenty of those. When Barakamon is on its game it has sentimentality figured out almost perfectly. The problem is when the show breaks that mood and the culprit this week was Seishuu’s mother. Her behavior was so over the top that her demand that Seishuu stay home rather than returning to the island felt more like the crazed ramblings of an insane woman rather than the heartfelt pleading of a loving mother. But that dissonance was not something new in this episode as it had been present almost the entire show. At times it’s hard for me to tell how much of this is genuine failing on Barakamon’s part and how much of this is Barakamon simply not being what I personally wanted it to be. It’s not impossible for a show to mesh multiple disparate styles into a cohesive whole but I don’t think Barakamon really achieved that. At its best, Barakamon was one of the best shows of the season, but that “best” was broken up far too often by comedy that, while not bad, didn’t really feel like it belonged with the rest of the show.
Final Verdict: 5/10
5. Glasslip (Episode 13 [END])
Speaking of shows that didn’t change, Glasslip was a mess to the bitter end. The final episode served as the culmination of a series of narrative choices that were questionable at best and downright indefensible at worst. Whatever purpose the show may have once had was lost long before we reached this point and all I can say about the finale is at least it’s mercifully over. You can check out my full post on the episode for a more in depth recap but the short version is: Glasslip was a very bad anime.
Final Verdict: 3/10
6. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei (Episode 26 [END])
Just when you think Mahouka can’t up the ante on Tatsuya’s overpoweredness, it turns out he’s basically god. I wish I was joking but in this episode Tatsuya:
- Raises the dead
- Vaporizes enemies in one shot
- Detonates an attack with the destructive energy of a nuclear bomb from dozens of kilometers away with no collateral damage
There’s never any tension because Tatsuya always wins without even being challenged. More than being a mess like Glasslip, Mahouka is aggressively bad from the start. The first arc has its dubious politics, the second was pointlessly long and the final arc just turned Tatsuya’s OP nature up to eleven. There was rarely a breather episode where you could look at it in a vacuum and say “that was alright.” The show was a disaster start to finish. That said, it was an entertaining disaster which is probably more than can be said for the second half of Glasslip. The way the show could pull all this off without a hint of irony was almost impressive to watch. You genuinely felt like the author actually thought this was a good story with good characters even though it is readily apparent that it is nothing of the sort. I can’t say I’ll miss Mahouka but as far as awful shows to hate-watch, you can do much worse.
Final Verdict: 3/10
Like Last season, we have a short final week of power rankings so I’ll hand out some end of season awards again:
Most Surprising (positive) Show:
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
I was afforded the opportunity to preview this show before the season started and I have to say I was not impressed at all by what I read of the manga and thought this show would be nothing special. Despite Dogakobo’s track record in the area of goofy anime comedies, I didn’t think they could elevate the source material to the extent they did. While I thought the show dragged a bit near the end and I don’t think I loved it as much as the general anime-viewing public, I enjoyed it far more than I expected to going in.
Most Disappointing Show:
Was there really any doubt for this one? When a show with so many reasons to recommend it going in fails this utterly it goes down not just as the biggest disappointment of the season but arguably the biggest disappointment in my anime-viewing history.
Best Male Character:
Nozaku Umetarou (Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun)
Pretty much all the contenders for this award came from Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun but the titular mangaka stands above the rest as my favorite character from the show. His ability to play both the role of boke and tsukkomi as well as his hilarious penchant for viewing everything in his life in terms of how it can help him with his manga left me laughing week after week.
Best Female Character:
Saitou Kaede (Yama no Susume Second Season)
I liked her in the first season but the way Kaede has fully taken on the role of the older-sister figure in this group of friends is a joy to watch. I love seeing her dispense mountaineering knowledge look after Hinata, Kokona and Aoi as they go on adventures. Also glasses.
Honorable Mention: Mikoshiba Mikoto (Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun)
Mikorin is best girl.
Heavenly Blue (Aldnoah.Zero)
Similar to last season, the best opening song comes from a show I didn’t particularly care for. I’m not the biggest Kalafina fan but this is one of their better songs. At least I think it is, they all kind of sound similar. Not Ali Project similar but they still share a lot of elements with each other. Regardless, I like this one more than most and it was a generally weak season for opening songs so there you go.
Honorable Metnion: Natsuiro Present (Yama no Susume)
The song is unremarkable but I love the opening animation.
I didn’t love this song at first but it really grew on me over the course of the show and the full version is excellent.
Honorable Mention: aLIEz (Aldnoah.Zero)
I SAY LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE I SAY CRYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY
Or whatever. It’s a fun song.
And last but not least:
The Kousaka Kirino Memorial “Otherwise Good Show Completely Ruined by a Single Character” Award:
Kaizuka Inaho (Aldnoah.Zero)
I hesitate to call Aldnoah.Zero “otherwise good” but the show would have at least been something approaching respectable with a solid main character rather than the deadpan disaster that was Inaho. He’s not Tatsuya but his impossible levels of tactical genius combined with the inexplicable moments of idiocy experienced by all his opponents made anything involving him a chore to watch.
And with that we’re done with what turned out to be one of the weakest anime seasons in recent memory. Hopefully Fall can do better.