Friday 3 April 2015

Streaming: Winter 2015 anime final impressions

What an exhausting season it's been. I've scarcely had a moment to myself for the last few months due to my day job. Naturally, my anime watching suffered as a result and I may have been less patient with mediocre titles as I would under normal conditions.

I had to bounce between Crunchyroll, Daisuki, Viewster, Nico Nico and Vimeo this season to watch the shows I was following. Wakanim is still inactive in the UK and Animax is too annoying to use, so I missed out on a few titles I'd have watched if the UK streaming situation was less of a mess. Overall it wasn't too bad.

My ranking at the start of the season was completely incorrect. To be fair, I didn't realise that I'd ever be able to stream Death Parade at the time and the titles which moved down the list were all still very enjoyable.

1. Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu LOVE!
2. Akatsuki No Yona
3. Death Parade

I cannot explain why I loved Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu LOVE! so much when it was so unashamedly dumb, so here's a picture from Akatsuki No Yona instead.

New titles

First of all, here's the usual batch of shows which weren't available in the UK until long after my first impressions post went online. There were several this time.

Comical Psychosomatic Medicine (Anime De Wakaru Shinryou Naika)
A crazy 'educational' show where a pair of health professionals talk the viewer through common psychological problems in an irreverent way. It probably does actually work to educate people but the focus is firmly on dark comedy and innuendo, and a few of the episodes even have an interactive twist by asking the viewer to participate in quick personality tests which lead into the topic of discussion. This show is more funny than it has any right to be and it became even better when the saucy lady arrived partway into the story. Since Comical Psychosomatic Medicine started as an ONA several weeks into the winter season I'm not actually sure when it will end; presumably it will be partway through the spring if the runtime on the upcoming DVD set is a hint. It's amusing so I'll keep watching.

It contains accidentally-depressing social commentary too
Death Parade
Jigoku Shoujo is one of my favourite shows and I've been hoping for something to recapture its mood ever since it ended. While Death Parade isn't that show it comes closer than most, despite the writing not being quite as clever as it thinks it is.

The formula of each episode is that the viewer starts out being introduced to a pair of people who happen to be recently deceased. A dour bartender gazes at them impassively as he reads out a set of bizarre rules, then a game is played to decide whether either of the two of them will be reincarnated. If they don't perform well, they're condemned to eternal nothingness instead. This premise alone would be enough to form the basis of a great television show yet the creators take things even further, exploring what goes through the minds of the 'arbiters' whose job it is to judge the dead.

The quality of the series varies wildly from episode to episode as some of the twists work better than others. What the episodes all have in common, however, is that they're all colourful, stylish and inherently interesting to watch; having to find out the secrets each new pair of victims is hiding before discovering their fates gives the stories an addictive quality. The seiyuu turned in some beautiful performances in the final episode, and of course the funky opening sequence is worth watching too!

I'm really glad that Viewster managed to pick this simulcast up even if they broadcast each episode a week or two late. It's interesting to see FUNimation's logo emblazoned all over the eyecatches without any effort made to hide the connection this time.

The designs are absolutely glorious too
I hated every single minute of this show's first episode. The plot is so generic that it borders on unintentional parody; a goody-goody guy with mysterious powers meets a good-looking schoolgirl with a horrible personality. The two of them end up fighting supernatural monsters together while the script reels off every overplayed gag from the last ten years, from stolen first kisses to panty shots. There's a weird insistence on sexualising the obnoxious female lead which came on rather strongly, too. I don't see why anyone would watch this when everything in it has been done better by other shows already; it's one for hardcore tsundere fans and devoted students of Japanese mythology only.

She's pretty and that's the only decent thing I have to say
Tokyo Ghoul √A
I would have watched this weekly except that Animax UK's service is so bad that I'd rather go without than watch their free streams. If you want to be bombarded by annoying splash screens, self-promotion and unfulfilled promises it is technically possible to watch this sequel in the UK on a random schedule - 4-6 weeks after the US simulcast (but make sure you check the site regularly even if they rarely update since they're very quick to take episodes down). Animax's service is a national embarrassment.

