The spring 2014 anime season has come and gone, full of a combination of hard letdowns and unexpected winners… and plenty of shows I will probably never watch again filling the spaces in between.
If I can sum up my feelings of the season, it would be that the worlds and settings tended to be quite intriguing and mysterious, but the characters overwhelmingly flat in comparison. Overall, it was a good season, but I expect most of the shows I watched to be largely forgettable when faced with the test of time.
Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?
If you were looking for a simple but sugary cute moe series with plenty of adorable comedy, look no further. With its easy humour and uncomplicated stories about a handful of friends that work in cafes, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka? is a pretty charming anime that has no illusions about being anything more than a sweet show about cute girls doing cute things.
Colourful, bright, and with no real story whatsoever, it’s a great series to sit back and relax to… but don’t expect anything particularly deep or anything. Animation is nice, character designs were adorable and varied, and I actually found myself chuckling at the humour. It plays it’s tropes well, and never tries to overextend itself beyond its slice of life/comedy genre.
All that said, despite enjoying the series, I am uncertain as to whether I’ll really remember this in any firm way down the road. It’s cute, well done, and nicely animated, but it’s also so fluffy and forgettable.
Final impressions: Cute girls doing cute things done right.
Verdict: Fluffy but ultimately forgettable.
Hitsugi no Chaika
Even before Hitsugi no Chaika aired, I was quite interested in it… if only because it’s based off of a light novel written by Sasaki Ichiro, who also wrote Scrapped Princess, which is one of my all time favourite anime. So, did Hitsugi no Chaika live up to it’s predecessor? It’s hard to make any definitive judgements so far, since the series is still on going (it’s slated to have a second season in the fall), but I will say that while the story and setting are certainly intriguing, the pacing and animation could stand to be much more consistent and tight.
To me, the stand out of this series was the world building, which I found intriguing and mysterious, especially with regards to the mechanics behind magical power, the aftereffects of the war, and the origins of Chaika. Conversely, I didn’t find any of the characters particularly noteworthy, though they were all enjoyable. Maybe it’s a combination of a large cast of characters (Gillette’s group especially was shown so briefly that I never felt very invested in their well being or struggles) and the overall lack of back story that made the cast fall short compared to the setting.
At this point in the series, I’m more invested in the mysteries of the story and the world than any characters, and with all the surprises and revelations in the final episodes, I am really looking forward to seeing where the story goes next. A good dose of character development would really cement my investment in this series… without it, I doubt it will end making much of an impression.
Final impressions: An intriguing and mysterious setting with a cast that falls a bit short.
Verdict: Chaika? Yes, Chaika (season 2)… Chaika.
Yes, Isshuukan Friends was cute and sweet… but that’s really about all it was. I think the main problems for me was that I was never very invested in any of the characters or their situations, and the fact that the show continually flip flopped between emotional drama or heartfelt slice of life friendships. As a result, the drama at the end of the series felt tacked on, while the friendship/slice of life portions moved slowly without much purpose. Honestly, Isshuukan Friends wasn’t bad or anything, but it’s inability to draw out any real emotion or strong interest was disappointing, and certainly hurt my enjoyment of the series.
As for the characters, I found them all nice, filling their roles appropriately, but never really catching my attention in any firm way. Mostly they were all just…. well, bland. It never really felt like anyone really developed in any significant way, with Hase always getting into the same emotional rut, and Fujimiya’s memory being reset every week preventing her from doing much. I wanted to like this anime a lot more, but in the end, it leaves little impression.
Final impressions: Curious premise with a bland cast of characters.
Verdict: An anime I will forget by the end of the week.
Knights of Sidonia
Despite rubbing many viewers the wrong way with it’s exclusive use of CGI animation, Knights of Sidonia was a wonderful treat this season, offering plenty of excitement and action in a hard sci-fi mech setting. Like many other series this season, I found the world much more compelling than any of the characters, which are, for the most part, pretty flat thus far. In a lot of ways, I feel the characters are merely accessories to the setting (I seriously don’t care who lives or dies… Nagate could drop dead and I wouldn’t be even mildly sad), with their only purpose being to expose the intricacies and mysteries of the world.
While I honestly don’t like the weird harem gathering around Nagate and jostling for his attention in sometimes obnoxious ways (Izana’s facial expressions help ease the idiocy just slightly), I am really enjoying the pacing of the show, which is pretty fast paced. I like how everything they do, whether it’s rotate Sidonia or send out a rescue party, has real consequences that must be taken into consideration before being executed. It gives a lot more gravity to each character’s actions, since the decisions made usually involve life or death.
