Saturday, 4 July 2015

Streaming: Spring 2015 anime final impressions

Is it the end of the anime season already?! I found the latest series of Game Of Thrones dreadfully disappointing, so it's a good thing that there were some gems in the spring anime season to keep me entertained.

Access to streaming still continues to be a mess in the UK, and most other countries outside the US. It was necessary to juggle Crunchyroll, Daisuki, Viewster and Nico Nico in order to keep up with the shows I deemed worth watching this time around. I should stop mentioning Wakanim as it's plainly lost interest in the UK market, while Animax is still clinging on despite its apparent contempt for its audience.

There were few stand out titles this season with everything being reasonably entertaining. The only real surprise was that I fell more in love with Arslan Senki with every passing week; it's a great show. My ranking would look something like this:

1. Gintama
2. Arslan Senki
3. Shokugeki No Soma

Nothing can compete with Gintama.


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. For some aggravating reason, Viewster and FUNimation unlocked several shows at once in the last week of the season. Kekkai Sensen (Blood Blockade Battlefront) is also supposed to be available, but as the season has now ended without it appearing I think it's disqualified from being classed as a 'simulcast'. I'll wait for the BD release in a year or two.

Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku (Mikagura School Suite)
A perky comedy where an annoyingly peppy girl joins a new school in pursuit of a beautiful stranger and proceeds to try to become involved with her female schoolmates whenever the opportunity arises. The school she chose is a little unusual in that everyone is a member of a cultural club and able to use larger-than-life superpowers. It's ok; just nowhere near as good as the (vaguely similar) Maria+Holic. A school title needs something special to draw me in these days.

Not the most appealing character this season

Ninja Slayer from Animation
A very angry man becomes the 'Ninja Slayer' who wanders around bloodily slaughtering ninja to take revenge after his loved ones were killed. The animation alternates between being decent and (deliberately) terrible, and the whole thing seems to be an extended excuse to grab the viewer's attention by force rather than tell a unique story. My partner remarked that it was exactly like watching a small child playing with their action figures, full of shouting and crazed bursts of action.

The official subtitles are great, though.

Almost worth watching for the subs. Almost.

Rainy Cocoa (Ameiro Cocoa)
Most series with two-minute episodes tackle their material by telling short, self-contained stories packed full of humour and energy. Rainy Cocoa takes a completely different approach with its ongoing slice of life setting about a cafe staffed by attractive guys, since each of the episodes continues the story in tiny bite-sized chunks. As FUNimation locked the show away from the UK until a week ago I marathoned the first eight episodes all in one go which made the storytelling slightly less annoying - however, it was still really weird each time an episode abruptly ended in what felt like the middle of a scene. Watching weekly must have been awful. For some reason the last few episodes are still unavailable in the UK but I don't care enough to wait for them to show up. The moment has passed.

The only thing I enjoyed about the show was the amazing voice cast; Hirakawa Daisuke, Miyano Miyano and Midorikawa Hikaru are great actors and they breathed life into the characters in spite of the wobbly art. I couldn't even take a good screenshot in between FUNimation's obtrusive watermark, the terrible resolution and YouTube's obnoxious video controls. It was a pretty unimpressive viewing experience all around.

Probably not a high budget show

Sushi And Beyond (Eikoku Ikke, Nihon Wo Taberu)
It's unfortunate that the Japanese version of Sushi And Beyond isn't available as part of Viewster's simulcast but there's a delightfully old fashioned charm to the British dub, and since it's based on an account by a foreigner the English dialogue is completely appropriate. I'm curious how the Japanese script handles some of the insensitive comments made by the author's kids as they encounter Asian cooking for the first time.

The show is very simple; Michael has dragged his family to Japan for three months to wander around and sample as much of the local cooking as possible. He comes across as the most irritatingly smug person in the universe, but the show has a weird addictive quality and there's a short documentary after each episode to go through the meal of the day in more detail. Somehow, I marathoned the first three episodes all in one sitting when Viewster added them to their lineup.

