Saturday, 29 December 2012

Streaming: Autumn 2012 anime final impressions

I thought I'd collect my thoughts on this seasons very strong lineup of anime streams so that I can refer back to it later when important spending decisions are needed. Continuations of long-running shows I didn't watch are not listed.


Completed

Say "I Love You" (Sukitte Ii Na Yo)
A lovely short shoujo romance story with slightly older characters, so they get on with it instead of spending an entire series worrying about trivial things like first kisses and whether the other person likes them. The leads were likeable and easy to cheer for, and there were cats. It's already been licensed for a US home video release so I'll purchase the Blu-ray from Sentai Filmworks once it's available.

Extra note: There was an unexpected extra episode right at the end which aired after I made this post and slightly lessened the emotional impact of the climax. Everything I said still stands overall.

This picture may not be representative of the series...
Lychee Light Club (Litchi DE Hikari Club)
I liked these eight short episodes enough to run out and buy the manga so it's safe to say the show was a hit. If the Japanese home video release had English subtitles I'd be importing in a trice. Reactions from the existing western Lychee Light Club fanbase seem to be more negative overall; turning a dark and erotic horror-tragedy into a surreal comedy series has evidently had a polarising effect.


K
While Zetsuen No Tempest demonstrates the ideal way to present an insane, complicated plot full of super-powered, good-looking people, K often struggled to find its voice and do the same. The designs are beautiful and the animation is lush, yet the convoluted story and abundance of shallow characters made it hard work to keep up. The annoyingly hip music and stylishly blue-green palette didn't help. There is still a lot to like in K; it incredibly managed to pull its tangled sub-plots together right at the end in a way I hadn't imagined would be possible, its opening sequence is eye-catching and some of the characters (Kurou and Yata) are appealing. However, the school elements felt like pointless clutter and that time could have been better spent filling in the backgrounds of more of the minor characters. It's been announced that a second season is on the way. I'll reserve judgement until I'm able to see the final episode of the first at last - Anime On Demand is still saying that it will be made available last Thursday without any communication about the delay (their region-locked French stream went up without a problem). I'm glad that I finished it and when it was good it really was fun to watch. Whether I continue into season two will depend on the final episode.

Sword Art Online
It's fashionable to bash Sword Art Online these days. It certainly went in a strange direction this season and some episodes are noticeably weaker than others, plot-wise, but when it's good it's fantastically entertaining. My expectations weren't that high from the outset, so SAO has always provided pleasant surprises rather than the disappointment often griped about in fan communities. With great music, designs, seiyuu performances and action, I'm hoping that Aniplex of America will give us a solid Blu-ray release when the time comes.


Ongoing

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic
Bewilderingly, Magi is probably the second most-criticised show of the season in the west behind Sword Art Online. Well-received in Japan, the long-awaited anime adaptation is a heady mix of adventure, wonder and old-fashioned fun. Its strong appeal to female viewers is probably a large contributor to the lukewarm reception it's had from the stereotypical older male critics in the west, who tend to be biased towards the slice of life, harem and cynical action genres. As a shounen fantasy series which prioritises negotiation and magic over sword fights, Magi is none of those things; it's also one of the rare shounen series where I find myself liking almost every single character. Even the token female lead is a tough, interesting young lady. Since the anime looks as though it may only be running until the end of the winter season, someone needs to get the manga published over here as soon as possible.


From The New World (Shin Sekai Yori)
There were times that Shin Sekai Yori dragged and times when it flew by, but one thing is true: it was never boring. The plot twisted and turned in unusual ways straight from the first episode. There were some slow points at the beginning, but once it had finished setting everything up the gravity of the story was immense. If nothing else it's unquestionably the classiest show I've watched this season. Naturally, I'll be following it through the winter as well to find out what other secrets lie beneath the idyllic surface in this creepy vision of the future of humanity.


Ixion Saga DT
Ixion Saga DT came straight out of left field. Not only had I never heard of the game it's based on, I wasn't planning on watching the anime, either, until it started to air and receive positive buzz. It's puerile and pathetic, and I absolutely love every minute of it. Its existence made the lack of new Gintama episodes bearable this season, and it's only going to get better. The Gintama parallels are especially strong at the moment as the staff are claiming that the next episode will be the start of a new series, Ixion Saga ED, and they've gone as far as to remove references to DT from the official website. This is music to my ears as the hapless ED is great fun to watch, however, I don't believe for a moment that we've really seen the last of DT. Let's go, ED!


Blast Of Tempest (Zetsuen No Tempest)
I've listed this an ongoing show without really being sure whether we're getting a full second cour or just a few additional episodes to finish things off. Another show which surprised me by being far better than I'd dared to hope; Bones have done it again with Zetsuen No Tempest. This series blends magic, action, mystery and Shakespeare, but more than all of these things it's interesting. Entire episodes pass which are nothing more than long exchanges of dialogue; dialogue which is so intense it reminds me of a Gyakuten Saiban game. Although the two leads are attractive young men with problematic personalities, they're no slouches intellectually and the result is that they're fascinating to watch. The plot is bonkers yet not for a single moment have I felt lost as the details slowly came into focus over the course of the show. I'm very interested in a possible Aniplex USA Blu-ray release one day. Zetsuen No Tempest is a fantastic show which more people should be watching.