I do wonder if the constant and ever-escalating gauna threat will become tiresome in future episodes, especially since it always seems like all the pilots are dropping like flies… At the rate they’re going, will they even have enough pilots left to protect Sidonia? Happily, this anime is getting a second season, and I’m looking forward to exploring more of Sidonia and the mysteries of the gauna…
Final impressions: Great setting, heart-stopping action, flat characters, random harem.
Verdict: 3D world, 2D cast.
While I like this form of storytelling, where it’s confusing at first but then everything begins to click together like an intricate puzzle, I don’t think it was particularly well done in the case of Mekakucity Actors. Sure, some episodes were intriguing, mysterious, and eventful, but many others were so utterly dull, slow, and boring that I found myself barely looking at the screen at all. I think my favourite part of the show was the picture book epilogues about the monster shown at the end of the early episodes.
Before watching this anime, my only exposure to the Kagerou Project, which this anime is based on, had only been a handful of the music videos, all of which I found very enjoyable overall…. and oftentimes more enjoyable and coherent than the anime itself. From my limited experience with the Kagerou Project, I would actually suggest checking out the manga and music videos before picking up the anime, since it looks like the plot and characters are more fleshed out than whatever was shown in the anime.
The music was high point of this series, and the animation, though smooth, was typical Shaft-style with little actual movement, a lot of still frames, and lots of mouths talking. Overall, I think the premise of Mekakucity Actors was interesting, but ultimately it was not presented in an accessible or coherent way. Most likely, those who have previous knowledge of the Kagerou Project would enjoy this best.
Final impressions: All flash, no substance.
Verdict: Watch the music videos and read the manga first before even thinking about diving into the anime.
No Game No Life
Fun and colourful, No Game No Life was an entertaining anime to watch. While having such completely over powered main characters can become tiring and stale very quickly, the saving grace of this series is the fast pacing, which hardly gives you anytime to think much about the characters or the situations they’re in. After all, there’s little doubt that Sora and Shiro will win every challenge thrown at them (it’s stated up front that “Blank never loses”), and instead the series is all about what crazy, improbable ways they go about winning the games.
Characters are simple, uncomplicated, but quirky, and all fill their roles nicely. And, while I didn’t love all the fan service (I mean, was the tentacle shampoo necessary?), I did really like the ultra bright colour palette and the fun character designs. I also enjoyed the setting with all its game rules, as well as a good amount of the comedy and all the references to other anime.
And, while a large degree of suspension of belief is certainly needed (Sora and Shiro are always so ahead of the curve that when they do their “big reveal” after they win a game it can feel like a major ass pull), everything operated within the context of the show and the characters, so I was never really bothered by it… Since the finale ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I would like to know more about the setting and it’s inhabitants, I’m looking forward to seeing a continuation of this fun series.
Final impressions: Fast paced, hands-free fun.
Verdict: Let the games continue… Aschente!
Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin
With a large cast and a premise that makes little sense, Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin started the season well enough but unfortunately didn’t manage to keep up the pace. I found this series a fairly mixed bag of curious mystery that was not complicated enough to really keep my attention, inconsistent characters with motivations I had trouble really understanding, and a main plot that was only sometimes addressed.
In terms of characters, most felt like mere paper cutouts, serving no real purpose. Juugo was at the very least a proactive lead, even if all the angst about his family and past felt like it came out of nowhere. Tensai, though charmingly adorable and smart, was overused in her “reveal the mystery” speeches, which were fun a first but became more tiresome as the series progressed. And, as for the titular Nanana, she had so little screen time that it was difficult to really get a feel for her motivations and emotions.
Animation was nice, though the pacing is all over the place with some episodes feeling like total filler, others being action-packed, and a handful dealing with character pasts that I cared little for. It also didn’t help that the villain at the end felt very tacked on, and that I can’t understand why anyone would continue to work with someone who previously betrayed you.
Perhaps my main issue with this show is that I am honestly not really sure how finding Nanana’s treasures will help Juugo find her murderer – and since this is the main premise of the show, it really made it hard to get into the story as a whole. On the positive side, it had a good ending, leaving it open to a continuation… though I doubt I will tune in to a second season if it should ever materialize.
Final impressions: Inconsistent, with a questionable plot and a surprisingly solid ending.
Verdict: Average at best.