Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fall 2011 – Check-in

That time again – we’re about a month into Fall and things are starting to become clearer about what’s great, what’s good and what’s forgettable among the series that premiered this season.  As usual this year Wednesday is a black hole, so the only time I’ll have to put this together…

One thing I notice immediately is that every show in my top tier is a two-cour, and that’s never happened since I began blogging.  In fact, there are generally more multi-cour shows this season than any for quite some time, which I consider a positive trend – I remember a time when 26 episodes was the norm and not the exception, and I think it offers a lot more freedom to tell a complex and interesting story.


The Top Tier:

Chihayafuru
Episodes Watched: 4
Rating: A
Comments: Top-notch in all respects.  Complex and interesting characters, great pacing, and the nicest animation Madhouse has produced in ages.

Mirai Nikki
Episodes Watched: 3
Rating: A
Comments: This one had some hurdles to overcome, because I’m a huge fan of the manga.  It may not have the must lush animation style, but Asread has proved to me that they get Mirai Nikki.  They’ve captured the tone and feel of the manga far better than I could have hoped, and I’ve grown the enjoy the look of the show as well.  Things may get a bit rushed to finish in 26 episodes, but it can be done and based on the first three, I have confidence.

Fate/Zero
Episodes Watched: 4
Rating: A
Comments: When you factor everything in, possibly the most impressive show of the season.  I’m not a fan of Fate/Stay Night but this show is an order of magnitude better in terms of animation, pacing and most importantly writing.  Gen Urobuchi is good, and this has the feel of a very dark epic fantasy along the lines of George Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”.


Definitely Blogging


Shinryaku!? Ika Musume
Episodes Watched: 4
Rating: B+
Comments: Thing started off a little more slowly than they did in the first season, but the pace has picked up and while the overall batting average is down just a bit, there have already been a couple of to-notch mini-episodes.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai
Episodes Watched: 3
Rating: B
Comments: The first ep was surprisingly low-key, but I’ve come to really enjoy the caustic wit and the warped sensibility.  This is a pretty smart, sexy and refreshingly weird take on the school-life genre.  I get the sense that things are just about to get really crazy.

Bakuman Season 2
Episodes Watched: 4
Rating: B
Comments: The first season ended strongly, and the second has continued the momentum.  I like the nuts & bolts look at the manga industry and I’ve come to really care about the characters as well.

Ben-To
Episodes Watched: 3
Rating: B
Comments: I like the faux-reverence this show places on it’s subject, the battle for half-priced bento.  In a sense it’s like Sengoku Basara went to a supermarket, which is every bit as weird as it sounds.  Aoi Yuuki’s Oshiroi is one of my favorite female characters of the year, and Kayano Ai’s Ume one of my least favorite, but on balance it’s more win than loss.  Love the dialup modem ringtone, too.

Working’!!
Episodes Watched: 4
Rating: B
Comments: Feels a lot like the first season to me, albeit with an agreeable shift to an ensemble mentality rather than a fixation on Inami.  Not so much huge laughs as constant smiles, but still a great-looking comedy that always creates a winning atmosphere.

Guilty Crown
Episodes Watched: 2
Rating: B-
Comments: For me, the equation is simple – it’s one of the best-looking TV anime I’ve seen.  Character design, backgrounds, CG, even the fanservice are all absolutely stunning.  Alas, the plot is completely derivative and none of the characters have really popped so far.  I’ll watch it forever as long as it looks great, but it would be nice the see the story and character development step up and support the production values a little better.


Watching, Probably Blogging:

Mashiro-Iro Symphony
Episodes Watched: 3
Rating: B-
Comments: Arguably the most low-key romance VN adaptation I’ve seen, and maybe one of the most low-key anime period.  It’s nice, it never takes the easy path and it doesn’t make fools of its characters.  Nothing exciting here, but I enjoy how different this show is from most of its predecessors.

Last Exile – Ginyoku no Fam
Episodes Watched: 2
Rating: C+
Comments: I’m well aware that most others seem to like this one more than I do, but I have serious issues so far.  Generally speaking, it looks like “Last Exile” but feels somewhat hollow.  I haven’t appreciated the way Gonzo have gone to such lengths to bring the LE meme in line with today’s anime tropes, and I don’t think anything has been done to make the audience feel they know who the characters are.  It looks fantastic, and there’s the sapling of a very interesting plot hiding in here if they’d just slow things down a bit and bring us inside the story and characters instead of trying to overwhelm with shock and awe.  I sincerely, devoutly hope things get righted and this turns out to be a worthy successor to one of the best series of the 2000’s.  I’m hoping for “Empire Strikes Back” – so far I’m feeling “The Phantom Menace”.

UN-GO
Episodes Watched: 2
Rating: C+
Comments: Another series I’m really hoping gets its act together, because it has the potential to the more interesting NoitaminA show this season though GC will always overshadow it.  It’s a very odd show – adapted from a 1940’s novel and applying a very classic mystery structure, yet featuring a dystopian political sub-plot and an oddly incongruous supernatural element in Inga.  Lots of potential here, but again, not much character development so far.


Will Probably Watch, May Blog or Digest Intermittently:

Hunter x Hunter 2011
Episodes Watched: 4
Rating: B-
Comments: Not too knowledgeable about this shounen titan, but I know this update is faster and somewhat less dark than the 1999 version.  So far I’m enjoying it, and it seems to be getting better.