A promised stream elsewhere never materialised and the show was already old news by the time I watched the first episode seven weeks into the winter season, so I'll wait for the home video version instead at this point. I hardly remember anything that was going on, anyway, and the ending theme seemed to be missing.

It's a shame as I heard this sequel is worth a watch
Yoru no Yatterman (Yatterman Night)
The Yatterman series has never really appealed to me. Yoru no Yatterman, however, offers an interesting modern twist on the original as it follows a descendent of the show's original villainess. Cute young Leopard is thrust into a life of crime after the so-called heroes turn her away in her hour of need. As the title implies, the results are rather dark. I'm too busy to keep up with Yoru no Yatterman at the moment but it's one I might well come back to later if it receives a decent home video release in the US.

The blend of retro and modern aesthetics is cool

Series I watched

Akatsuki No Yona
There's no real closure to be found at the end of Akatsuki No Yona though at least she's assembled her band of oddball legendary warriors now. If anything, it would have been better for them to have ended the series a little earlier as there were some fascinating shifts in the story right in the last few episodes which are now unresolved. We need a second season!

I resisted adding another picture of Hak this time
Simultaneously the most exciting show this season and the dumbest, ALDNOAH.ZERO has been one heck of a ride. I've been more forgiving than most as the plot veered crazily in various directions but even I have to admit that the last few episodes seemed weak at times. Still, the excellent soundtrack and visuals made the combat scenes worth waiting for every time. In spite of everything, I enjoyed ALDNOAH.ZERO.

A picture of Slaine and a gun, as is traditional
Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu LOVE! (Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!)
It's a pity that Pony Canyon USA (PONYCAN) won't be the company releasing Binan Koukou Chikyuu Boueibu LOVE! in the west because after watching this delightful series from start to finish I'd be first in line to place some expensive preorders for their deluxe editions! Instead I'm going to be waiting a while for FUNimation's (far more reasonably priced) edition before I can justify a rewatch. Boueibu is utterly, utterly stupid and it embraces this fact without the slightest trace of shame. The tongue-in-cheek dialogue, over-the-top colourful visuals and impressive list of guest seiyuu kept me entertained every week. Can we have a second season one day, please?

Let's More Better Love Making! Or something
Bonjour♪ Koiaji P√Ętisserie (BONJOUR♪ Sweet Love Patisserie)
What a thoroughly mediocre show. I know it's wrong to expect too much from a mini-anime about a meandering chaste romance between pastry chefs and their cute-as-a-button student, but Bonjour♪ Koiaji P√Ętisserie didn't even try to make itself memorable. None of the guys are interesting and the relationships which spring up between them and the female lead lack any kind of plausibility; even though it originally seemed obvious that the perpetually-angry redhead is supposed to be the favourite I didn't care whether he ended up with the main character or not. The least they could have done was include more lavish depictions of fancy desserts to distract people from the lacklustre story!

There's nothing wrong with the show, it's just completely pointless. And this is coming from someone who liked Miracle Train.

I'd be sad I wasted my time if the episodes weren't so short
Durarara!!×2 (Shou)
Durarara!! is always an interesting watch. I'm not familiar with the plot of the novels so the complicated story about Russian hitmen and gang turf wars is all new to me, and once again the series manages to introduce a bunch of weird new characters and make them likeable. Quite a few people have complained about the cheap-looking animation this season. It doesn't really bother me since the setpieces still look great but it would be good if the characters could stay on model more often; still, I'll be looking forward to the continuation when the next chunk of episodes air in July!

Couldn't find a cute enough picture of Shinra this time
Gundam: Reconguista In G
The show is also available for free on Viewster in Austria, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland or the UK.

