Spring 2014 Anime Season: First Impressions

Black Bullet 03   Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou 01   Captain Earth 02   Gochuumon was Usagi Desu ka? 02   Gokukoku no Brynhildr 01   Hitsugi no Chaika 01 Isshuukan Friends 03   Knights of Sidonia 03   Mekaku City Actors 01   Mushishi Zoku Shou 01   No Game No Life 01   Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii 01

The spring anime season is in full swing, and this time round, there’s plenty of shows in a number of different genres to pick from… but while their synopses might be interesting, are any of them actually worth watching?

Unlike last season, which was resoundingly mediocre, I feel like this season is better, though still pretty hit or miss. I don’t think anything I’ve watched so far has been full on terrible, but there are a few notable disappointments for me in this spring season that I previously had high hopes for. Of course, only time will tell what pans out and what doesn’t, so until then, here are my first impressions of the spring 2014 anime season!

Black Bullet

Black Bullet 02Black Bullet 01

With an interesting premise that promises plenty of monster fighting, cute lolis, and a good dose of tragic backstories, I’m sad to say that Black Bullet has been a fairly inconsistent ride so far. It’s not bad exactly, but I can’t say it’s really very good either, with my main complaints being the pacing and my lack of empathy towards any of the characters. Sure, Enju is super cute and Rentaro is kinda cool, and they both have appropriately sad pasts, but I feel like all the discrimination scenes and the violence were so overplayed that it just ended up feeling forced and superficial.

Black Bullet also has this weird thing going on with it’s pacing where there’s plenty of action happening and the plot looks like it’s really moving along, but despite all the stuff going on, I am left with a whole lot of nothing much to say about the characters or events. Despite my best efforts, I am simply not getting into this show. Maybe it’s all the exposition or the way the anime tries so obviously to trick tears and emotions from the viewer, but whatever it is, I can’t say I care for it.

On the plus side, the animation is nice, the opening is worth a listen if only because it starts off like the Attack on Titan OP before descending into J-pop, and Enju is cute (when she’s not awkwardly trying to come on to Rentaro).

First impressions: There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on, but it feels like a whole bunch of nothing.
Verdict: This is probably another case of “just read the manga instead”…

Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou

Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou 02Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou 03

Lush with a bright colour palette and plenty of shine, Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou is a romantic comedy full of youthfulness and warm fuzzy feelings. The premise is nothing too new in itself, but since the main setting is at a boardinghouse rather than high school, and the characters are mostly the (adult) boarders (save for our two main characters) instead of the regular cast of high school students, it’s definitely a nice change of pace.

I find the comedy a bit hit or miss, often with an air of predictability, but I do find myself enjoying it nonetheless. I am hoping that the gags don’t get too stale, especially the reoccurring ones, and that the relationship between the main pair will develop well. In all, it’s a decent series that’s had some sweet moments and intermittent comedy, though I do think any enjoyment taken from it will hinge on how you respond to the comedy.

First impressions: Animation is shiny and the story is a little different from the regular high school romance fare.
Verdict: Worth a try but really only if the comedy clicks.

Captain Earth

Captain Earth 01Captain Earth 03

With enough techno babble to power a space robot and a cast of characters as generic as plain cheese pizza, I am not sure what to make of this anime that seems to flip back and forth between interesting and boring episode to episode. The show certainly looks very nice, with plenty of colour, smooth animation, and well shot scenes, but I’m not totally getting into the story, characters, or world…. And, it’s not because the individual parts are particularly bad or anything, but because when put together it feels like a whole lot of nothing with an absence of substance.

Pacing feels very stop and start, with episode 1 being a great blend of fast paced and contemplative, natural storytelling, and plenty of mirrored scenes; episode 2 lagging a bit in pacing, but still managing to get something done; and episode 3 ending up pretty dull and uneventful, unable to carry over any of the emotions of the previous episode.

