Winter 2014 Anime Season: First Impressions

Buddy Complex 01    Hamatora 01    Inari Konkon Koi Iroha 02  Nisekoi 01    Nobunaga the Fool 02    Nobunagun 02  Noragami 02    Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta 02    Wizard Barristers 01

Here we are with 2014’s first batch of anime for the year… there was a lot to choose from this time around, including several mech series, a few slice-of-life/romance anime, and a handful of the supernatural/superpower genre with a bit of light mystery shuffled in there for good measure.

But, while I was excited by some of the promotional material for this season, when it came to the actual shows airing, I honestly wasn’t blown away by any series, finding the majority of those I sampled to be largely mediocre. However, it’s only the start, so here’s hoping that things will pick up over the course of the season!

Buddy Complex

Buddy Complex 02Buddy Complex 03

This mech series with a time travelling twist starts off with a nice bang of action, but while there have been a few surprises, it has generally felt pretty typical. The first two episodes were a nice introduction into the main conflicts of the show, and I enjoyed them quite a bit, but by the third episode, I was already starting to get a bit weary of the very standard characters and story.

Plot-wise, Buddy Complex is been nothing too spectacular so far, with the aspect of time travel its only real defining feature. The show follows Watase Aoba, who is transported into the future and ends up as a mech pilot in a war. He’s our generic protagonist who is a generally upbeat, kind hearted, and very normal high school student. His counterpart is the stereotypically serious, disciplined, and prickly pilot, Dio, who is (of course) Aoba’s partner when it comes to activating a certain technologically advanced mech’s “buddy system”. Their personalities clash, but I think it’s safe to say they’ll end up buddies before long.

Animation is nice and colourful, though I didn’t think much of the character or mech designs. I’m hoping that a little more depth will be given to all the characters (they seem so bland so far), and that something more will be added to the story… because as it stands, Buddy Complex is missing it’s mark more and more.

First Impressions: Flashy start that’s turning flat.
Verdict: Not complex enough.

Hamatora

Hamatora 03Hamatora 02

My immediate reaction to this show was that it’s almost like a neutered combination of Darker than Black meets Psycho-Pass…. but without the dark edge those series had. There’s an element of police/detective mystery going on, with Hamatora being an odd jobs agency that consists of “minimum holders”, or individuals with special abilities. It had a good start with it’s odd cast of misfits and their strange abilities, but after a few episodes, I feel like little has really happened.

Naming conventions aside, very few characters have really stood out, and so far I don’t have a good feel of any of them. There are some hints of a bigger plot involving the school, Moral the serial killer, and Nice’s minimum ability, but little has materialized so far. The conversation between Art and Moral has been the highlight so far, and I hope for more in the future. Action and fight scenes have been very short and simple as well, with some colourful animation that doesn’t get me too excited.

Overall, a nice start but my interest is already flagging. There will have to be a big character or plot injection to make me keep on watching.

First Impressions: A neutered combination of Darker than Black meets Psycho-Pass.
Verdict: So far, not nearly as good as either show.

Inari, Konkon, Koi, Iroha

Inari Konkon Koi Iroha 01Inari Konkon Koi Iroha 03

Cute and simple, I picked this anime up on a whim, and after the first few episodes, I am glad that I did. So far, Inari, Konkon, Koi, Iroha has been a nice and relaxing slice-of-life comedy with a hint of possible romance, full of cute and colourful visuals.

Inari is our kind but unconfident protagonist who embodies that shy, clumsy, very ordinary female character we are all so familiar with. She manages to avoid being entirely typical through her moments of self-reflection and insecurity, which make her relatable and lend some depth to her character without weighing down the comedic aspects of the show. I found her wish to quite literally become her pretty and confident classmate, Sumizome Akemi, entirely understandable and somehow poignant – after all, I’m sure we’ve all wished at one time or another to be someone else.

I am also quite liking Uka, the God that gave Inari supernatural powers, who loves nothing more than playing her otaku games and merchandise. There’s a nice blend of self-referencing comedy (such as with Inari’s random magical girl chant when she transforms), and I am looking forward to seeing more character interactions and development… and romance on all fronts.

First Impressions: Cute, funny, and fox gods.
Verdict: More romance, please!

