Summer 2013 Anime Season: Final Impressions

Shingeki no Kyojin 25 - 01  Blood Lad - 03  Danganronpa 01Fate:kaleid liner Prisma Illya - 03  Free - 03  Gatchaman Crowds - 02  Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou - 03  Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince - 02  Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi - 01  Senki Zesshou Symphogear G - 02 Uchouten Kazoku - 02  Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! - 01

So here we are again…. at the end of another anime season. It sure goes by quickly! And, this time, I’ve got plenty of series that I followed to the (sometimes bitter) end, including two 2-cour shows that have at last ended this fall. Overall, I found the summer season to be a mixed bag, with a number of good (but not very great) series, plenty of series I could have done without, and some potential gems.

A total of 12 shows will be reviewed here. Some are missing because either I didn’t have time to write up a review and/or I haven’t seen the final episode yet due to my impending trip to Japan. I’ll be filling in this post with the remaining series as soon as possible.

Edit: And… it’s complete. Thanks for waiting!

Attack on Titan

Shingeki no Kyojin 25 - 03Shingeki no Kyojin 25 - 02

It’s been a long ride, so how did Attack on Titan, the most talked about show these last couple seasons, fare since my enthusiastic first impressions back in April? Well, I will just say this: it’s shonen, so what did I expect?

Typical of it’s genre, Attack on Titan is full of stops and starts, mid-battle flashbacks, power-ups, and some pretty great fight scenes. Conceptually, I loved the premise of the last of humanity living behind protective walls and being terrorized by giant, mindless man-eating titans, but found the majority of characters entirely flat. Surprisingly Armin gradually became one of my preferred characters, after starting off as mostly whiny and spineless. Conversely, Mikasa dropped in appeal with her over-reliance on Eren.

This series had some genuinely jaw dropping, heart stopping moments, as well as some of the most insane cliffhangers I have ever seen in anime. But, of course it wasn’t totally perfect, with a lagging middle section (I actually stopped watching for a while because it was so slow) and a cast of mostly one dimensional characters. Animation was suitable for the series, though the was a disconnect between the use of still images compared to the smooth and fast paced action scenes.

Overall, Attack on Titan was a fun series to watch, despite it’s flaws. Perhaps the slower arcs of the show and the weak characters might be less noticeable if marathoned all at once (kind of like Sword Art Online). Thank said, the interesting setting and lore helped breathe life into the series, and the great OPs also did wonders to pump me up every episode. Also, that cliffhanger at the end of the season….!

Final impressions: Great world building, less than spectacular characters, and cliff hangers abound.
Verdict: Can be incredibly entertaining if you just go along for the ride…

Blood Lad

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For such a short anime (only 10 episodes!) Blood Lad was a great ride. The story moves at lightening speed, with plenty of energy, cliffhangers, plot twists, and fan service at every turn. The plot is very straightforward but I really liked how Staz’s one goal to bring Fuyumi back to life causes his life and the lives of those he encounters to snowball into a much larger story as his journeys continually bring more characters into the fray. These side stories help keep the anime fresh, and combined with the fact that no story arc is dwelled upon for too long, the pacing rarely lags (and when it does, not for too long).

Animation is colourful, a bit surreal, imaginative, and playful, with plenty of variety and punch, reflecting the manga source material whether it was in the use of visualized sound effects, exaggerated facial expressions, or speech bubbles. As for the fan service, I actually didn’t mind it at all, with it being only sometimes too obviously done. I thought it was mostly well used, particularly in the context of Fuyumi being a ghost that has no real body, and Staz’s inability to understand why he really wants to bring her back to life at all (to suck her blood? because he legitimately likes her? guilt?).

While the series ends on a “to be continued” note with little resolved, it’s unfortunately unlikely that there will be an immediate sequel to Blood Lad, as the anime is pretty much caught up to the source material.

Final impressions: So… season two?
Verdict: Fast paced storytelling with a good dose of cliffhangers, plot twists, and fan service.

Danganronpa

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Yet another adaptation of a game put into anime form…. Last season we had the very disappointing Devil Survivor, so how did Danganronpa fare? Well, while this anime was certainly not the best thing I’ve ever seen, it was very watchable – far more so than that hot mess that was Devil Survivor

But, while it was fun to watch, my major complaint would be that for an anime where the lure was trying to solve the murder cases for yourself, the highlighted clues often flew by in quick succession, spending about as much time on screen as it took for me to blink. The time between the evidence gathering and the court scenes were also quite short, so you really had to think almost unnaturally quickly if you wanted to figure it out yourself. And, sure, you could just sit back and try to enjoy the ride, but I really feel that the fun in the mystery genre is playing detective yourself.