It’s super tropey, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and for this series, I think it works. However, even after 3 episodes, I don’t have much of a feel for the characters, and could really tell you little about them other than their names and their hairstyles. All the exposition also makes my eyes glaze over, and it’s not helping that I’ve already grown tired of the rather extended transformation sequence, however cool it might be. I want to like this more, but nothing is really clicking.

First impressions: Great first episode, good second episode, mediocre third episode… Hopefully this isn’t a pattern.
Verdict: My attention is already waning… maybe a couple more episodes? Maybe? I’ll think about it.

Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?

Gochuumon was Usagi Desu ka? 01Gochuumon was Usagi Desu ka? 03

Super sweet and full of enough moe to turn your brain to mush, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka? is all about saturating the viewer with cute. There is literally no plot to speak of, and every character seems simply designed to maximize their adorableness in every way. This isn’t a show for everyone, but if you like moe over load and a light dose of comedy then this will be worth a watch.

Each of the girls fill their niche nicely, from the cheerful, navigationally challenged Cocoa, to the shy and awkward Chino. Their voices are also a wonderful fit, matching their characters so well. Animation is colourful and bright, perfectly matching the lighthearted and relaxing atmosphere of the show. There’s really not a ton to say about this anime other than it’s cute… which I guess is the point.

First impressions: Cute!
Verdict: Very cute!

Gokukoku no Brynhildr

Gokukoku no Brynhildr 03Gokukoku no Brynhildr 02

Gokukoku no Brynhildr is most certainly an exercise in stretching the viewer’s suspension of disbelief to almost inhuman levels. It’s one of those shows that you want to like more than you do, but can’t because it’s all so stupid. Need pills to survive? Immediately have them go up in flame because you left the kettle unattended. Can’t acquire more survival pills? Don’t worry, MC has a photographic memory, happened read a book about pharmaceuticals (despite being firmly interested in astronomy), and can mysteriously interpret the code on the pill… Also, Kuroneko’s moles migrated from her armpit to her breasts?

In another anime, these elements might work, but because there is such an emphasis on the serious, dark, and violent aspects of the show, I find it hard to take it even remotely seriously. That said, I do like the overall premise, and while I don’t find much of the comedy funny, I do like the darker parts. I wish the show had decided to concentrate on the serious aspects of the story more, instead of trying to be some mishmash of semi-funny/light comedy and violently dark action/melodrama. Depending on my schedule, I will probably continue watching this for a couple more episodes with the hope it gets better, though I can’t say I have any expectations it will.

First impressions: Interesting premise, but this show is such a mishmash that I can’t take it seriously.
Verdict: I hope your suspension of disbelief to almost inhumanly strong… good luck.

Hitsugi no Chaika

Hitsugi no Chaika 03Hitsugi no Chaika 02

Hitsugi no Chaika is off to a fairly strong start with a terrifying “unicorn” getting sliced in half and the introduction of our main cast, which includes: the adorable yet directionally challenged Chaika; the useless sponge of an older brother, Tooru, with his terrible hairstyle and impressive fighting ability; and the competent, bread-winning younger sister, Akari, who tends to conveniently forget to relay key pieces of information.

The series starts out pretty straightforward at first, with it being obvious from the get go who Chaika is and what she is searching for. But I am really enjoying how as more information about the world and the factions involved is gradually revealed, more depth is added to the story. I am looking forward to seeing the rest of their journey unfold, though I am worried about whether it will have enough time to develop fully, seeing as the anime is slated for only 12 episodes.

Animation is good but not always consistent, though I like the way magic is portrayed and am enjoying the design of all the monsters and some characters (yes to Chaika and Akari, no to Tooru’s hair). Comedy is light and mostly funny, minus the questionable-looking bread incident in episode 2, and mixes well with the more serious or darker parts of the anime.

First impressions: Chaika, you’re so cute with your thick eyebrows! Oh hey, that’s not a unicorn!!
Verdict: Nice mix of light comedy and dark action, with a curiously developing plot… I only hope 12 episodes is enough to do it justice.