This show is daft. I love the retro-looking visuals yet the convoluted plot is all over the place and often drags. It's not afraid to kill characters but I didn't care about any of them enough while they were alive, so I felt an odd lack of emotional connection to the events unfolding on-screen. This effect seems to extend to the characters themselves; when dramatic events happen they pass with relatively little fanfare. I gave up trying to relate to Bellri at all; Klim Nick should have been the main character.

Good question
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders season two
This season's batch of episodes was more of the same, which is never a bad thing when talking about JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. There were some episodes which were average, but others - like the Bastet arc which aired around Valentine's Day - were simply perfection. I couldn't stop laughing, especially since Avdol is my favourite character. I hope that the future arcs of the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure continue to inspire this instant-classic anime adaptation.

They're going to find DIO soon right? Right?
Kuroko no Basket (Kuroko's Basketball) season three
KuroBas mania isn't what it once was now the manga has finished but that doesn't mean that the animators at Production I.G. have cut any corners with their ongoing adaptation. This season has seen a lot of development for Kise as well as a proper introduction to Akashi, and the gorgeous action scenes have really made it worth watching every week even if I have to make a special trip to Daisuki's website. It's continuing into the spring season as the current tournament heads towards its climax.

The relationship between Kise and Kuroko is great
Parasyte -The Maxim- (Kiseijuu -Sei No Kakuritsu-)
I finally saw the ending after an 18-year wait!

The dull colour palette (lots of browns and flesh tones) and miserable atmosphere made it difficult to get excited about each new episode of Parasyte -The Maxim-. Yet somehow I kept watching religiously each week, watching Shinichi suffering through horrific situations over and over again in his journey to learn to accept himself and his strange, monstrous new friend. Many of my expectations from earlier on went unfulfilled when the story went in a direction I wasn't expecting. It wasn't bad, though.

Shinichi has had a rough ride
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal
I'll keep my comments about Sailor Moon Crystal short as I repeat myself each time. It's not that good, and yet I'm still watching it as it crawls through the original source material on its weird broadcast schedule. The Black Moon arc has now begun, throwing a different villain at the heroines every episode with no real backstory. The complete lack of worthwhile character development for anyone other than Usagi and Mamoru continues to make the show one of the least enjoyable Sailor Moon adaptations of all time, sadly.

Sengoku Musou (Samurai Warriors)
Another show I continued to watch each week despite being conscious that the quality was variable. I think the Sengoku Musou anime suffers by dumping most of the interesting characters from the series in favour of the blander heroic leads - but that's partly because they want to tell a particular story about the later part of the period, and it just happens that the historical figures most relevant to that tale aren't the ones with the most interesting designs. Having said that, the anime-original extra characters were rather good, especially the bold Hideyori. He looked like an insipid bishounen figurehead at first yet he became a rather interesting player in the conflict as the story progressed.

The story itself is a mixed bag; some episodes plod along (Sanada Nobuyuki's inner turmoil was given far too much screen time) while others fly by (you can blink and miss some characters' deaths). There were a number of cool references for existing fans, and the highlight of the series was definitely the final episode where Yukimura's sombre last battle brought the Sengoku Musou story to its close in style. It made me feel emotional. Overall, the series was decent and it would be good to see future adaptations made one day. I came away with a different perspective on some of the characters I tend to ignore in the original games.

Never expected to like this guy as much as I did
Ah, SHIROBAKO, the dark horse which I almost didn't watch at first. That would have been a huge mistake! The show is absolutely charming, and even if you have no soul and dislike all of the characters it's still worth watching for the insightful glimpses into the realities of the anime industry which come between the lighthearted fantasy scenes. SHIROBAKO is just perfect.

I wanted them to succeed with all my heart

So that's the winter 2015 season over, aside from all the shows I couldn't stream legally which I won't get to see until they receive a western home video release. Whew!

The announcements for spring 2015 have already begun and so far they've been disappointing; FUNimation is grabbing a lot of the most interesting titles to block foreigners and UK availability is mostly limited to sequels. C'mon, Crunchyroll!

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