In which another season comes to a close.
1. Shirobako (Episode 24 [END])
Last week did the heavy lifting to get Shirobako to the finish line meaning this episode served as mostly a victory lap. That said, it was a very satisfying victory lap. I didn’t realize until this week’s episode how attached I had grown to the entire case of Shirobako. I obviously felt strongly about the main group of five, as the final scene of last week’s episode showed, but even the side characters had a special place in my heart by the end of Shirobako’s run. The show always impressed with how quickly and effectively it could take a character you don’t know a lot about and make them feel relatable and human. That’s what I’ll remember most about Shirobako, its sense of realism and the inherent humanity of all its characters. It’s the rare anime that feels like it’s about real people with real problems and we need more anime like that. Who knows if we’ll get a sequel (and I’m not exactly holding out for one), but regardless of that we’ll still get more anime directed by Mizushima and we’ll still get more anime produced by PA Works and if you ask me that’s a fine consolation prize. So long Musashino Animation, may your productions always end as triumphantly as Third Aerial Girls.
Final Verdict: 8/10
2. Koufuku Graffiti (Episode 12 [END])
While it was never going to be on the level of Shirobako, Koufuku Graffiti concluded quite nicely with what may have been the strongest episode in the series. It managed to bring everybody together while still focusing on the Ryou/Kirin dynamic and the idea of food tasting better when shared. The gift of an apron from Ryou’s late grandmother was also exactly the kind of sentimental thing I look for out of anime like this. That said, while the finale itself was quite good, Koufuku Graffiti always felt like a show that was stronger in concept than in reality. The idea of a girl rekindling her love of cooking after her grandmother passed through her connection with a new friend makes me imagine a show that’s much more endearing and emotionally potent than what we ended up getting. I think a lot of that blame falls on Shaft’s visual style creating distance between the viewer and the characters, although that issue diminished somewhat in the later episodes. Overall Koufuku was an acceptable slice of life that I more or less enjoyed but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep me from counting down the days to the premiere of Kiniro Mosaic’s second season.
Final Verdict: 6/10
3. The iDOLM@STER Cindrella Girls (Episode 11)
The only show not ending this week greeted us this week with an episode about Miku and [note: go figure out what Rock Idol’s name is before posting this], which was a fairly ominous sign to me. I hadn’t liked Miku’s bratty behavior much and Rock Idol’s entire character seemed to be saying “rock” every third word. The episode did indeed have its issues and I still feel like the show struggles at resolving conflicts in a timely manner. Every time it seemed like the two were making progress something would get them back to bickering just as badly as before. It never really felt like their relationship was improving and their fights were just as petty and bitter near the end of the episode as at the start. Then suddenly it was like a switch was flipped and they’re working together to make their debut even though I never got a sense they reached any kind of mutual understanding. Plus, the final performance felt kind of flat. Their moment of triumph was just shouting “nya” over and over until the crowd got into it for some reason. All that said, I still enjoyed this episode. When they aren’t in the midst of petty bickering, Miku and Rock Idol are fairly endearing and make a pretty nice pair and I did like the scene where Rock Idol was talking to her mother on the phone. Maybe that’s a sign that a little bit of yuri and some family themes are all it takes to please me but whatever, it worked.
4. Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! (Episode 12 [END])
It almost feels like last week’s episode was just stalling so Binan could pull out all the stops this week. From the Truman Show-esque reveal to the bickering between a talking wombat, hedgehog and goldfish to Yumoto’s brother finally showing his true colors, this was an episode packed full of interesting and funny moments. While it wasn’t able to keep it up for the full twelve episode run, Binan still had its moments and was book-ended by two stand out episodes. Overall the show feels like one that was understaffed and neglected by its parent studio but the actual people working on it gave the show a lot of love and care. It’s a show that did its best with what it had and that’s about all I can ask from it.
Final Verdict: 5/10
5. Kantai Collection: KanColle (Episode 12 [END])
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Binan, KanColle felt like a show that was sloppily made and lazily written. Like the previous battles, the finale had no tension to speak of and was ultimately boring and predictable. The finale suffered from a lot of the same issues as previous episodes: the seemingly insatiable need to squeeze as many girls into the show as well as the admiral’s existence being a weight on the show. It was particularly galling to see them treat the Admiral’s “return” as if it was some major event when he hadn’t done anything all show and him being gone was exactly the same as him being alive. I tend to like shows with all-female casts but not when they’re obvious cash-ins for games I don’t play. I’ll be passing on the second season.