Gintama
This season is mostly re-runs. They're excellent re-runs, with amusing skits after the credits which follow the progress of next year's movie, but when it comes down to it I'd rather be seeing brand new episodes each week. The brand new Kintama arc was superb and we've been promised another new arc starting in January.


Dropped

BTOOOM!
This series is not aimed at me and it isn't trying to be. Based on that I don't feel qualified to say whether it's good or bad; I simply didn't enjoy its brand of explosive dumbness at all and moved on to more appealing things.

Bottom-Biting Bug (Oshiri Kajirimushi)
I'm man enough to admit that I watched and enjoyed several episodes of this. Unfortunately, I'm no longer young enough to be able to consume an entire series of bottom-related comedy shorts without fatigue. If it ever receives a dub I think younger viewers would cheerfully latch on to its irreverent toilet humour and make it a surprise hit in the west.

Didn't watch out of choice

Hayate No Gotoku! Can't Take My Eyes Off You
The first season of Hayate No Gotoku (released on DVD with English subtitles as Hayate The Combat Butler) was surprisingly fun to watch. A combination of its poor retail performance and the demise of Bandai Entertainment in the US meant that the second season never followed, and until that situation is rectified I've no interest in the more recent adaptations.

My Little Monster (Tonari No Kaibutsukun)
In a quieter season I'd probably be watching My Little Monster. The only reason I'm not is that it's a slightly more innocent, idealistic flavour of shoujo to Sukitte Ii Na Yo, and I prefer the latter. I'll probably watch it in future when it's out in the west on DVD or BD.

The Pet Girl Of Sakurasou (Sakurasou No Pet Na Kanojo)
Stunning beautiful character designs can't quite hide the fact that this is yet another series about an eccentric, pretty young girl and a boring male lead living together (this time, in a dormitory). The wish fulfilment aspect of having a young guy acting the protector for a stupid girl rather irritates me to begin with; it's a far cry from the superior arrangement in the classic Maison Ikkoku. There have been no encouraging signs that Sakurasou will push the formulaic concept further, and if I want to see an entertaining exploration of what it's like to have (or be) a human pet, it's unlikely that it will surpass the manga Kimi Wa Pet (Tramps Like Us).

Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai!
This has definitely been a great success this past season and it's streaming for free on Anime On Demand, yet I can't bring myself to give it a try. The character designs leave me cold, the concept is a mishmash of ideas which have already been done before, and I'll probably be immune to the cuteness of the female lead upon which the success of the show seems to ride. At least it's thrust the wonderful expression 'chuunibyou' into the consciousness of the average fan.

Girls Und Panzer
The other big hit with the otaku demographic recently has been Girls Und Panzer. It has one of those convenient titles which immediately attracts one kind of person while repulsing me. I wouldn't be able to give this a fair chance so didn't watch it (Strike Witches or Upotte! didn't interest me either, and this seems to be cut from the same cloth).

Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb, To Love-Ru Darkness, Busou Shinki, Aoi Sekai No Chuushin De, Teekyuu, Chitose Get You!
I've never been interested in the previous seasons or the works they're derived from. There's no questioning that all of these shows clearly have an audience; it's an audience which doesn't include me.

Didn't watch due to corporate politics

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
I'm reasonably sure I'd have adored JoJo and bought the Japanese Blu-rays (which include English subtitles). Unfortunately, nobody in Japan wants me to watch and buy the series and it was never made available for streaming. Even the Japanese streams were region-locked to Japan. I don't feel like spending hundreds on a series I haven't seen for such an annoying reason, so I'll keep waiting.

Bakuman. season 3
It's hard being a British fan of the Bakuman. anime! The first season's DVD release was aborted partway, the second is in limbo, and the third doesn't seem to have been given a simulcast. Hopefully Kaze's European release will set things back on track eventually. I adore the manga so I'd like to collect the anime too.

Kamisama Kiss (Kamisama Hajimemashita), Code:Breaker, Psycho-Pass, Jormungand Perfect Order, 
I'd have liked to have watched these but Funimation has the English language rights, which means I can't as they block viewers outside America. Very frustrating. I'll buy them if I'm still interested when they finally make it to home video.

Robotics;Notes
Another series blocked due to Funimation's involvement. I hated Chaos;Head so I have trepidation about buying this series blind. I guess I won't buy it. Good job, Funi.

Oniichan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankeinai Yo Ne! (Oniai)
Another series lost to English-speakers outside the states thanks to Funimation's horrible policies. I wouldn't have watched this one anyway though; it's another bandwagon-jumping little sister incest series. Only with this hobby can I complain about there being "too many incest series" and "too many gender-swapped sengoku harem shows" without a trace of exaggeration!

Medaka Box Abnormal
Medaka Box is region-locked on Crunchyroll with no UK alternative so I'll wait for the eventual home video release.

Aikatsu/Chousoku Henkei Gyrozetter/Little Busters!
No simulcasts seem to exist for these three. I'd have secretly watched at least an episode of each on Crunchyroll had they been there.

So far, the winter season doesn't look quite as jam-packed with interesting shows as this past one, which is a relief as I need some free time in between simulcasts to catch up on my DVD backlog! I've already peeked at the first episode of Boku No Imouto Wa Osaka-okan on Crunchyroll and I'll be continuing to follow that along with the ongoing shows from this past autumn.

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