Anyways, for all the twists and turns, I found every case to be pretty predictable except for the final one involving the mystery of the school itself – if only because it felt like it came out of nowhere. Animation was surprisingly colourful (complete with bright fushia blood) for the mystery/horror genre of the anime. Can’t say I recommend anyone to watch Danganronpa, but there’s always the game (which I have heard, as usual, is much better than the anime) for the curious.

Final impressions: Well… it tried. And, it was marginally better than Devil Survivor… We can give points for that, right?
Verdict: I’m sure the game was better than whatever this was.

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya

Fate:kaleid liner Prisma Illya - 02Fate:kaleid liner Prisma Illya - 01

This show has cute magical girls featuring characters from the Fate/ universe…. I’m not sure what else to say about this show, honestly, because despite the nice animation and cuteness factor of our main characters, there really wasn’t much else in this anime. And, while there’s some nice fight scenes, I found them generally short and a bit few and far between. While watching this series, I was actually legitimately wowed and excited for only about half an episode, and then after that high, it was pretty much back to the mundane.

Story wise, the premise is simple: Illya and Miu must capture the remaining 5 cards, fighting as magical girls against heroic spirits. It’s got a strong emphasis on the power/importance of friendship, facing fears, and accepting responsibility, but I really think that the story could have greatly benefited from introducing much higher stakes and additional motivations for fighting and collecting cards in the first place. That Illya decides to fight based on her friendship with Miu just wasn’t enough of a motivator. Throw in pacing issues (the first few episodes are all exposition, the latter half lags) and a lack of depth (character and story wise), and all you’re left with is cute magical girls doing… (uninteresting) stuff.

Animation looked mostly great (though I found some of the faces drawn inconsistently), there were some nice fight scenes (when they actually happened), and I did like most of the characters. While Illya is certainly cute (actually, everyone is, in this anime!) and I vaguely understood the feelings and motivations of the various characters, I was mostly unmoved, feeling little to no connection to them. With the exception of one scene, the plot was wholly predictable and full of power-ups that felt like they had been pulled randomly from a hat.

Final impressionsNo amount of cute could cover up the lack of a strong story.
Verdict: Plenty of cute but too much fluffy.

Free!

Free - 01Free - 02

For an anime that started out as all about the eye candy, Free! has managed to be a surprisingly cohesive, funny, and enjoyable series from start to finish. While wholly predictable and generic in terms of both character types and storyline, this anime managed to keep my interest without taking itself seriously, poking plenty of fun at itself at every chance.

Honestly, it wasn’t crack-level anime or anything where I just needed to know what was going to happen next and spent all week thinking about it, but it was consistent in its pacing (only one episode really lagged) and plot advancement. The final episodes were also really a ton of fun to watch, and though our five main characters were totally generic, it was still great fun to watch them interact, deepen their friendship, and, of course, swim! If anything, Free! is a good example of how execution can be entirely crucial to an anime failing or succeeding – more so than even a unique concept.

As we have come to expect of KyoAni, the animation was very well done, with particular attention given to scenes involving water. The colour palate was bright and cheery, fitting perfectly into the summery and youthful feel of the series. The voices really matched each character very well, and the music was really well done, with a catchy OP and ED, as well as some appropriately bouncy, beaty background themes that lent a lot to the tension of the swim races in particular.

But, in case you’re wondering at all my praise for this show, know that by no means is Free! a masterpiece. However, if you want a cute, light, and heartwarming (once you get past all the stereotypes and tropes) anime that is not shy with the fan service and that makes fun of the very tropes it embodies, then I encourage you to check it out.

Final impressions: A walking stereotype that pokes fun at itself to stay swimmingly afloat.
Verdict: A carefree summer anime with zero surprises.

Gatchaman Crowds

Gatchaman Crowds - 01Gatchaman Crowds - 03

If you asked me to chose my favourite character of this season, it would have to be the heroine of Gatchaman Crowds, Hajime. Plucky, smart, and intuitive, she really made every scene she was in shine like a million watt bulb. Her character fit in so well with the vibrantly animated series, and her character alone propelled the plot, character development, and action along throughout.

Animation is colourful and clean, with a nice flair and character designs, making it look different from other more typical examples of anime. I loved the contrast of light and shadow, and the mix of cute/bright scenes with violent/dark ones. CG was not the best, feeling out of place in many places, but it wasn’t totally terrible. Music-wise, I loved the OP song, and the theme song always had me nodding along.

Even with the enigmatic ending that I liked but which seemed more like a recap than a finale, this anime sticks out as one of my favourite of the year. There’s plenty to consider in terms of the themes and questions it raises, which makes it all the more satisfying to watch. I am hoping that a future OVA (or something) will help smooth out the ending and fix this show’s only major flaw. And, a sequel has been confirmed, which I’ll be sure to check out when it airs.

