Wednesday 10 April 2013

Streaming: Winter 2013 anime final impressions

Thanks to Anime On Demand taking months to get their streaming going again, it feels as though my 'final impressions' have come not long after my 'first impressions' post went online. I won't make the mistake of delaying a post for that reason next time around.

Anime On Demand did eventually settle into a rhythm with the one series I was following regularly (Magi), a day later than the Crunchyroll stream hit the US. I passed on everything else they showed and concentrated on what Crunchyroll had to offer. I disagree with the comments from a lot of people that the Winter 2013 season was a weak one; there wasn't much balance to the offerings and many were squarely aimed at female fans, but there were some very memorable stories tucked away between the glittery idol shows and visual novel adaptations.

My top three shows from the episodes which aired this season, based on how much I looked forward to watching each new episode, were ultimately:

1. Courtesy of Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited -Hyoubu Kyousuke-
2. Ixion Saga DT
3. Shin Sekai Yori

This post collects brief comments about every anime I followed this season (along with bitterness about those I didn't have the chance to).

The heroine in AMNESIA is more passive and mild-mannered than usual for an otome game adaption, which has led to a backlash in the west when it comes to discussing the anime. Although she really is as meek as people say, I'm not ashamed to admit that I loved the whole series, not least because the men in it actually had personalities and flaws - often major ones - rather than being too perfect! I felt that Kent was robbed when he only starred in one episode so I ended up buying the iOS version of the original game. AMNESIA delivered beautiful artwork, some of the best music of the season, shocks (especially in the fourth arc), and a wonderful Ishida Akira character who became my firm favourite as soon as he started opening up. What more could I ask for?

Blast Of Tempest (Zetsuen No Tempest)
At the end of the first half of Zetsuen No Tempest I wrote a glowing summary. Since then, the pacing of the story faltered a little and the series suffered from bad reviews as viewers dropped it in droves. Things picked up again a few episodes later, thankfully, and it was able to go out with a bang after a parade of unbelievable twists. One of my favourite things was that it was always difficult to guess what was going to happen next. Mahiro and Yoshino were both likeable leads throughout, supported by a roster of very memorable side characters.

Boku No Imouto Wa Osaka-Okan
I enjoyed this mini-series right the way to the end. It seemed to receive a lot of bad reviews in the west since it relies on paying attention to cultural stereotypes to makes sense, and even then people who did know a little about Osaka seemed to complain in the Crunchyroll comments week after week. I kept wanting to scream that it's not a parody of the whole of Osaka; instead it's specifically poking fun at a certain type of person from the region. Anyway, I enjoyed watching the show with its simple, charming animation every Saturday morning. It's a shame that the Japanese edition won't include the subtitles from the Crunchyroll broadcast - it's unlikely that Namika's strange cultural explanations will ever make it to the west on disc. This kind of show is why streaming is such a good idea!

Courtesy of Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited -Hyoubu Kyousuke-
What a surprise! I tentatively added The Unlimited to my schedule on a whim, and within three episodes it had become something I was looking forward to watching every week. I've often thought a few shows would be improved by giving the villains their own spin-off and here this is exactly what the staff have done. What's more, they've done it well, making Kyousuke a sympathetic character in his own right without compromising his cool charisma for a moment. I particularly enjoyed the acting quality and have a new respect for Yusa Kouji whose voice gives Kyousuke a sexy, dangerous edge. The Unlimited doesn't skimp on music either, with a host of new character singles and ending themes to keep things fresh.

I soon started watching my Zettai Karen Children DVDs to make the gaps between episodes feel shorter and desperately hope that The Unlimited receives the Blu-ray release it deserves in the US one day - it has the ingredients to be a cult hit even with people unfamiliar with the world of The Children.

Cuticle Detective Inaba
Some series are destined not to stand out from the crowd as much as others, and Cuticle Detective Inaba was one of those in this busy season. On the positive side it was consistently funny, with fabulous characters in Don Valentino, Lorenzo and the stoic Ogino. If it hadn't been airing alongside the outrageous Ixion Saga DT and Gintama' it would have had more of a chance to leave a mark. Still, I enjoyed watching every episode! Hopefully Sentai Filmworks will be giving it a suitably charming release when the time comes for it to make its way to home video.

Strangely the upcoming season involves a new series on the niche topic of hair fetishism as well. Was Cuticle Detective Inaba simply ahead of its time?

From The New World (Shin Sekai Yori)
Shin Sekai Yori had a very uneven first half; there were a few weakly animated sequences with characters veering off model and at times it seemed to drag as the children panicked uselessly for weeks in a row while the dialogue wallowed in confusing terminology. Yet its slow start paid off beautifully once things finally started moving towards the show's climax with a series of gut-wrenching cliffhangers, each more shocking than the last. The early episodes had carefully set things up to give the later ones a level of emotional impact rarely seen in anime these days. Another aspect which I liked was that the characters grew realistically over the course of the story to the extent where I became attached to people I'd previously thought were quite annoying. A summary of the series wouldn't be complete without also mentioning the beautiful soundtrack. Two fantastic ending themes made up for the lack of an opening song, and I'll never be able to hear Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 again without immediately thinking of Saki and her friends. Shin Sekai Yori will stay with me for a long time as one of the classiest examples of its genre to date.

Again, it's mostly been re-runs. The exception was the brand new Courtesan of a Nation arc which aired over five episodes in January, the Beam Saber arc, and a (sort of) heartwarming episode about dogs which closed the season. I've been watching the re-runs anyway too for the seconds of movie teasing which had been popped onto the end of each episode. Let's hope the movie is worth the wait when it makes its debut later in the year!