It's strange that the Japanese words are pronounced weirdly in the anime segments but normally in the live action segment; you'd think the voice acting studio would have taken a little more care to be consistent.

The screenshots don't do it justice

Ultimate Otaku Teacher (Denpa Kyoushi)
A mediocre shounen comedy show about a physics genius who becomes an otaku NEET before eventually ending up working as a teacher. He uses the life skills he's picked up from watching anime and playing games in order to solve his students' problems and bond with them. He's also very annoying. While the show is not without its charms, it's also sort of pointless when GTO already exists and does the 'deadbeat teacher' concept a thousand times better. I can see where it would appeal to a slightly younger, more idealistic audience.

Ultimate wish fulfillment teacher

Vampire Holmes
Viewster added this title a few weeks after the season started and I dutifully checked it out. It's a pointless comedy with four-minute episodes. I didn't expect much for an anime based on a simplistic smartphone game but this sucked even by my low, low standards; the animation is weird and inconsistent, the characters are unlikeable and the gags fly by in a jumble of unappealing nonsense. One episode was enough.

The scenes where they weren't SD were too scary-looking

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Series I watched

Arslan Senki (The Heroic Legend of Arslan)
The occasional delays on Viewster have been frustrating because Arslan Senki is really, really good! The characters are all likeable, the Middle Eastern theme is interesting and the writing is reasonably intelligent, as fantasy shows go. I hope that the next batch of episodes appear on time as I wake up every Sunday humming the theme song and looking forward to watching more.

Daryun is my favourite, predictably

Comical Psychosomatic Medicine (Anime De Wakaru Shinryou Naika)
With its shocking irreverence and surreal jokes, Comical Psychosomatic Medicine was a perfect follow-up for Gintama, which aired the day before it this season. It's a shame it will probably never get a western BD release since it's kooky enough to be something I'd buy. Which other anime titles include real time personality testing in between the gags?

I don't know why Ladybeard is there either

Danna Ga Nani Wo Itteiru Ka Wakaranai Ken (I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying): 2nd Thread
I spent most of this season confused about the (lack of) coherent continuity until I visited the series' Japanese Wikipedia page and discovered that the episodes of season two fall at various points in the original timeline. Whew. In any case, the central couple is still very cute and I enjoyed rooting for them every Thursday as they muddled their way through married life.

More shows about grown-up couples, please!

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works season 2
What a waste of a generous animation budget. The show looked (and sounded) absolutely beautiful but no matter how much effort the animators put in, I didn't enjoy it at all.

A lot of people seem to be blaming the sumptuous adaptation by ufotable for the disappointment that set in after the first few episodes of this show, but for me the core problem with Fate/stay night is that the original story does nothing for me. The characters are flat and irritating, the romantic subplots suck and Shirou is the worst lead in anything I have watched all season - including the dreadful Vampire Holmes. Obviously there are thousands of people out there who would strongly disagree with this, but at this point I've sat through the first Fate/stay night anime, the Unlimited Blade Works movie and every episode of the full Unlimited Blade Works television show (not to mention all of Carnival Phantasm), and not once have I felt any attachment to Saber, Rin, Archer, Ilya, Shirou and the others. Gilgamesh is always the only character I can stand - even though all he ever does is show up and lose in order to make Shirou look good. Fate/Zero was obviously the exception; aside from that, I'm done with the Fate universe.

The only reason I kept watching, in the end

Gintama
The hilarious anime adaptation of the best manga in Shounen Jump has been gone too long. I love this new series! It's rare that something can make me laugh so much I shed tears but the infamous episode about hiding your smut collection had me in stitches for hours.

Cutest couple of the season

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (JoJo No Kimyou Na Bouken)
It's finally over, road rollers and all. Despite the trauma of having to watch my favourite characters bite the dust (sometimes, more than once) it was another great adaptation, though perhaps not quite as charming as the two previous arcs. I can't wait until we get to see some more anime being made in future.