Isshuukan Friends

Isshuukan Friends 02Isshuukan Friends 01

Gently sweet, with a hint of sadness, Isshuukan Friends has been a a wonderful watch so far. It moves at a measured pace with little sense of urgency (it may be a bit too slow for some viewers, however), which fits the slice of life atmosphere of the show well. The soft pastel colours of the palette gives this anime a very warm and nostalgic feeling, and I am really loving all the facial expressions the characters have (it’s cute!).

Though I do like the pacing of the anime, I’m hoping for a bit more melodrama or conflict to occur in order to keep the show going and prevent it from getting boring. Shougo’s role in episode 3 was a nice start to opening up the duo of Kaori and Yuuki, though I found his accusations that she is lying and his assessment of Kaori’s condition as the result of some sort of childhood trauma rather random and baseless.

Overall, it’s a sweet anime that I hope will get even better as the story progresses. I’m looking forward to seeing how all the relationships develop, and learning more about the characters. It’s a solid watch – if you like the pace it goes at.

First impressions: Simple and sweet with a hint of sadness.
Verdict: A solid watch so far, but could use a little more conflict or melodrama to help keep the pace going.

Knights of Sidonia

Knights of Sidonia 01Knights of Sidonia 02

Let’s get it out of the way: Yes, the decision to exclusively use CG was a regrettable choice. It looks clunky, unnatural, and stiff. The character designs are pretty plain compared to the rather interesting and more detailed backgrounds (not helped either by the rather drab palette), but I am quite liking the action sequences and the way the gauna look.

So far, the story seems fairly straightforward, with humanity pushed to the edge by destructive creatures called gauna, and our main character and outsider, Nagate, piloting the legendary Tsugimori mech. While I am not loving the harem that’s getting set up around Nagate, and I have little grasp on the characters (they all seem very flat and I am failing to see many of their motivations… and I do not get the bear), if this anime plays it’s cards right, I think Knights of Sidonia could end up being quite good.

I am also loving the gritty feeling of the show, which contrasts the shiny, ultra clean futuristic mech series that are the usual fare in this genre. The ambient “ship noises” are also a nice touch, adding to the setting wonderfully. There haven’t been many surprises yet, and the story is still setting itself up, but I am hoping there will be some crazy revelations regarding the “true nature” of the gauna (the way it ate the pilot and then took her form was very cool), the origins of Nagate, and maybe even the truth behind the rather mysterious council of not-quite-dead people that run Sidonia. A good dose of character – I want to say development, but they’re so flat I’ll settle for simply anything at this point – would also do wonders.

First impressions: I hope I can get used to this clunky CG.
Verdict: Plot is still getting established, but I have hope that this will develop into something interesting.

Mekakucity Actors

Mekaku City Actors 02Mekaku City Actors 04

My first impression of Mekakucity Actors was that it was so very Shaft – which is not exactly a good thing… It really feels far too much like their other works, and while it certainly looks pretty, I am honestly getting tired of the same style being used over and over again. Anyways, Mekakucity Actors: I’m not so sure what’s going on yet seeing as the overall story still seems very much in the introductory phase.

So far the first two episodes have mainly concentrated on really only one or two characters at a time, with little connection to each other besides the setting. And, with so many characters to introduce (if I can go by the opening), I wonder how far the story will get with only 12 episodes scheduled.

Animation is looking pretty nice, with plenty of colour and head tilts, and the music is also great (as expected). Overall, Mekakucity Actors isn’t succeeding at grabbing my attention in any real way, mostly because the episodes haven’t provided much direction in terms of the general plot. I remain cautiously optimistic that something of substance will materialize… eventually… hopefully…

First impressions: Shaft.
Verdict: I hope we don’t get Shafted.

Mushishi Zoku Shou

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Calming, contemplative, a little creepy, and totally mushishi, this second season of Mushishi has been a treat so far, bringing back the atmosphere and all the feelings of the first season. Mushishi Zoku Shou continues the journeys of the mushi master, Ginko, a calm, worldly man with an old soul full of plenty of wisdom and curiosity, as he travels about helping those that have come into contact with the mysterious mushi.

