Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spring 2012 Check-in

Eureka Seven AO - 02 - Large 05 Sakamichi no Apollon - 02 - Large 25 [HorribleSubs] Tsuritama - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.29_[2012.04.12_15.47.56]
[GotSpeed]_Nazo_no_Kanojo_X_-_03_[10bit][B221BA36].mkv_snapshot_05.36_[2012.04.22_10.48.54] [Commie] Fate ⁄ Zero - 16 [7385C970].mkv_snapshot_14.31_[2012.04.21_17.09.51] [HorribleSubs] Space Brothers - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.39_[2012.04.01_13.33.41]

The short version – pretty damn great.  Long version is after the jump.

I’ve been touting this season as a good one since the first tentative schedules began to appear months ago, and that’s turned out to be the case.  I think a strong case can be made that this is likely to be the best season since Spring of 2007.  Mind you, final conclusions can’t be reached after 2-4 episodes, but if what we’re seeing isn’t a mirage, this should end up being outstanding both in terms of depth and quality at the top.  If there were a few more two-cour series and comedy was better represented, it might just have a chance to approach legendary status – as is, I think we’re looking at just a step below that.

Of course, that depth of excellent shows is making my life very hard as a blogger.  I’ve been taking on more than I could reasonably handle and my work-life balance has suffered, in an effort to give everything a chance to wow me.  And I’ve been wowed plenty – I think it’s very possible that last week (especially Thursday-Saturday) was the strongest anime week in several years.  As a result of all this, I think it’s best to split the check-in up into two parts: a general review of all the shows I’m watching, and then a blogging update based on the week’s calendar.  And there are going to be some very painful cuts made, I can promise you – though in looking at my final schedule, there’s still way too damn much on there.  If anything slips hard in the next few weeks, it’s going to be on a short leash.

Here's my take on the season so far - shows with the same grade are listed in no particular order.


The Best of the Best

Sakamichi no Apollon
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: A
Comments: Just a high-class, near-flawless effort all around.  From the rotoscopic animation used for Sentarou’s drumming to the killer soundtrack to the utterly natural dialogue, this is a timeless expression of anime as high art, the apex being Kaoru’s confession set to Bill Evans’ recording of “Some Day My Prince Will Come”.  Watanabe Shinichiro has the material he was born to direct.

Tsuritama
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: A
Comments: The other half of NoitaminA’s glorious return to form.  Like Watanabe, Nakamura Kenji is an auteur with a very particular sensibility, but he’s a busier director and his work has been more inconsistent.  In Tsuritama he’s delivering his warmest, funniest and most approachable work yet – a hilarious look at teenage neuroses with strong hints of sci-fi and magical realism. 

Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: A
Comments: There have been many great anime episodes already this season, but none were more fun than the second ep of E7: AO.  BONES is delivering hand-drawn action and mecha art of the kind we haven’t seen in years, and they have a tremendous lead in young Ao (and a tremendous seiyuu for him in young Honjou Yuutaro).  The connection to the original E7 is still unclear, but as long as the show is this great I’m good with it.  AO is well on its way to proving the detractors wrong in glorious fashion.

Nazo no Kanojo X
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: A
Comments: The biggest personal surprise of all the shows in my top tier, I’ve loved every episode of MGX.  It’s come out of nowhere – Hoods Entertainment, really?  The whole drool thing grosses me out, but I’ve come to accept where Ueshiba-sensei was going with it – and he’s telling an extremely smart story about teenaged romance that has elements of R-15 and FLCL, with art that looks like Rumiko Takahashi on hallucinogens.  Unequivocally great, a story that could only have come from manga or anime.

Fate/Zero S2
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: A
Comments: Before this last ep I might have knocked F/Z down just a notch, but it was absolutely heartbreaking and thought-provoking.  You have terrific ufotable production values and Urobuchi Gen, so this is pretty much a (depressing) no-brainer.