Gundam AGE
Episodes Watched:3
Rating: B-
Comments: I love the retro character designs, calling to mind the 70’s Gundam look and legends like Leiji Matsumoto.  Story is pretty standard so far, but the show is fun and an agreeable “boy’s adventure” style throwback.

Majikoi
Episodes Watched: 4
Rating: C+
Comments: I enjoyed the way it hit the ground running, and the way it spews forth the random without any context.  That charm may be starting to wear a little thin, though, and I’m getting the feeling this is more for the fans than for new viewers.

C3
Episodes Watched: 4
Rating: C+
Comments: I really, really want to like this show.  It looks terrific, as usual with Oonuma Shin.  The premise and characters just feel very tired to me, albeit with the violence, language and fanservice being somewhat more graphic than usual.  Given everything about this series’ staff and premise it seems as if it would be anything but boring – I pegged it as a “boom or bust” candidate going in – but so far, a little boring is just how I’ve found it.

Tamayura Hitotose
Episodes Watched: 4
Rating: C+
Comments: I love Sato Junichi’s best stuff, and there’s an undeniable likability to this show.  My problem is that’s it’s just too nice, too sweet and too one-note to be more than a pleasant diversion.  This is a series that desperately needs a little conflict or at least a little darkness to the humor.  Anything to give it that little bit of edge that it totally lacks at the moment.

Shakugan no Shana III
Episodes Watched: 3
Rating: C+
Comments: “Shana” has serious nostalgia value for me, but after a fairly strong opener the next two episodes have been somewhat bland.  Hints are that things are about to pick up, so I’ll give this a little more time.


May Watch Intermittently:

Kimi to Boku
Episodes Watched: 4
Rating: C
Comments: Not the show I was hoping it would be, a real attempt to show the high school experience through the lens of four typical guys.  Irinu Miyu’s Chizuru has livened things up a bit, but the show still lacks a real spark for me and the interactions just don’t ring true.

Persona 4
Episodes Watched: 3
Rating: C
Comments: I don’t think it’s an especially good anime on its own terms – the production values are so-so, the pacing is erratic and the writing somewhat lacking.  More than anything, I don’t see this series giving a compelling reason for someone not already a fan of the game to spend time with it – Horie Yui and Yamaguchi Kappei are giving it their best, but it’s not enough.


Dropped
Phi Brain, Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon

9 comments:

  1. While my list wouldn't be precisely the inverse of yours, it would be quite close.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Fen: Agreed. My taste is hugely in proportionate 's to Enzo's/

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well, I am mostly in agreement, except for Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon, which is a very interesting series. It takes a bit more effort to get into due to the extreme setting and huge cast, but holds obvious depths due to the same.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Fate/Zero, Haganai, Chihayafuru and Ginyoku no Fam are probably my favorites so far.
    I'm slowly warming up to Mirai Nikki but I don't have the urge to spoil myself with the manga yet so I can't say I've been wow-ed by what's been happening. Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon has been quite a bore but I'll give it a few more episodes since it's a 2 cour show.
    Also, IDOLM@STER and MPD have remained consistently entertaining so I'm optimistic they'll end on a good note.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Deafvader, I think Fencedude meant he didnt agree with Enzo.

    From random C's bloggers comments from various shows, I deduced Enzo's taste being the one to the best of my liking: a little bit on the crazy side, but not without reason (and a lot of reasoning). Although he doesnt go crazy enough, and maybe is a little bit fast to spot (and puke over) a stereotype.

    Which means this list is almost the same as mine, except the stellar Ben-To, definitely on the top Tier!

    Also, I find Fate/Zero a little bit... boring. It had to be said. I might drop it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Stot, I certainly took Fencedude's post to mean he completely disagreed with me. He always does anyway. ;-)

    Hey - I like Ben-To, I just don't think it's quite stellar yet, and not all because of Ume. I have no problem with stereotype as long as it's well-executed - there really are no original ideas anymore - but boy, GC really pushes that to the limit. Other than that, I think your description of my tastes sounds pretty realistic...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hah, Ben-To is awesome. Maybe I just can relate to it more. Studying all day, all night long with a shitty students budget and always watching for half-priced deals. I called them crows, swarming around the poor pricetag guys. Hah! We had something very much like a boar as well in England!

    Yeah, I guess, but from what I gather, you're pretty fed up with the plain-no depth-Tsunderes though. And hey, I don't blame you , I despise unoriginal shallow content. And speaking of Guilty Crown...^^... I really enjoy it. A little bit illogical for being me, but I guess it just looks awesome, and I think I'm falling for one of the girls. Also it's not really shallow at all.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @stot & Enzo: I am agreeing with him. My taste is inversely proportionate. Improportionate(?). Sorry for the confusion.
    E.g.
    Working and ika is way bottom in my watch list. Horizon, Maji, HaGaNai and Fate is at the top. Persona, C3 and Mashiro is Good. Shana, Chihayafuru and Mirai Nikki is okay.
    Rest is watch when time allows.

    Sorry Guilty Crown.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I agree with the TOP 3.

    In my opinion, Ben-To was B+ until episode 3. After i watched episode 4, it leveled up to A.

    Glad to see Hunter x Hunter above the "C" mark. I can see it evolving to B+ in your rank as it goes.

    ReplyDelete