I am really enjoying the visuals of the anime, with it’s varied settings and strange creatures. The animation looks lovely, and Ginko’s deep, calm voice is a treat to hear again. Without of a doubt, if you enjoyed the first season, you will enjoy the second. Looking forward to see what Mushishi Zoku Shou has in store this time around….

First impressions: Ah, I remember this… and it’s still as wonderful as ever…
Verdict: Happy to have more Mushishi in my life!

No Game No Life

No Game No Life 03No Game No Life 02

No Game No Life is yet another brother/sister almost-but-not-quite-incest anime that features two gaming geniuses that are transported to a strange world where all conflicts are resolved through games. The siblings are typically overpowered and I really don’t anticipate them running into much opposition (or if they do, it’ll only be super brief and they’ll overcome it together as a sibling team, or something).

Characters are simple and so far uncomplicated, with most of the focus being on the games they play. While I could do without the fanservice (it’s distracting… and kinda cringy when applied to panty shots on an eleven-year-old) I am enjoying how simultaneously overpowered and vulnerable Shiro and Sora are. I hope the reasons behind their aversion to general society is explored in future episodes, though I find it both hilarious and idiotic that the siblings are so good at reading and interacting with people despite being shut-in NEETs.

Probably my favourite thing about the anime is how it doesn’t take itself seriously, pulling in references from other series and constantly playing up the “coolness factor” on Sora and Shiro. It’s ridiculous, stupid, stilly, and just a whole lot of dumb fun. No brain required for this series! Just let it all go and ignore the fact that the games seem to follow no actual rules in particular. The anime also has an incredibly colourful palette that accentuates the otherworldliness of the setting and the games they play. Overall, it’s been a fun ride so far with plenty of silliness and enough excitement to keep me interested.

First impressions: A nice mix of overpowered and silly.
Verdict: Let the games continue!

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii 02Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii 03

When I heard that the manga, Soredemo Seki wa Utsukushi, was getting an anime adaptation, I was filled with a mix of anticipation and trepidation… Because, while I have always enjoyed the manga and the dynamic between the rough and tumble princess, Nike, and her childish but serious boy-king, Livius, I wasn’t sure if the manga would lend itself to an adaptation so well. Maybe it’s some combination of the small cast of characters, the quick, exaggerated shifts in tone between serious to comedic, the very strong shoujo themes, and the fact that the manga doesn’t really have any large, overarching plot…

Anyways, I didn’t love the anime original material in episode 1, finding it mostly pointless since Nike’s character could have been established in a better and more meaningful way. I am liking Nike and her portrayal, though Livius is falling a bit flatter for me as I find he is missing much of the darker edge he has in the manga.

Animation is colourful but pretty plain and inconsistent, and I wish they had followed the manga and had Nike wear clothes other than her plain pink dress. I don’t usually have tons to say about the music in anime, but I really didn’t think the music was integrated that well into the anime, and I often found myself noticing it much more than I really should, mainly because it tends to intrude upon scenes in it’s attempt to “set the mood”. But, my main complaint about the music is the rain summoning song, which I find so corny and overdone that I actually cringe and scoff out loud when it plays… When the main line of the song is “come tender rain”, it’s hard to take the accompanying scene seriously.

With considerably less charm than the manga, I don’t think I’ll continue on with Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii – especially since I don’t find that the anime adaption is really adding anything to the original manga source material. I really wanted to like this more, but it’s just not working for me.

First impressions: Lacking in much of the charm that makes the manga so much better.
Verdict: Give up the “tender rain” and go read the manga. Please.