[Commie] Sankarea - 02 [08DD7C48].mkv_snapshot_17.22_[2012.04.13_21.10.39] [gg]_Jormungand_-_02_[D48EDE54].mkv_snapshot_04.59_[2012.04.17_20.03.19] [sage]_Lupin_III_-_Mine_Fujiko_to_Iu_Onna_-_01_[720p][10bit][53E61CD8].mkv_snapshot_04.53_[2012.04.05_17.38.55]


The Best of the Rest

Uchuu Kyoudai
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: A-
Comments: Like so many in this category will be, in most seasons Space Brothers would be a top-shelf series.  Closer in temperament to a Spielberg film than an anime, this is a thoughtful and darkly funny look at a mature (but not middle-aged) man facing an ever-growing pile of regrets and deciding to risk it all on chasing his dream one last time.  The title is perfect, as “Space” and “Brothers” are the equal-parts obsessions of the series.

Sankarea
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: A-
Comments: This is easily the best-looking DEEN series of the last several years – as if the best elements of SHAFT were distilled out, leaving the annoying stuff behind.  An intriguing mix of extraordinary darkness and conventional anime humor, this is another series that forces the audience to ask a lot of difficult questions about the characters and their own beliefs.  If you watch one zombie series this season Sankarea absolutely should be it.

Jormungand
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: A-
Comments: One of my favorite manga of recent years is being adapted with great faithfulness by White Fox (faithful manga adaptations seem to be the trend these days).  If anything I worry that they’re being too faithful, as Jormungand does its audience no favors early in the story by offering much context or making the characters more lovable.  All the Black Lagoon comparisons annoy me, but as the show progresses viewers will realize how very different the two series are.

Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B+
Comments: I wasn’t sure what to expect from Okada Mari and Yamamoto Sayo (with the help of Satou Dai) tackling Lupin, but so far it’s working beautifully. Fujiko is a classic femme fatale, a dame in the film noir tradition, and this updating of the franchise is sexy and stylish. It also features a terrific soundtrack produced by Watanabe Shinichiro.


[Hadena-Asenshi] Accel World - 01 02 (Preair) [720p][5DADC7BA].mkv_snapshot_42.34_[2012.04.03_22.53.03] [Mazui]_Hyouka_-_01_[8529356F].mkv_snapshot_21.28_[2012.04.22_20.03.33] The Legend of Korra - 103 - The Revelation {C_P}.avi_snapshot_15.04_[2012.04.21_15.57.24]
[Doremi-Oyatsu] Ginga e Kickoff!! - 01 (1280x720 x264 AAC) [E2CFBEEA].mkv_snapshot_20.59_[2012.04.13_19.05.23] [UTW-Underwater]_Tasogare_Otome_x_Amnesia_-_02_[720p][3996A1DF].mkv_snapshot_16.52_[2012.04.16_20.27.46] [SFW]_Zetman_-_02_[720p][10bit][936E7496].mkv_snapshot_12.43_[2012.04.10_13.25.04]


Worth Watching


Shirokuma Café
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B
Comments: Just as there are unusual numbers of great and excellent series this season, there are far more worthwhile shows in the good to very good category too, and Shirokuma is one of them – maybe the best pure comedy of the season for me.  Like all comedies the humor is very subjective, but I consistently laugh every week.

Accel World
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B
Comments: I can’t stand Haru’s super-deformed character design and Kaji Yuuki isn’t one of my favorite seiyuu, but I still enjoy Accel World a lot.  It’s visually interesting and the writing is quite decent too. 

Zetman
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B
Comments: I know they’re taking huge liberties with the manga, but I’m still impressed by how authentically Zetman captures the essence of the Alan Moore styled dark superhero story.  It looks great, with interesting character designs and excellent animation and choreography in the action sequences.  This is a case where I’m glad I haven’t read most of the manga.

Ginga e Kickoff
Episodes Watched: 2
Grade: B
Comments: For pure fun, this is the surprise hit of the season.  With it’s excellent cast and staff there was always a chance this soccer series would exceed expectations and it has – relentlessly energetic and hard not to love, with excellent male and female leads and a classic shounen plot about a boy trying to save his soccer team from extinction.  Give it a chance, and you might just be surprised.

Kuroko no Basuke
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B
Comments: This is pure Shounen Jump sports shounen, done in lavish style by Production I.G..  I haven’t seen as much character development so far as I would have liked, and the story is built around a boy who’s almost completely impassive and makes his name by being invisible – an interesting choice.  But it has a sharp wit, fine soundtrack and good animation, and there’s potential here.