Nisekoi

Nisekoi 03Nisekoi 02

My first impression of Nisekoi was that it is a typically Shaft anime, complete with head tilts, text incorporated into the scenes, and high animation standards. It goes without saying that the show looks great, with plenty of bright colours, detailed backgrounds, odd camera angles, and nice character designs to give it a good amount of visual appeal. Characters are cute but predictable and sometimes the comedy is funny. I do find Chitoge too tsun tsun for me, but others may feel differently.

The overall premise is as straightforward as it gets, with Raku being forced into a pretend relationship with his violent, tsundere  classmate, Chitoge, in order to prevent a gang war between their two families. There’s also Raku’s locket and the mysterious girl from his past he made a promise with who has its corresponding key… Premise works well for this kind of romantic comedy type show, though I am really hoping that it doesn’t disintegrate into a harem of girls all bearing keys to Raku’s locket. I’ll be watching this on an “if I have time to” basis.

First Impressions: Am I watching this because of Nisekoi or because of Shaft?
Verdict: Please don’t turn into a harem. (but it’s going to, isn’t it…)

Nobunaga the Fool

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Initially, I was quite looking forward to this anime, with it’s outlandish premise and promise of mecha action, but after the first 3 episodes, I can say my enthusiasm has since been curbed. While not terrible, it’s not exactly what I was hoping for, with my main issues with the series being some combination of the extremely weak female characters, the out of place fanservice, one dimensional cast, and poorly explained plot.

What interested me in Nobunaga the Fool was the cast of characters based on historical figures… but while I was hoping for something like Fate/Zero, with Jean d’Arc debating moral questions with Nobunaga, the characterization is unfortunately proving largely superficial and the only thing the anime characters share with their historical counterparts is their names.

Animation is nice, though the CG mechs have been pretty awkward to watch. I didn’t find episode 4 very interesting at all, so if I have nothing else to watch, I’ll be giving this series one more episode before deciding on whether to let it go (and, as it stands, most likely I will).

First Impressions: I think I know what’s going on, but I’m not quite sure….
Verdict: Despite the crazy plot summary, it’s actually really ordinary.

Nobunagun

Nobunagun 01Nobunagun 03

Not be confused with Nobunaga the Fool (yes, I thought they were the same anime at first!), Nobunagun is about a young girl who discovers she holds the e-genes of the legendary Nobunaga and thus has the power to help defend against monsters that threaten to destroy humanity. Just as with Nobunaga the Fool, the e-gene holders are all based on historical figures, ranging from Ghandi and Jack the Ripper to Sir Isaac Newton and Galileo… and they have abilities that reflect their counterparts.

So far, the anime seems pretty standard, following a very logical narrative progression: civilian discovers she has super powers; personal reason for fighting established; joins the fight against the monsters; goes to training camp… and so on. It’s almost so rote that by episode 3 it was starting to get a bit predictable and boring.

Character-wise, only the main character, Ogura Shio, has really had any significant amount of screen time, so it feels mostly like a cast of one. Like the plot, she’s pretty ordinary (though loves military everything) and seems friendly and kind, if a bit self-conscious and shy. Really nothing has been outstanding so far, but what I do like about this series is how over the top it can be, such as with the first battle and the multiple guns Ogura kept pulling out. I do hope Nobunagun will get better, with a stronger plot and some more characters and action scenes… I’m just not sure if I’ll be sticking around long enough to see this one through.

First Impressions: Fun with plenty of over the top action… when there’s action happening.
Verdict: Needs more guns, more character development, and more plot.

Noragami

Noragami 03Noragami 01

Surprisingly cute and funny, with a small dose of action, Noragami has had a good start so far. There’s plenty of tongue-in-cheek, self-referencing humour in the series, which has been fun, and there’s just enough of an overarching storyline to keep me interested.

The cast of characters has been varied and enjoyable, whether it’s the homeless god, Yato, who is both silly and scary, and prone to some extreme daydreaming, or kind-hearted Hiyori, who loves wrestling but acts the role of the good little rich girl in front of her friends. I am enjoying their interactions together, and the extended cast keeps things moving along.