Final impressions: Muted final episode that still manages to make the series shine.
Verdict: 100% Hajime mixed with equal parts fun and philosophical.

Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou

Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou - 01Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou - 02

My opinion of this show really hasn’t changed from my first impressions… Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou still has terrible pacing issues, a lack of focus, and is generally boring and predictable. Of course, it doesn’t help that all of the characters are one dimensional with few defining features other than a handful of predictable tropes. This lack of depth leads to a huge yawn of a series that goes pretty much nowhere, which is really unfortunate since I thought the show had plenty of promise in its’ premise.

Basically, the story goes absolutely no where, with characters being as flat as boards and everything being very predictable. Character designs were cute, and I liked the overall look of the series, but Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou failed to deliver any semblance of a coherent or interesting story. I felt nothing for the characters, who lacked personality and had motivations that made little sense. Nonsensical, dull, and full to the brim with ass pulls, I can’t tell if this anime tried too hard or didn’t try hard enough.

Final impressions: Tried too hard or didn’t try hard enough?
Verdict: Doesn’t matter; don’t bother.

Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince

Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince - 01Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince - 03

Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince has been quite the journey… Some of it good, and some less so. Taking place in the not-so-far future, this anime follows Team Rabbits, a group of genetically engineered students training to become mech pilots, and dubbed the “Failure Five” by their peers. They’re an eccentric and quirky bunch that follow a set of well established tropes, though there are plenty of little moments when they show some individuality and actual character. And, while I liked them, I didn’t feel particularly attached, though they did gradually grow on me throughout the series.

I honestly find this anime hard to pin down, as I enjoyed it while watching it, but wasn’t wowed by any stretch. It was mostly just good, with some sparks of something greater lying in the shadows – sparks that were sadly not fully realized. There were a lot of interesting themes (whether to submit to impulses and desires; finding meaning in life when you were bred to fight and have no memories of the past; the meaning of family; the role and impact of social media and advertising) but they’re not really at the forefront of the show, being touched upon but never fully explored. Also, some plot points were questionable at best.

Animation is “retro” looking, though still pretty nice and smooth. Of particular note were the great and epic space battles that paired well with some fun mecha designs… though I still have no idea what Purple 2’s purpose was in battle. Also loved the first opening song! Overall, this was a good show that got better as it went along, but that suffered from a lack of focus. In the end, I wanted to like Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince a bit more than I did.

Final impressions: Hints of greatness with epic mech battles and a colourful, if tropey, cast.
Verdict: Good rather than great: could have used more focus and tighter storytelling.

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi - 04Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi - 03

Populated with amazingly beautiful and backgrounds that lent a lot of richness and depth to the world of Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi, it was really too bad that the characters did not manage to match up…. Instead, just as I stated in my first impressions post at the beginning of the Summer Season, the setting of this anime was so much more fascinating than any of the characters.

Sure, Ai is cute as a button, but her “I want to save the world” grew a bit tired by the end. As our main character, the viewer sees the world through her eyes, and after all she experiences, it was disappointing to have her have so little development. And, what character development does occur is often too briefly explored, trivial, or experienced by minor characters. Similarly, the philosophical questions that the anime poses was another aspect that I would have liked explored and fleshed out more.

But, my main issue with this anime was the pacing. It starts of with plenty of bang, but then lags heavily in the middle sections, managing to pick up just slightly for the final arc. Throughout the series I really felt that there was so much more of the that was being left unexplored, and while I don’t think I could have sat through even slower pacing, what kept me coming back every week was not the story or characters, but rather the lure of the world and its various mysteries.

Animation was really lovely, with particular attention to the imaginative scenery. I felt the character design was nothing too special, and while decently animated, looked a bit out of place style-wise when compared to the backgrounds. Music was also well done, with some nice background themes and an ED that was always a treat to hear and that was used very effectively to highlight the atmosphere of various scenes.

Final impressions: Forgettable characters, unforgettable world.
Verdict: The backgrounds are beautifully and attentively done for a reason.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear G

Senki Zesshou Symphogear G - 01Senki Zesshou Symphogear G - 03

Much like the first season, the second season of Symphogear continues this show’s tradition of keeping it unreal and over the top. There’s nothing too deep, dark, or psychological going on here. Instead, it’s just full of silly fun, plain and simple, complete with colour coded transformations, crazy weapons, ridiculous fighting moves, and plenty of singing.