Final Verdict: 4/10
6. Parasyte (Episode 24 [END])
Speaking of awkward final episodes. Parasyte gave us a finale that seemed like it should have been about eight minutes long but stretched out to twenty-two thanks to a painful final showdown with the serial killer. The episode up to the point where Uragami appeared was reasonable enough, if a bit preachy at times. The first half of the show had set something up that could have supported the broad thematic strokes of that part of the episode, but the second half had mostly undermined that so it felt kind of hollow. Still, it was much better than what came next. The final confrontation felt tacked on and was just as sloppily handled as the police stake-out arc. Uragami in general represented Parasyte at its most awkward and ham-handed as it bluntly tried to force the idea that humans are the real monsters down our throats. In the end, Parasyte ended up about where I expected, although the path to getting there was not at all what I had in mind. The first half was much more interesting and engaging than I had thought and then the second half was far worse than I expected. Regardless of how we got here, I don’t think I’ll remember Parasyte for long.
Final Verdict: 4/10
7. Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Episodes 11 and 12 [END])
Ah Saekano, you really couldn’t help yourself in the end. I’ll probably have more say in a full post in the next few days but I’ll try to summarize here. Utaha’s rousing defense of otaku is fine in theory but it’s undermined by the fact that the main character of this show is emblematic of everything wrong with modern otaku. The rest of the finale two episodes were Saekano as its usual, indulgent self occasionally broken up by an awesome line from Kato. I know not every show will be what I initially want it to be, but it’s frustrating when a show misses the mark by this much.
Final Verdict: 3/10
8. Shinmai Maou no Testament (Episode 12 [END])
Well, this episode at least had a couple good scenes. The combat and plot were terrible as usual but once they got back home things picked up (although not as much as they could have thanks to the censorship). I’m not sure I’ve seen a show as thoroughly brutalized by TV censorship as this one. If you have any interest in this show then wait for the blu rays, but really you should have any interest in this show in the first place. If you want to read our reactions to the final episode you can find them here.
Final Verdict: 3/10
And with that out of the way, let’s hand out some end of season awards:
Most Surprising (Positive) Show
Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love!
I picked this show up mostly as a flyer because the concept was interesting and the staff seemed promising. The show was definitely inconsistent but its best moments were very funny and I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. In a weak season like this that’s enough for me.
Most Disappointing Show
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata
I probably should have stuck with my evaluation of the show after the awful episode 00 aired. The actual main show teased an interesting take on the life of an obsessive otaku and the struggle to get him to realize the error of his ways. Instead it turned into an uncomfortable, indulgent mess that had none of the edge that I had hoped for in the beginning.
Best Male Character
Arima Kousei (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso)
KimiUso may not have reached its full potential but the growth of Kousei, especially in the second half of the show, was superb. Seeing him go from the scared child who froze up following his mother’s death to the more mature young man that was deeply hurt by Kaori’s death but ultimately came out on the other side stronger was a wonderful experience.
Best Female Character
Miyamori Aoi (Shirobako)
When in doubt, go with the best character from the best show so that’s what we’re doing here. Oi-chan might not be my personal favorite from Shirobako (Yano’s probably my favorite and I identify with Misa more than anybody else) but her ability to step up to the challenge of organizing everybody the way she grew into her role during the second half of the show was outstanding. She was the foundation that made all of Shirobako possible and I’m glad we had her.
Best Opening Song
Miiro (Kantai Collection)
KanColle the show may not have been what I hoped but the opening song was still outstanding. The song is full of energy and Akino is really growing on me as an artist.
Best Ending Song
Colorful (Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata)
The song is pretty, happy and just fun to listen to in general.
The Kousaka Kirino Memorial “Otherwise Good Show Complete Ruined by a Single Character” Award
Aki Tomoya (Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata)
It’s a well-established fact that male characters are terrible and male characters who are the only main male character in their show doubly so. Therefore, I normally don’t bother giving the award to one of these characters because their terribleness is already understood. That said, Tomoya (or Tomo, or Rinri-kun, or whatever you want to call him) is so awful and the show and characters around him are so handicapped by him that I couldn’t give the award to anybody else. He’s a walking gross otaku stereotype and the show has no interest in challenging that. His awfulness is compounded by the fact that the show is populated by a lovely cast of female characters making the failed potential that much more painful.
See you guys 2 weeks from now with the first crop of spring shows!