Animation has been generally nice and clean, and I’m enjoying the designs of the evil spirits so far, being both colourful and cute, as well as appropriately dark and creepy when the situation calls for it. The music during the fight scenes is also great, being some neat traditional Japanese sounding music with a nice, modern beat.

First Impressions: Varied cast of characters with a nice dose of action and comedy paired with great music.
Verdict: Cute and funny with a shadow of darkness.

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta 03Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta 01

Some combination of the slice-of-life, drama, and military genres, Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta is a revenge story meets learn-the-meaning-of-friendship drama that takes place on a floating island. And, while I’m not totally blown away by the premise or the characters, who are varied but generally flat so far, there’s just enough good in each episode to keep me a bit curious about the next. The good news is that there’s certainly time and room for at least the story to grow and develop as the series progresses. I’m less sure about the characters since Kal-el’s turbulent backstory reveal was really pretty bland… but here’s hoping.

Comedy is a prominent part of the show as well, but i’ve found it pretty hit or miss. Animation is sometimes quite beautiful, and at other times quite off. The amount of awkward positions and fanservice also feels out of place, and I’m failing to really feel much for the romance between Kal-el and Claire. I’m not entirely sure what direction this anime will go in, but there’s a lot of tears shed in the OP, so I am wondering whether there’s a good dose of drama and even tragedy in store for the cast in the upcoming episodes.

First Impressions: Interesting premise but lacking depth, especially with the characters.
Verdict: Good, but so far not great…. give just enough to keep me watching, but I wish it had a bit more spark.

Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil

Wizard Barristers 04Wizard Barristers 03

An anime about lawyers with a dash of magic and a handful of mechs? Well, I was intrigued, enough to check it out, but after 3 episodes I’m not sure this show is for me. While I don’t mind law/court dramas (especially if they tend to be a bit mystery/detective oriented), I can’t say I love the addition of the mechs or the fact that we have lawyers running around blowing stuff up and catching criminals (shouldn’t that be a job for the police?).

I’m not feeling much interest in our main protagonist, Cecil, or the rest of the cast, which seem pretty boring so far. Sure, there are the typical personality quirks and the hints of turbulent pasts, but the way they are presented seems so bland that it makes little impression. The random and awkward fanservice is also not helping. Animation is clean and character designs are colourful, though the CG mechs look out of place.

The episodes have felt a bit slow, and I wonder if there’s just too much going on all at once – from court trials, evidence gathering, and mech battles – to really get a good grasp of the the setting, mechanics of magic, or characters. There’s the workings of a larger plot just starting to show, but unless there’s a very drastic change of pace, I won’t be continuing on with Wizard Barristers.

First Impressions: Just… how exactly does this judicial system work?
Verdict: Something drastic has to happen or else this won’t be making it past the trial run.

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2 thoughts on “Winter 2014 Anime Season: First Impressions

  1. Noragami didn’t excite me too much at first, but has grown on me a lot over the last few episodes. I’m with you about its music and think it’s probably got one of the best soundtracks of the season, plus a great ED. After the last episode it looks like the series is going to become more serious, and I feel that they did the transition well. I’ll definitely follow this one through.
    Nisekoi is a classic example of how an animation studio can do wonders for an otherwise average idea. I agree that the premise for Nisekoi isn’t groundbreaking, but the animation and gags have definitely smoothed the way for me and at the moment I’m finding it one of the more enjoyable animes this season.
    I’m interested in how you’re finding Samurai Flamenco and Nagi no Asakura as you mentioned you were still following them. 🙂

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  2. Yep, still following them! I am still really enjoying both Samurai Flamenco and Nagi no Asukara, with most of my attention on the latter more than the former…
    I like how Samurai Flamenco keeps on getting more and more crazy, calling out every superhero trope out and showing how ridiculous it can all be. That show always surprises me, and I never really know what to expect. I actually watch it in spurts, waiting for a few weeks before watching a bunch of episodes all at once, so I’m a bit behind…
    As for Nagi no Asukara, I thought the some of the post time skip episodes were a bit slower, but it has certainly brought a new dimension to all the relationships, and after the most recent episode, it looks like more changes are in store for everyone. Looking forward to seeing how everything turns out in the end!

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