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B
Comments: It made the odd decision to start with an episode from the middle, and the whipsaw shifts from comedy to creepy thriller don’t feel quite natural.  But while I was almost ready to drop it, episode 3 impressed me – so for now, I’m still on board.  Oonuma Shin’s style is more SHAFT than SHAFT.

Avatar: The Legend of Korra
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B
Comments: No, not an anime, but it still feels as if it belongs here.  Unusually for me, I’m more interested in the plot than the characters at this point.  It’s a fabulous premise, a steampunk updating of the Avatar mythology featuring a political conflict between benders and non-benders.  So far I find the acting a little stiff and the characters a little flat, but we’re very early in a two-season run, so hopefully that side of the series will catch up.  Again, it looks great and features a terrific Asian-style soundtrack by The Track Team.

Hyou-ka
Episodes Watched: 1
Grade: B
Comments: The story did little to excite me and the casting is off, but there’s no denying this is a gorgeous show even by KyoAni standards.  It’s way too early to tell about the rest, but kids doing nothing of importance is what this studio specializes in and everything about Hyou-ka screams of playing it very safe.  As great as it looks, it only has to be decent in terms of plot and character to be a good watch.

Kimi to Boku 2
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: B-
Comments: About where we left off with the very solid second half of the first season.  As then, the eps centered around Chizuru are better than the others for me.  This is about as shoujo-ized as male school life gets, but Kimi to Bokoofuri is generally entertaining with occasional bursts of very odd humor.

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: B-
Comments: I laugh quite a bit with every episode, though this isn’t a home-run for me.  This is certainly an offbeat take on Lovecraft, and the non-stop meta-humor should be enough to please otaku of all stripes.  Early signs indicate it will be the surprise blockbuster hit of the season.


On the Fence


Kore was Zombie desu ka? OF THE DEAD
Episodes Watched: 3
Grade: C+
Comments: I was already kind of tired of the humor by the end of S1, and that’s carried over here as the show is very-little changed.  It feels as if they’ve milked this gag as far as it should have been milked.  Not bad and occasionally both funny and even touching, but it doesn’t compel me anymore.

Saint Seiya Omega:
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C+
Comments: About as old-school as anything this side of Matsumoto Leiji.  I’m not an expert on the franchise, so for me this is modestly enjoyable, well-made diversion.

Folktales From Japan
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C+
Comments: Light as a feather but an interesting look at folk culture from the Tohoku Region, devastated by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami.


Dropped

Natsuiro Kaiseki

Medaka Box

Hiiro no Kakera

Acchi Kochi

I'm also watching three short series, Poopoyo Kansatsu Nikki, Recorder to Randesell and Yurumates. All are pleasant 3-7 minute diversions, with Poyopoyo my favorite - I love the music, and it's a very smart and slightly edgy look at the ups and downs of living with a cat.

If you’re counting, that’s 19 shows in the top three categories – categories which would normally guarantee blogging on my part, and many of those shows could easily have been a notch higher in a weaker season.  This has forced me into some brutal choices, some of which are necessitated by the day of the week (Thursday and Saturday are especially bad) as much as the show’s quality – I might blog a show on Tuesday that I like less than one on Saturday that I drop, for example.  But blogging 20 shows is simply not an option – and there are several shows carried over from Winter than I intend to continue with.  So here’s my best guess at what a workable blogging schedule will look like:

Monday:
Probably Blogging/Blogging in Digest Form: Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, Kimi to Boku 2

Tuesday:
Definitely Blogging: Jormungand, Zetman

Wednesday:
Dropping: Kore wa Zombie

Thursday:
Definitely Blogging: Tsuritama, Sakamichi no Apollon, Eureka Seven AO, Sankarea
Probably Blogging/Digest: Shirokuma Café, Lupin III

Friday:
Definitely Blogging: Accel World

Saturday:
Definitely Blogging: Hunter X Hunter 2011, Nazo no Kanojo X, Fate/Zero, Avatar: Korra, Kuroko no Basuke
Probably Blogging/Digest: Ginga e Kickoff
Dropping: Area no Kishi

Sunday:
Definitely Blogging: Uchuu Kyoudai, Game of Thrones, Hyou-ka
Probably Blogging/Digest: Gundam AGE, Tasogare Otome x Amnesia
Dropping: Saint Seiya Omega

Blogging as Released: Hyouge Mono, Shouwa Monogatari


23 comments:

  1. I notice you did not mention Shining Hearts - the Bread of Happiness, Upotte!! and AKB0048.

    *cough cough*

    j/k, j/k

    Although Shining Hearts does have some nice animation imo....

