Thursday, February 7, 2013

Winter 2013 Check-in

Chihayafuru 2 - 04 - Large 37 Chihayafuru 2 - 04 - Large 33 [UTW]_Minami-ke_Tadaima_-_04_[h264-720p][E3511466].mkv_snapshot_07.16_[2013.01.28_22.43.20]
Minami-ke Tadaima - 02 - Large 03 [HorribleSubs]_Kotoura-san_-_01_[720p].mkv_snapshot_06.56_[2013.01.11_10.01.13] [HorribleSubs]_Kotoura-san_-_02_[720p].mkv_snapshot_20.10_[2013.01.18_10.34.04]

Thank goodness for sequels and carry-overs.

I can’t ever remember a season where I only ended up blogging one new series (excluding sequels). I’m still watching a few others, but Kotoura-san is the only one that made the cut, and the only one that looks as if it has a chance to be special. In practical terms that’s not a terrible thing, because I also can’t remember a season where I was blogging so many multi-cour shows that carried over, and there are a couple of very solid sequels as well.

That qualifier aside, it’s still sort of depressing to view Winter 2013 through that lens. Winter isn’t traditionally a strong anime season, true, but after a pretty strong 2012 I was hoping the year would get off to a better start. I continue to believe that the increasing predominance of light novels as the source for new anime is an unhealthy trend – there are exceptions, absolutely, but in general LN adaptations seem more prone to pandering and cliché than manga adaptations (and certainly novel adaptations like Shin Sekai Yori). It seems as if established rules govern the LN world far more than in manga, which remains the most experimental and diverse medium in Japanese popular culture. As for original anime, though there was a small spike in 2012 they remain a small part of the overall picture, and can’t be relied upon for more than a couple of shows a season (and of course, being anime-original is no guarantor of quality).

Spring 2013 looks better, certainly – Spring almost always is – though it lacks the sheer volume of intriguing prospects and potential classics at the top of the table that Spring 2012 offered. The continuation of Uchuu Kyoudai offers a bright spot, as we can look forward to another full year of that fantastic series.


On, then, to Winter 2013:


The Elite

Chihayafuru 2
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: A
Comments: It’s no surprise that this sequel is the best series of of the Winter season. It was one of the best shows of the last few years and the only change in staff is the addition of the writing team in charge of adapting Sakamichi no Apollon (who performed miracles in almost succeeding in an impossible task). I could have used a little more focus on the returning cast in the first three eps, but they still transitioned beautifully into new season, and episode 4 was one of the best so far. Bigger drama by far is surely yet to come.


Outstanding

Minami-ke Tadaima
Episodes Watched: 5
Grade: A-
Comments: Yet another new studio and director hasn’t proved a problem for one of anime’s most beloved comedy franchises.  In fact, this is easily the best Minami-ke since Daume and Ohta Masahiko’s stellar first season.  As always, needs more Mako-chan (once in five eps isn’t enough) and Hosaka too, but apart from that it’s a delightful reminder of just how great Minami-ke can be.

Kotoura-san
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: A-
Comments: The premiere was the surprise of the season – a shockingly powerful and dark story from Ohta Masahiko when most of us were expecting a light comedy.  There are issues with the series, namely the rushed exposition, which has contributed to some questionable character behavior.  But on the whole this is easily the class of the season’s new material.



Very Good

None


[Sigh] Hakkenden - Touhou Hakken Ibun - 02 [720p][E5A06832].mkv_snapshot_13.24_[2013.01.14_19.37.19] [HorribleSubs]_Boku_no_Imouto_wa_Osaka_Okan_-_03_[480p].mkv_snapshot_00.58_[2013.02.07_12.20.04]


Worthwhile

Hakkenden: Touhou Hakken Ibun
Episodes Watched: 5
Grade: B-
Comments: This was about as far off my radar screen as it’s possible for a show to be, but Hakkenden actually stands out as one of the better new series of a generally dismal season.  It’s nothing great and would barely register in a stronger field, but it’s a nice looking DEEN series with likeable characters, an interesting enough plot and the occasional laugh.  Hakkenden is pretty old-school – in terms of premise, look and sensibility – and that has a certain charm to it. 

Boku no Imouto wa Osaka Okan!
Episodes Watched: 6
Grade: B-
Comments: Yup, I’m actually ranking this 3-minute flash-animated comedy as my #5 series of the Winter.  I’d love to say it’s because Osaka Okan is great, but really it’s more a measure of the competition.  That said, if you can get past the ugly flash animation (I managed it with Thermae Romae) this is pretty hilarious stuff – a sharp-edged but affectionate look at the differences between Osakans and Edoites.



[Mazui]_Boku_Ha_Tomodachi_Ga_Sukunai_NEXT_-_02_[AA292D99].mkv_snapshot_06.36_[2013.01.20_12.37.41] [Mazui]_Tamako_Market_-_03_[4CD0E3A9].mkv_snapshot_07.21_[2013.01.24_20.44.37] [HorribleSubs]_Maoyuu_Maou_Yuusha_-_03_[720p].mkv_snapshot_21.41_[2013.01.20_23.39.15]


Still Watching

Haganai NEXT
Episodes Watched: 4
Grade: C+
Comments: The first season’s charms were already starting to wear thin for me by the end, and this sequel has accented some of the facets of Haganai that I don’t especially like.  Still good for a laugh, but generally feels mean-spirited and crude more than ever before.

Amnesia
Episodes Watched: 5
Grade: C+
Comments: Considering it’s Brains Base I’m disappointed in Amnesia, though truth be told if it had been another studio I wouldn’t have been expecting a lot.  It’s a pretty series, but the guys are a little too preposterous and the heroine a little too bland to really engage me.