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6 thoughts on “Spring 2014 Anime Season: First Impressions

  1. I also feel that nothing I’ve watched so far is outright bad, but there are more shows this season that have left me in anticipation for the next episode.
    Black Bullet’s definitely got some nice (though not particularly original) concepts. Similarly to you though, I felt the emotions of the characters haven’t come across much. In the third ep. Rentaro said, “I’m going to do it!” a couple of times but it just didn’t strike home at all. Hope it gains a bit of luster, though the music is nice.

    Being a BONES mecha anime, Captain Earth is visually stunning, yet lacking the impact of its predecessors like E7. Not sure how it’ll go for this one but the amount of idea re-hashing from previous shows is a bit much already (I thought the transforming scene was too long even in the first ep.).

    For its flaw-filled plotline with holes all over the place, Gokukoku no Brynhildr still has something that makes me want to watch it. It could be the darker parts like you said – and an OP that I enjoy.

    The ‘unicorn’ at the beginning immediately gave me the impression that Hitsugi no Chaika wasn’t going to be conventional. Yeah, Chaika is pretty cute, and I love the way she half-talks too. The humor in this series has hit the mark a bit more for me (zapping a turkey with a magical rifle? ^v^) and the whole world with its slightly different style of creatures and magic technology has caught my interest. Will keep giving this one a go!

    I’d have to say the next two are among the ones I’m looking forward to each week – Isshuukan Friends and Knights of Sidonia. Isshuukan Friends has such a nice atmosphere, while also having a tinge of the painfulness of romance and as you said the sadness that Kaori is going through. I’m expecting quite a few touching moments from this one.

    With KOS it’s true there are some pretty awkward parts with the CG (I’d say more so than Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio), and we don’t know much about the characters, but something about the atmosphere and the less tell and more show style of the series has got me hooked.
    The feeling it has brings to mind Masamune Shirow’s works with quite a different setting. One of the shows I have high hopes for!

    Mekakucity Actors has set itself up for fame with the popular vocaloid songs and manga as its base, and SHAFT behind the animation. I agree though, a few minutes in and I was thinking ‘We’re still on the head tilts?’ Both the first and second episodes haven’t revealed much (though I preferred ep.2). Here’s hoping it isn’t all flash and no substance.

    I think I would be in total agreement about Mushishi Zoku Shou but I’m watching season 1 right now. Safe to say, as long as it’s got the same overall feel of S1 I’m sure it’ll be a classic. I’m keen to try out your suggestion for Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii. I concur that some anime just never live up to the source material.

    I was wondering if you’ve given Ping Pong a try? Despite initial concerns I had that it was going to be a regular sports anime, it’s turned into one of my favorites! Thank you once again for an amazing piece, your opinions on the shows are always wonderfully written and thought provoking! 🙂

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    • I agree with much of your assessment of the season so far… I’m still watching Gokukoku no Brynhildr because, like you say, there’s something that makes you want to watch it… There’s good ideas in it, but the execution is less than ideal, sadly.

      Knights of Sidonia also seems to be moving along as well, and I think I’m gradually getting used to the CG… maybe? At least the fight scenes look nice, at any rate. I really like the world it’s set in and I am pretty hopeful it’ll just get even better.

      Mekakucity Actors finally redeemed itself in episode 3 with some much needed plot! This anime one has earned at least one more episode from me.

      Hope you’re enjoying Mushishi, and when you’re done with that you get the pleasure of watching season two! I haven’t seen Ping Pong yet, though I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. I’m not the hugest fan of sports anime, but the animation and direction looks really nice from what I’ve seen in clips and images. I’ll have to take you up on your suggestion and check it out! Thanks!

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  2. Pingback: Vegan Gyoza: A New Twist on a Delicious Favourite | Itadakimasu Anime!

    • So far, Isshuukan Friends has been pretty good and I do enjoy watching it, but I’m not quite feeling the emotion… It’s just kinda nice overall.

      I feel like I’m getting more used to the CG in Knights of Sidonia… or maybe it’s because the story is good I am more willing to forgive it? I just wonder what was behind the decision to not use more traditional animation methods. Oh well… :/

      Thanks for the comment!

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