    But a little more seriously I notice you did not mention Fairy Tales of Japan and some of the shorter 3-7 minute series.... Mainly b/c there is series to review overload this season I assume?

    Still kinda sad you dropped Acchi Kocchi (which for me is the funniest series of the season), but at least we can definitely agree that Sakamichi is the best of the season. :)

    - Flower

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. TBH I forgot about Folktales, though I am still watching it. As for Poyopoyo and Recorder, it just didn't seem worth it with so many other shows to talk about.

      Delete
  2. Tsuritama is A and Uchuu Kyoudai is worse than that cliché-ridden show? Utter nonsense!!

    Seriously Enzo, we get it, you looove Tsuritama. It's your call indeed to say what you like and not. But pleeease do stop with this blatant gushing propaganda of that show. You see I didn't have problem with that show (I just don't watch it, mind you), but it's really tiresome.

    The rest, I agree that Sakamichi no Apollon is good and FZ S2 is also good (although I'm a little bit tired of it lately). Jormungand is also good, but a bit flawed with limitless bullets that kills extras, but never hits heroes except for nicks here and there.

    Sankarea and Shirokuma Café are okay. I almost dropped Natsuiro Kaiseki, but its E4 was somewhat watchable, so it's a wait and see (yes another cliché-ridden show, but hey at least it's girls, not some dudes).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you suggesting that Tsuritama is cliched? The series with an Indian guy, with a duck partner, that works for a MIB-like organization? What have you been watching that it's a cliche?

      Space Brothers is good, but this is also a "long haul" series. I'm personally saving it for once a month watching. It should run something like 50 episodes, so there's really not a huge hurry on it.

      Delete
    2. You say it's my role to call out what I like and don't - but it's "tiresome" when you disagree. Well, that's human nature I guess.

      Delete
    3. well the point was to tone it down just a little. That's all. Obviously you can still praise any show you want. My irritation was not solely based on this post alone, you see. The propaganda for that show has bled into other posts, other non-Tsuritama posts, for a while now before this.

      Now with Eureka Seven (another show you gave A), I also have zero interest and don't watch like Tsuritama, but I don't see the same level of propaganda all over the blog and I don't need to go out of my way and voice my displeasure; it's none of my business. So it's not just disagreement per se, but anyway, it's your blog, your rule; I should probably just shut it, sorry, Enzo and other folks who love Tsuritama and Kimi to Boku.

      Delete
    4. That's cool, but wow - you don't think I'm pumping up E7? It's hard to see how I could have been more lavish in my praise of that show. And considering that I had less to say about Tsuritama in this post than any of my other top four shows, I just don't see where the issue is. It's not like I talk about Tsuritama (or any other show) in the posts that aren't about that show very often... I've certainly mentioned it when talking about Sakamichi, and vice-versa - because they're both NoitaminA series, and I pretty much always discuss how those relate to each other.

      I get it - you don't like it, and that's fine. I happen to think you're completely wrong about it being clichéd - in fact I think it might be among the least cliché series this season - but that's really beside the point.

      Delete
    5. SQA, I don't watch the show (except for a few minutes of Ep1), so I won't badmouth it any more and refrain myself. what I may or may not think of the show, being a non-fan/non watcher, it's irrelevant, really. I have no reason to trash it and provoke unnecessary anger. I bet if I try to explain why I think it's cliché or point out any faults, nothing good can come out of it as it's a personal opinion after all. My issue was not the show itself to be begin with, but the overt praise on non-Tsuritama posts.

      Delete
  3. I agree, the top 3 show this season for me are Eureka Seven Ao, Tsuritama and Sakamichi no Apollon. Nazo no Kanojo is a good surprise and Fate Zero is great.
    The rest are also good.
    Looks like a tiring schedule, but looking forward to your post ;)
    Keep the good job Enzo

    ReplyDelete
  4. Starting with any other hold-overs: dropped Mouretsu, it's okay but it's dreadfully boring to watch because nothing ever happens that is notable.

