At the end of the 2013 fall anime season, I only have 3 series to explore today… the rest of the series I am currently following (among them are Nagi no Asukara, Samurai Flamenco, and Log Horizon) span 2 cours, and will actually be carrying over into the new year – so expect their reviews a bit later in 2014…
Overall, I found these 3 completed series from this past season mostly full of disappointments, especially when compared to my hopes and enthusiasms of my first impressions. Perhaps Aoki Hagane is the only exception (just barely). Maybe I should have picked up Kyousougiga instead….
Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio: Ars Nova
I have fairly mixed feelings about Aoki Hagane…. One one hand, I did enjoy many aspects of the series, but on the other hand, I constantly felt that it could have been worlds better than it really was. Characters were mostly flat (I was especially frustrated with Gunzou, who seemed so important, yet so static), though there were some nice developments with Kongou in particular, and by the end, even Iona started to have some depth. (As a side, note, I also have no idea what the function of Gunzou’s crew was since Iona can basically drive herself… so, yes I sadly found the crew a group of basically useless characters)
I felt that the overall story (which I did like) could have utilized and developed the characters a lot more, instead of having them simply fill a set of character tropes and plot points. I was also far more interested in learning about how Gunzou and Iona met, gathered their crew, and began taking on the Fog – essentially encompassing several years before the start of the series.
Plot was straightforward and uncomplicated, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but again, I would have liked more depth. I’m thinking specifically of the political side of it all, which was touched upon briefly during the first couple episodes and during the Makie arc… but then never again. This type of throwaway storytelling is mirrored in the characters as well, who tended to serve a single purpose before being put aside and largely ignored once their role was over.
Animation was full on CG, which took some getting used to, but was acceptable, if a bit stiff. The world was nothing too noteworthy in terms of visuals (mostly long ocean shots), but I enjoyed the colourful character designs. Overall, I enjoyed the ride, but can’t say I felt much for any characters or their journeys. On the plus side, the overall trajectory of this show was upwards, which essentially means Aoki Hagane ended up better than I expected it would. And, on a side note, I really liked the OP.
Final Impressions: Surprisingly enjoyable, despite a distinct lack of depth.
Verdict: Not perfect, but it’s continual upward trajectory stops it from sinking.
Three episodes: that was exactly how long I thought that this show was enjoyable and fun – certainly one of my favourites in my first impressions… But, 8 episodes later, the series is over, and I am left wondering what I saw and why I even bothered to hang on as long as I did.
While the animation and character design was well done (though some of the CG looked a bit out of place), and the basic plot and world were both interesting enough to catch my attention, its execution suffered heavily from nonsensical plot devices, a complete lack of character depth, and an overabundance of questionable historical facts. I would have loved to explore more of the current state of the world and its lack of energy sources and sudden climate change – two relevant and interesting themes that were set up early in the show, but sadly under-utilized.
Characters were stereotypical, flat, and lacked depth, failing to develop or change throughout the course of the series. Perhaps the nonsensical plot devices were what bothered me the most, whether it was the overuse of coincidence, the sudden and brief turn towards full on death, random time travel, or pointless backstories and plot points that went absolutely nowhere.
I wanted to like this show so much… but after giving it a go and largely cringing through the entire series, I’m sorry to say that beyond the second episode, I didn’t really enjoy it at all.
Final Impressions: Starts off full of promise, but then takes a deliberate nosedive into inanity.
Verdict: Written by someone with the memory of a goldfish.
Kyoukai no Kanata
I generally like KyoAni anime, with their high animation quality, relaxing slice of life stories, and ability to create the moe-ist of moe characters, so I was pleasantly surprised to find they were testing new waters with Kyoukai no Kanata, a series with more focus on a plot driven storyline with the promise of plenty of demon fighting. Moe + plot + fighting? Sounds like a winning combination, but while the overall premise was good, there were plenty of hiccups in this short series.
The characters were fun, quirky, and cute, but I never felt very connected to anyone enough to really feel much emotion for their plights. Sure, there was plenty of moe, and the character designs were great, but that doesn’t quite translate into well crafted characters. Thus, most of the time, I felt largely indifferent to main characters Mirai and Akihito, and I found Sakura’s arc to be particularly slow and dull.
I think my main disappointments with this anime were some combination of erratic pacing and mediocre writing. The opening arc was really wonderful to watch, but then the show went from action-plot to complete filler to sudden melodrama in a space of only a couple episodes. It was as if the show wanted to be several things at once: slice of life, romantic school comedy, moody action melodrama. And, while this combination of genres can work really well in some anime, but unfortunately in Kyoukai no Kanata, it just ended up making the storytelling muddied in the middle episodes, and then a bit too convenient in the later ones. I really feel like there was a lot of promise in the set up, but felt disappointed by the rather lack luster ending – and it’s not the really overall story I shrug my shoulders at, but rather the writing and the way it was ultimately presented.
As for animation, it was quite wonderful, as we have come to expect from KyoAni. One criticism would be that the fight scenes could have used more style and detailed movements, rather than being a lot of weapon flashes. Overall, this anime was not terrible by any stretch, but it’s not really something I would readily recommend to anyone.
Final Impression: Pretty to look at, but full of weak writing and erratic pacing.
Verdict: How (somewhat) unpleasant.