Ixion Saga DT
Ixion Saga DT was insane right from the beginning. It provided laugh-out-loud moments almost every week, making all previous fantasy comedies redundant with its single-minded pursuit of innuendo while Kon perpetually broke the fourth wall to challenge established genre stereotypes. Shamelessly using a full episode just to promote its own character songs by having the characters visit a karaoke establishment had me in stitches (in part because the songs were so good). Special credit goes to Fukuyama Jun outdoing himself with his performance as the stunning Mariandale, somehow sounding more ladylike than the characters voiced by actual women. Erec was unexpectedly moe, too. Let's go, ED!

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic
I'm not sure what went wrong here. After a strong start, Magi ran out of steam part of the way through the second half, blighted by disappointingly cheap-looking yashigani animation and pacing issues which somehow made it seem rushed at the same time as feeling sluggish. The last (mostly anime-original) arc felt very messy compared to those which came before it. A second season is on the way; hopefully the studio will be able to redeem itself and avoid making the same mistakes again. It will remain compelling viewing even if they do, of course. Sinbad's just too cool to ignore.

I've heard that several fan-favourite scenes from the manga were removed completely, making the upcoming release of the original manga in the west all the more exciting. It's a blessing that the boost in exposure from the anime adaptation has led to the manga finally making it to the English-speaking world.

Mangirl was one of the very few three-minute anime series I followed every week without fail. What I found interesting about it was the insight into the manga publishing industry, so even though it had no real characterisation or drama it was a fascinating watch. It's not received the best reviews in the west due to its subject matter: stories about font choices or gravure shoots might not be for everyone. One thing I enjoyed immensely was the surprisingly playful final episode!

This was a great little fantasy parody show. It gradually made less sense as it drew towards its conclusion - not that this mattered - only to announce that it would be continuing later in the year. I'll continue watching when episode fourteen finally debuts in the summer, since Senyuu is so easy to slip into a schedule with its short episodes and rapid-fire silliness.

Dropped due to time restraints

This looks good, but the disrupted streaming schedule and home video announcement made me decide to wait for the Blu-ray version.

Chihayafuru 2
Waiting for a Blu-ray set since I'm so far behind.

My schedule was already too full to squeeze this in when I saw the first episode, but I definitely liked what I saw. Kotoura-san will be a guaranteed purchase as soon as someone releases a home video version; I might even catch up with it if I have time this season.

In a quieter season this might have been a keeper. In the end, it never quite stood out from the crowd, passed over in favour of the more enjoyable shows. I'll buy it and catch up later if it receives a Blu-ray release in the US.

Dropped due to disinterest

Da Capo III
Encouragement Of Climb (Yama No Susume)
Gdgd Fairies 2
Hakkenden: Eight Dogs Of The East (Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun)
Ishida And Asakura
Little Busters
Love Live! School Idol Project
Maoyu (Maoyuu Maou Yuusha)
Mondaijitachi Ga Isekai Kara Kuru Sou Desu Yo?
OreShura (Ore No Kanojo To Osananajimi Ga Shuraba Sugiru)
Student Council's Discretion Lv.2 (Seitokai No Ichizon Lv.2)
Tamako Market

Didn't watch due to corporate politics

Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman
I'm not entirely sure why this one is US-only. At least it doesn't seem to have been terribly well received.

Hetalia: The Beautiful World, Haganai NEXT, Puchimas!, Senran Kagura
All locked away thanks to FUNimation.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
There's still no legal way to watch JoJo's Bizarre Adventure overseas. I ordered the Blu-rays in the end because it's had such glowing feedback, but I want to express my dismay at the diabolical streaming situation. Even the raw streams broadcast in Japan are locked away from the UK; at times like this, I wonder what the point was in learning Japanese.

Nekomonogatari (Kuro)
I don't understand why this wasn't streamed in the west as well as Japan, even if it was restricted to a limited broadcast. I didn't buy the Japanese Blu-rays since I (obviously) can't tell if I want the bundled CDs without watching the show, so I guess it's Aniplex's loss. I'll probably buy the inevitable US release one day and then regret the decision to pass on the version with CDs...


That's the Winter 2013 season over, just in time for the announcement of the final Spring 2013 streaming licenses. We'll soon (hopefully) have a new player entering the fray with Daisuki promising that their site will go live in April 2013. Will I keep moaning about Anime On Demand going forwards, or will they start communicating with their potential customers?


  1. "I disagree with the comments from a lot of people that the Winter 2013 season was a weak one--"

    Well let's go whittle things down shall we:

    AMNESIA: dropped after one ep
    Blast of Tempest: YES. But this was a Fall 2012 series.
    Boku No Imouto Wa Osaka-Okan: Oh yeah
    Cuticle: dropped after one ep
    SSY: Will watch eventually, was a Fall 2012 show
    Gintama': Will miss Gintama again
    Ixion Saga DT: Yosh, but also was a Fall 2012 show
    Magi: A Fall 2012 show
    So really, in terms of New shows, Winter was pretty weak. Not a lot of good stuff aired, and Winter is mostly saved because a bunch of Fall shows continued. So there!!! =p ^^

    1. Details, details ;)

      I do seem to be the only person who enjoyed it. My schedule was so full I had to skip several shows I'd normally have streamed just to have enough time to go about my life in between (like Kotoura-san).

      Looking forward to a less hectic Spring. Even eliminating the continuing shows last season, I think I'll struggle to have as much to watch for the next few months. Of course, in my case it's made to look worse than it is by FUNimation swiping the English rights to more of the shows I wanted to watch and locking the UK out...


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