I am so late on all these year end review posts that I am only now posting my final impressions about the last anime season of the year…. But, better late than never, so here we go:
The fall season was a fun one, with lots of surprisingly enjoyable anime and a couple long running series coming to an end. There were a few disappointments as well as some little gems, and was overall a nice way to end yet another year of anime!
Look forward to my annual year in review post where I look at my favorite (and least favorite) titles from 2014!
Akame ga Kill!
So… Akame ga Kill! has at last ended after a long 2 cours… and, my initial impressions haven’t changed much from when I first wrote them up back in the Summer season… Plot remained superficial and repetitive at best (character introduction; tragic backstory; death; rinse and repeat), characters were paper thin, and the fights weren’t even that exciting, but overall it was more mediocre than completely terrible if only because I expected nothing from this show.
Perhaps the greatest disappointment was that in a series that depends on some sort of emotional connection to make all the inevitable character deaths have actual impact, cared nothing for anyone. In the end, absolutely no tears were shed while watching this show, and all the “tragic backstories” had pretty much zero impact.
As for the action, I guess there was fighting, but it was mostly of the “close up of determined faces yelling” and type. The final battle was the only one I actually liked, being more choreographed and stylish, with all the others being pretty forgettable.
Overall, not the worst thing ever, but let’s be honest: this show isn’t particularly good. It tries a little too hard to be all “dark and edgy” with the deaths, tragedy, and gore, but fails in the most basic ways in terms of plot, characters, and subtlety. Also, there was also surprisingly little Akame for a show that bears her name in the title… She kind of just shows up in the beginning, gets shuffled to the side for most of the middle sections, and then comes back to the forefront at the climax.
Final impressions: No, it does not get better as it goes along. Yawn.
Verdict: Kill the series.
Amagi Brilliant Park
While I wasn’t so sold on Amagi Brilliant Park when it first aired, mostly finding the humor pretty hit or miss, I am happy to say that it gets much better as it goes along and finds its groove. Episode 5 was where the turn around happened for me, and was the first episode I thought the found genuinely funny and completely enjoyable.
The quirky cast was my favorite aspect of this character-driven series, and I especially loved the three main mascots that were simultaneously portrayed as lecherous old men and adorable kid-friendly stuffed animals. While mostly fun and games, there was a nice balance between silly antics and the struggle to keep the park open, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how much each character grew throughout the series. I loved the amount of tension and emotion in the penultimate episode, while the last episode gave a nice postscript to all the things that had happened thus far, offering a satisfying conclusion while leaving the story open for a second season….
Final impressions: Great comedic timing with a fun cast of characters.
Verdict: It’s a never ending magic hour!
Donten ni Warau
I didn’t have the highest hopes when I started this series – everything just felt very generic, and I didn’t really like any of the main characters… But, in an unexpected turn of events, Donten ni Warau turned out to be a surprisingly well done adaptation that (believe it or not) actually ends with a relatively satisfying conclusion that doesn’t beg for a second season or require you to seek out the source material to find out what ultimately happens.
While nothing about this show is particularly complicated or noteworthy, it was a fun watch that, at the very least, presented a concentrated, plot-driven story. Sure, it was generic and straightforward, but there were just enough little twists and turns that made it all a bit more interesting. Overall, not a bad effort and maybe worth a quick watch if you run out of things to do.
Final impressions: It wasn’t original or that great, but it ended and I’m satisfied.
Verdict: A well done adaptation that actually ends.
Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle
When it comes to adaptations, anime often has a pretty poor track record of actually ending a series on a conclusive note, and more often than not, ends with a “read the source material” post script tacked on at the end. But, having a definitive conclusion in an anime adaption can be a mixed blessing. In the case of Hitsugi no Chaika, while at least we got an actual ending, which is less than I can say about most adaptations, manga and light novels alike, Avenging Battle was unfortunately a sad continuation of an otherwise good series.
The main issue was the pacing and the episode count (only 10 episodes!), which caused the show to be incredibly rushed. As a result, I found the series lost a lot of the tension and charm from the first season, with character development placed on the back burner in favor of harried storytelling. In the end, everything was awkwardly resolved in a way that made me wonder whether it was actually worth it to have an adaption that offers a conclusion if this was the result.
Final impressions: Rushed, awkwardly resolved, and a sad continuation of an otherwise good series.
Verdict: Like watching animated cliff notes.
Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de
This show wasn’t really my thing, as I stated in the First Impressions post at the beginning of the season, with my main issue being the chuunibyou humor, which I really don’t relate to. That said, the characters and the comedy did grow on me as the series went on even if most of it was lost on me.
I really have little to say about this anime. It was fine, I guess? I’m struggling to think of anything really noteworthy about it, either good or bad, but nothing comes to mind except for Hatako’s rant in episode 7. Perhaps this series would be better suited for those who like chuuni humor, though if you want something to laugh at, there are better comedies to choose from (see: Amagi Brilliant Park).