Once again, we have our super optimistic protagonist, Hibiki, and her friends out to save the world… The progression of the series is really nothing too radical, often being predictable and/or so random that the plot ceases to really matter (I mean, do you ever really doubt that Hibiki will save everyone despite the odds against her?) The only real saving grace of Symphogear is that it seems pretty self-aware that its entire premise and plot is whacky, so it doesn’t take itself seriously at all, even in the more “serious” moments. My main criticism of the series in general is that the story tends to progress to some big cliffhanger or critical moment with a lot of energy, only to have it drop off completely with little conclusion.

Overall, I would say that if you liked the first season, by all means watch the second one too. It’s not the most memorable of anime (it’s more like the feeling of the series is memorable, but not so much the plot), but it’s simple, mindless fun that entertains well, as long as you’re not expecting any deep thinking to result.

Final impressions: Over the top, but hardly unexpected.
Verdict: Simple, mindless fun that doesn’t surprise. Watch if you enjoyed the first season.

Uchouten Kazoku

Uchouten Kazoku - 03Uchouten Kazoku - 01

Lush with colour and depth, the story of Uchouten Kazoku unfolded in a wonderfully organic and understated way that was a pleasure to watch. The pace was measured and unhurried, featuring some of the best visuals of the year in this anime… I loved every frame for its beautiful shots of modern day Kyoto and its strange inhabitants. Both fantastical yet grounded in reality, it was easy to believe shapeshifting tanuki and flying tengu really could secretly live among us.

Overall, Uchouten Kazoku was a very low key, contemplative slice of life anime that was wonderfully paced, and had a strong emphasis on family and what it means to be alive. Each episode gradually revealed tantalizing pieces of character development and pasts through flashbacks and plenty of well written dialogue. Every character managed to stand out as wholly individual, with unique motivations and world views, which lent a lot of depth to the entire series.

Animation was smooth and very well done, and I enjoyed the music quite a bit. Character designs were pleasing and contrasted nicely with the more detailed and realistic backgrounds. Sometimes funny and silly, while at other times philosophical and melancholy, Uchouten Kazoku was a wonderful experience from start to finish.

Final impressions: “Well, that was beautiful,” she said, with a tear in her eye.
Verdict: Solid and consistent with good pacing, plenty of heart, interesting dialogue, and mischievous shapeshifting racoons.

Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui!

Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! - 04Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! - 02

Despite a solid start, after 12 episodes of mostly the same, I ended up finding Watamote a pretty hit or miss show. Sometimes the humour clicked, there was a nice mix of sad awkwardness, and the story was relatable and poignant, and other times, it was just the opposite. Overall, I liked the premise of the show and I often do like these types of painfully-awkward-to-watch shows, but I found this anime quite repetitive with its gags, and predictable with their setup. As much as I wanted to like it, I found myself mostly lukewarm about the entire show.

It also didn’t help that I felt like Tomoko, for all her efforts and experiences, really did not develop in any particular way. It never really felt like she was learning anything from her actions, which was disappointing since I was really rooting for Tomoko to succeed, find her own happiness, and learn a thing or two about relating to others.

No really issues or comments about the animation or music, since I thought they were mostly fine. Nothing particularly memorable, except maybe the nice use of exaggerated facial expressions for Tomoko.

Final impressions: Oh, Tomoko… We all saw that one coming. And, that one. And, that one too. Isn’t it about time to start learning from your mistakes?
Verdict: Starts strong, but once you see the pattern for the gags, there’s little held in suspense.

2 thoughts on “Summer 2013 Anime Season: Final Impressions

  1. It’s a pity that Watamote didn’t carry on as strongly as it started out – those first couple of episodes left such a strong (albeit barbed) impression, so I was sorry to see that fade away in later episodes. Still, I enjoyed the series overall.

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  2. I didn’t quite know what to make of Blood Lad; it didn’t excite me but there was enough zaniness to keep me going till the end. Is the manga worth a read?

    Fate/ Kaleid interested me at first because of the depictions of the heroic spirits, especially the ‘darker’ version of Saber. By the end I was wondering what I was watching it for though. Do you like any other titles from the Fate universe?

    Free! was quite different from my expectations and it was refreshing to see a male dominated cast in a Kyoani anime. I’m with you that while it was generic, it pulled off the generic parts well – and I enjoyed Haru’s character development with his slow emergence from his own world.

    I thought that Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi was haunting and full of promise, but I felt that the original rawness it had got replaced by convention, especially after they arrived at the school. Like you said, it started nicely, particularly the first two story arcs – then slumped in the middle and couldn’t really get back up at the end. Couldn’t agree more about the ED- a beautiful track.

    Phew…Watamote – now matter how much I wished she’d wake up, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I suppose that’s the effect the author was going for with Tomoko. I did enjoy her character mostly because I felt she departed from the norms of a lot of female anime leads (those bags under her eyes). Thanks for a great article and for following my blog. Looking forward to reading more! Itadakimasu!

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