Due to the scheduling, the climactic episodes of the series aired on the same evening as Koyasu Takehito's character debuted in Shokugeki No Soma, which meant that I kept doing a double take and expecting DIO to be there. Good stuff.

I know that feeling, Joutarou

Kuroko no Basuke (Kuroko's Basketball) season three (also on Crunchyroll)
The streaming arrangement for KuroBas was a little annoying; it was on Crunchyroll except Daisuki had a two week exclusivity period, so if you wanted to watch the newest episodes you were forced to use them instead and their player software isn't as good.

Although it wasn't a massive surprise given the type of show that this is, I managed to have the outcome of the climactic final match spoiled for me by some idiot on Twitter during the delay before the final episode aired. That rather killed my enthusiasm even though this is otherwise as close to flawless as a crazy over-the-top basketball show can possible get. The animation is perfect, the characters are interesting and the highs and lows of each match had a real emotional impact on me as a viewer. I'll be sad to see the series go.

I finally saw Akashi using his abilities after all this time

Ore Monogatari!! (MY Love STORY!!)
A truly heartwarming story full of love, friendship and humanity. I was convinced this was a shorter series so it's been a pleasant surprise to discover that Ore Monogatari!! will be continuing for another season. I'll continue watching over Takeo and his friends for a few more months!

I wanted a picture of the three of them but this was funnier

Owari No Seraph (Seraph Of The End)
It's impossible to claim that this show is actually good. Owari No Seraph is so mired in tropes, unoriginal back stories (count how many characters have a dead or terminally ill sister in their pasts!) and nonsensical plot twists designed to add melodrama that it's unlikely that it will ever be considered a classic. Still, it's so nicely animated that it's been a joy to watch each week. And the vampires are all hot.

I'm sort of hoping the vampires will triumph when the series returns later in the year. I know the humans are the 'good guys', but the vampires really rock their thigh-high boots, ridiculously over-the-top personalities and evil grins.

I have no excuses for liking this terrible guy so much

Although the hilarious over-the-top fan service was toned down after the first episode, Shokugeki No Soma kept the entertainment value high with its well-written shounen battling antics, all themed around the preparation of tasty food.

I want to use a picture of Isshiki but they were all too naked

Uta No Prince-sama: Maji Love Revolutions
UtaPri would be a guilty pleasure if I was the kind of person who could feel guilt over liking such a fabulous, cheesy spectacle. They kept me waiting a long time for the Masato/Tokiya episode but it was worth it - the song was better than most too. It's amusing that I slavishly watch the anime adaption despite having no interest in the music side of UtaPri. It looks as though we're getting even more characters jostling for attention when the next season rolls around so I'm not sure how it will work; it's already getting crowded cramming all of the ST☆RISH and QUARTET NIGHT members into a single season.

This is probably as good as it gets

Yamada-kun To Nananin No Majo (Yamada-kun And The Seven Witches)
I wouldn't have given this series a chance if my partner wasn't already a fan. I'd have missed out because it has a sense of fun that few other school comedies manage to achieve. The fact that every episode has characters kissing one other dispenses with all of the usual 'relationship drama' of skittish young people too shy to even hold hands. The comedic situations were relatively fresh and lively as a result, and the leads were reasonably mature, interesting characters in their own right. I liked all of them.

There have been quite a few complaints that the series was rushed. Since I never read the original manga I don't know what I'm missing; the pace felt fine to me and I'm glad they were able to tell a complete story in a single season of anime rather than making an extended trailer for the original manga. It was obvious that a few side characters probably played larger parts in the original but Shiraishi, Yamada and Miyamura are the best characters anyway...

A reversal of Miyamura kissing Yamada, this time

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That's all for the Spring 2015 season, then. I usually get a pleasant break in between seasons to catch up on my DVD/BD backlog, but due to my recent travel - and Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward - so I'll be going straight into the Summer 2015 season with no chance to catch my breath.