Final impressions: Um… It was fine, I guess?
Verdict: There are better comedies out there.
Madan no Ou to Vanadis
Military tactics and political intrigue meets scantily clad war maidens with enough plot to completely smother our main male protagonist in Madan no Ou to Vanadis… And, while I found the fanservice unnecessary and often ridiculous (Tigre groped pretty much everyone while half asleep…), I did like the overall premise about a young lord and his simple desire to protect his home.
Unfortunately, the series was very rushed, with many battles and plot points glossed over in a bout of exposition and straight narration. It also didn’t help that the anime decided to focus more on fanservice than the actual story, leaving even less time for actual character or narrative development. Characters were one dimensional and fit into their assigned stereotypes, while the animation was inconsistent (just look at the horses…) and the use of CG was regrettable. Overall, Madan no ou to Vanadis was one of those shows that could have been worlds better if only the focus had shifted from the plot to the plot.
Final impressions: A serviceable premise doomed by a rushed story with ridiculous amounts of bad fanservice.
Verdict: Too. Much. Plot.
Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji
I surprise myself when I write this, but Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji was actually not bad. Possibly, it was actually kinda good. And, while it certainly does not cover any new ground in terms of shoujo romances, I enjoyed the stupid situations and romantic dilemmas the characters stumbled in to. But, unlike other romance anime where simple miscommunications and silly problems drag on seemingly forever, it was satisfying to watch a show that had very straightforward characters that, for the most part, actually said what they were feeling to the relevant person.
All in all, Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji was light and fluffy, without any of the dark emotional melodrama that tends to weigh down other similar series (such as last season’s Ao Haru Ride). Sure, it’s nothing deep or even slightly original, but I really liked how all the main characters actually had some meaningful growth and weren’t constantly mired in emotional trauma and misunderstandings.
Final impressions: Light, fluffy, and with actual character growth.
Verdict: It was good! I swear I’m not lying!
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis
After a spectacular opening few episodes, Shingeki no Bahamut cooled off a bit in the middle sections, but happily still managed to end on a relatively high note. It was less than the rip roaring adventure I had hoped for, being largely rushed and pretty random in the end, but still delivered a good, if completely generic, conclusion.
I found the cast to be the most enjoyable part of this series, and especially loved Favaro with his silly-serious character and friendship with Kaiser. Unfortunately, I felt most of the characters were underutilized (Amira and Jean d’Arc in particular). Animation was great, though declined significantly as the series went on.
Anyways, while not the most polished anime in terms of story (loved the cast and directing but the writing could have been much, much tighter), I do think the writers deserve a lot of credit, especially when you consider the fact that they managed to make something out of a nothing card game. Good effort by MAPPA, and I hope for even better from them in the future.
Final impressions: A fun, if inconsistent adventure that starts off great, stalls in the middle sections, but manages to end on a high note.
Verdict: Good effort to make something out of a nothing card game.
Sword Art Online, Season 2
So, let’s be honest: Sword Art Online didn’t really get much better in season 2 – in fact it was really just more of the same, except kinda worse. At least the original series had an overarching plot with actual lives at stake. SAOII on the other hand lacked a lot of tension and action, at times feeling more like an overwrought slice of life/melodrama set partially in the virtual world.
Broken into 3 main arcs, my impressions of each are as follows: the first arc involved a gun game where Kirito conveniently uses a sword instead, was pretty slow, with the use of extended scenes of pure exposition designed to show off Kirito’s prowess really killing the mood and tension. The second arc involved a dungeon raid in Alfheim and felt completely pointless. Yawn. The third arc was about Asuna, and while not having Kirito around much certainly made for some better storytelling, on the whole, even Asuna’s turn in the spotlight wasn’t particularly special (though her sword fight was a definite highlight of the series).
The end of SAOII allows room for a possible sequel, one which I would probably watch, but only because it seems I’m a masochist when it comes to watching below average anime (see: Akame ga Kill!).
Final impressions: If you really feel compelled to see this, just watch the last arc.
Verdict: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but season 1 was actually better than season 2.
Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru
Yuuki Yuuna had my favorite first episode of the fall season, made all the more spectacular by the fact that I had no idea what I was getting in to. Part cheery moe slice of life, and part dark magical girl, I really liked the unsettling and sinister undertone below its colorful exterior.
My main complaint about the show is that it moves fairly slowly, with some plot points taking forever to actually emerge despite the fact that you can see them coming a mile away. And with the way some parts dragged, I think it could actually have cut a couple episodes to tighten up the narrative. Marathoning this short series might make the developments have more impact, especially since you wouldn’t have time to speculate too much about what’s going to happen next.
Visuals are colorful and the character designs were fun, especially when the girls transformed. Overall, I really liked this series despite its faults, and had lots of fun watching it.
Final impressions: A fun series (if a little slow) that was part cheery moe slice of life, and part dark magical girl.
Verdict: Yuuki Yuuna is a hero!