    My A-List: Sakamichi, Tsuritama, Fate/Zero, Jormungand
    B-List: Sankarea, NazoKanojo, Kimi to Boku 2, Shirokuma Cafe
    C-List: Eureka Seven AO, Nyaruko-san, Accel World, Hyouka
    D-List: Amnesia, Acchi Kocchi

    Impressed so far especially Eureka Seven and Sankarea.

    ReplyDelete
  5. notice no mention on qb's rebel & sengoku collection.

    give i'm already on ep.4 of sengoku collection give yea they just threw in the curveball ep in date.

    as qb's rebel yea ok.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Excellent wrap up of the season so far GE. Hope you can survive the blogging nightmare that Thursday and Saturday I'm sure are.

    Its been a season of good to great to perfect premiere and subsequent episodes and this all that can be asked for. Hopefully the steam will keep on blowing hard and most of these shows at least maintain their efforts so far through the more difficult middle phase of their runs, as character development comes into play and the story needs to maintain interesting without giving it all away, the second date I guess.

    I'm still watching Natsuiro and Acchi Kocchi, as after a cycle of catch and release they entertain me and bore me in equal amounts, literally so in Natsuiro's case. One entertaining episode watch, next boring episode drop and then from the start.

    Pure Comedy and mindless Ecchi are the only kinds of shows that are somewhat missing from the season. Why couldn't Minami Ke and Seitokai Yakuindomo make a comeback.

    Surprise hits for me are Ginga and E7 Ao as I wasn't intending to watch either in the first place. Other than that expectation has only been met or exceeded and incredibly its been the latter case that takes place more.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Comedy is definitely the weak link. Haiyore and Shirokuma are certainly both pure comedy and both pretty good (Shirokuma is more my taste) but yeah, a Minami-ke 4th season would hit the spot. Where are those damn details?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find Kore was Zombie desu ka? OF THE DEAD really funny ;)

      Delete
    2. So do I but I consider pure comedies shows which are basically composed entirely of gags, like Danshi. KwZd is a funny harem anime in my book.

      Delete
  8. My favorites this season are Fate/Zero, Tsuritama, Eureka Seven AO, Jormungand and Uchuu Kyoudai. Will also be watching (for now) Sankarea, Nazo no Kanojo X, Sakamichi no Apollon, Tasogare Otome x Amnesia, Kore was Zombie desu ka? OF THE DEAD, Natsuiro Kaiseki, Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, Hyou-ka and Accel World.

    ReplyDelete
  9. REALLY? No shining hearts?

    And you really think this season can't beat '07? I think it can. Mostly because I was not one of those pple who liked TTGL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Seriously - I'm not covering enough series for you??

      I just don't see this one surpassing Spring 2007 - too many multi-cour shows that went on to be absolute classics. Even without TTGL (which was probably my #3 series that season) I'd still call it the best ever for my tastes. This season may just match it for sheer volume of good-to-excellent shows, though.

      Delete
  10. As of now, there are fifteen shows you'll "definitely" be blogging, along with seven you're blogging in digest form. Don't you think you're in a little over your head? I mean, most have trouble blogging six shows, and you plan to blog double, maybe even triple that? Let me give you a bit of advice, friend, and tell that quality always bests quantity. It's not necessary to blog every show you're watching, but only those that really stand out. I'd rather see you make ten excellent, well-thought posts a week than have you try to cram in twenty decent ones.

    Just my opinion on the matter. Whatever you end up doing, I wish you happy blogging.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It never fails to amaze me when someone wants to argue with a blogger on their likes and dislikes. I mean, c'mon....blogging is a personal thing and reflects said bloggers tastes. Botom line is Enzo is one of my favorite writers whoses likes parallel mine 95% of the time. LIA will get my vote as I now come here even more than RC.
    As far as your workload, you'll know when to back off, right?

    ReplyDelete
  12. My personal top 3 (in no order): Korra, Uchuu Kyoudai and Shirokuma Cafe (at least these are the 3 I look forward to the most)

    My almost at the top: The two noitaminA series


    And finally very good but I am not as emotionally attached: Fate Zero

    And that is all I am following. Of course all these ratings are subject to change as the season goes on.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Just out of Curiosity, why was Acchi Kocchi dropped?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It just didn't click with me - not my cup of tea, I guess. I find it a bit boring and I thought the kawaii was a bit too forced.

      Delete