My main wish for next season is the same as ever: companies must start giving non-US fans access to those simulcasts and stop treating everyone else like a lower class of people. I've already seen GANGSTA. announced for regions outside the UK and it was one of the shows I was most looking forward to; if the industry ever wants to stop piracy then this kind of silliness has to stop. We need truly global streaming so every fan can access their anime, wherever they are.

14 comments:

  1. I don't see Gintama, but I saw that chapter just for the sake of the Sengoku Era XD XD And I agree with that comment, well said, Gintoki! XD XD

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    1. A few of the other episodes have irreverent jokes about our beloved Sengoku era too, it's great :D

      Gintoki understands everything!

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  2. Otae and Kyubei look really cute and I've been considering picking up Gintama just for them, let alone the rest of the hilariousness of the series. Ore Monogatari seems nice too.

    Ninja Slayer.... I had high hopes for it because, as I often joked when the character designs were revealed, I thought Nancy highly resembled Kasuga. Sadly, from what everyone is saying, it didn't seem to hold up, and I was mostly interested in Nancy but apparently she is basically only there for fanservice besides one episode? Bwegh. ;;

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    1. Oh! And the main character of Arslan Senki looks cute! I should give that a try too.

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    2. You definitely should try both of those shows! There isn't much Otae/Kyuubee but every time they get an episode I'm really happy (and this time, it was a whole arc). Since the series will probably never end properly anyway I choose to believe they end up together one day :)

      I felt that not getting to see Ninja Slayer as it came out (we were delayed by several weeks) meant that I started it just as most of the Internet was getting tired of it. The characterisation isn't really a strong point from what I saw.

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  3. Yeah, Stardust Crusaders is just not as charming as the previous Jojos. But I had to watch it towards the end. You know, infamous road rollars etc - and it was not disappointing.
    Also I'm glad that at least a certain returning character survives in the end.
    I wonder how the next Jojo parts would be like if they are animated because my impression is that they just get completely nuts in a nonsensical way from here on.
    The first ones are the most coherent.

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    1. I'm quite hopeful about Steel Ball Run (even though it sounds particularly nonsensical) because quite a few of my Japanese friends are into it and they've made it seem like a highlight of the series. It will be a long wait to see if they ever get that far :(

      I remember you warning me that Stardust Crusaders wasn't quite up to the standards of the earlier series so my expectations weren't too high, thankfully. And I'm definitely happy about that same returning character managing to make it too!

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    2. As a longtime Jojo fan, I would say that the "worst" parts of Jojo are Phantom Blood and Stardust Crusaders, Steel Ball Run is unabashedly my favourite - I love just about every character, the art is gorgeous and the story has good emotional impact to go with the usual Jojo crazy train - so I completely agree with your Japanese friends!

      If David Productions does another season of Jojo, it's almost certainly going to be Diamond is Unbreakable. It's a light-hearted slice of life / suspenseful murder mystery with a lovable main character and arguably the best main villain of the whole series. The manga is great and it's my second favourite of all the parts - it'll definitely be worth watching out for. :)

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    3. I would definitely be interested in a SBR anime - as you say the art is great and, well, it's got stuff like a certain character turns into a dinosaur for some reason. That's something. Yes, pretty sure they will continue to make those parts in the right order so SBR will come out many years from now if it's made.

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    4. Good to hear the positive reviews for Diamond is Unbreakable. They'd be crazy to stop animating the series now (right?) so I'll look forward to its eventual adaptation :D

      Dinosaurs make everything better somehow.

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  4. SBR is IMO the best JJBA part so far. I'd love an anime of it, but one step at a time - Diamond is Unbreakable is still up next :P

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    1. Even though everyone is making me more excited for SBR now (lol), I agree - if nothing else I'm sure there are plenty of references in each series so watching them out of order would be weird!

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