Tamako Market
Episodes Watched: 5
Grade: C+
Comments: Kyoto Animation’s least ambitious director is helming its least ambitious series of the past year.  I laughed a fair bit at the premiere, but have steadily been losing interest since.  I can’t find anything in Tamako Market that stands out as exceptional (including the visuals, which are just OK by KyoAni’s lofty standards) and I’m on the fence as to whether to watch it any further.

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha
Episodes Watched: 5
Grade: C+
Comments: Possibly the most disappointing series of the season for me – not because it’s terrible, but because it was one for which I had high expectations.  This is a series that can’t seem to decide what it’s trying to accomplish, and with generally flat characters and a somewhat dry academic style mixed with mediocre anime cliché, the result is a modestly interesting mess.



Still Watching as time allows

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited, GJ-bu


Dropped: Oreshura, Cuticle Detective Inaba, Mondai-ji-tachi



The biggest difference between this and most seasons is the lack of shows in the “Very Good” and “Worthwhile” categories.  There’s quality at the top, but the median for the season is much lower than normal.  As a result – for the first time ever – there's absolutely nothing in the “Probably Blogging” or “Digest” categories*, though there are a couple of shows (Magi, Haganai, etc.) that I could theoretically pick up again if they surprise me. Again, though, at least we have a lot of carry-over.  As you can see the schedule is even more weighted towards Thursday and Saturday than usual, so a couple of those series will sometimes be a day or so late.  Here’s the blogging schedule as it stands:

Monday:
Definitely Blogging: None

Tuesday:
Definitely Blogging: Ginga e Kickoff

Wednesday:
Definitely Blogging: None

Thursday:
Definitely Blogging: Robotics;Notes, Psycho-Pass, Shirokuma Café, Kotoura-san, Zetsuen no Tempest

Friday:
Definitely Blogging: Shin Sekai Yori, Chihayafuru 2

Saturday:
Definitely Blogging: Hunter X Hunter 2011, Bakuman 3, Little Busters!, Minami-ke Tadaima

Sunday:
Definitely Blogging: Uchuu Kyoudai


Watching: Osaka Okan, Kingdom, Haganai NEXT, Magi

* Wild Card: Seitokai no Ichizon Lv.2.  Now that this is being broadcast in decent quality on TV, I might just pick it up.  It’s not as good as the first season either visually or content-wise so far, but I am enjoying it.  It’s a Wednesday series which should be perfect, in theory, as I have nothing else on the schedule - but given that the entire run has already been shown online, I’m not sure how I feel about blogging it.


42 comments:

  1. Did you ever state your reasons for dropping Oreshura? I don't think you mentioned it before. I had the impression that you found it moderately likeable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I get the impression it was dropped because it "has accented some of [its own] facets that I don’t especially like. Still good for a laugh, but generally feels mean-spirited and crude more than ever before."

      That and starting out seeming to subvert the harem norm only to seemingly start to embrace it.

      Delete
    2. Honestly, I just don't find myself liking any of the characters all that much. And there's an ugliness to the tone that puts me off a bit.

      Delete
  2. Thanks for the write-up.

    I might have to pick up Kotoura-san: I've only been watching sequels and continuations from last season so far, so it'd be nice to watch at least one completely new show. The description and preview images didn't exactly have me in anticipation, but if you're characterizing it as "dark" then I might give it a shot.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yeah... Winter 2013 is pretty abysmal. I guess no more Sakurasou, which is a shame to me. I for one thought it actually got pretty good (Thank god that sister isn't as annoying anymore), but then again I'm not one with a great critical lens. I feel for you on Amnesia. Truth be told, I think Brains Base looked at this and saw that the mystery aspect was somewhat original and thought that would be enough for potential goodness and I think the mystery is actually pretty good and the execution is nice, but the characters are most certainly not at all equal (Not even qualified really) and good mystery and execution can't save a series like that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After reading some stuff about the source material I have renewed hope that maybe... possibly... I hope... they might still make something interesting out of Amnesia. The source material actually sounds pretty awesome as far as Otome goes.

      Delete
    2. Hm, that's what I needed to hear! I'll keep up with it on that ground alone.

      Delete
  4. I agree that it's a weak season overall, but I think you've underrated Mondaiji-tachi which is pretty awesome. In a stronger season it might be strictly average but in this season it's definitely one of the few bright spots. I also like GJ-bu quite a bit but I've always been a fan of this kind of skit-style comedy show.

    That said the best shows this season are definitely all sequels and continuations. If I were to make a top 5 of everything I'm watching this season I don't think even Kotoura would make the cut, it would all be shows that didn't start this season. Actually I just checked and yeah, my top 5 in no particular order would be Space Bros, Chihaya, Zetsuen, Robotics Notes, Shin Sekai. 4 continuations and one sequel. Definitely a weak season in terms of new contenders.

    Also since you aren't blogging it anymore I'll comment here: I thought the last episode of Haganai was far better than anything else they've done this season. The roller coaster scene was hilarious, and the reveal at the end was equally delightful.

    I need to find a new fansub group for Hunter x Hunter, I'm like 20 episodes behind since they group I've been getting it from has decided that releasing 1 episode every 2 months or so is a pretty good schedule.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hunter x Hunter the 2011 version you are talking about, right? Just watch the series on Crunchyroll. The episodes are made available on Saturday if you have a membership there and if you don't you will just be behind the show by one week. And beside, all you have to do is go to any website that streams anime and you should find the most current episode to watch for free, unless your computer can't play them for some reason.

      Delete
    2. You can just type the latest episode on Google and you'll get a dozen or so websites to choose from too.

      Delete
    3. Yeah the Google thing might work but no on Crunchyroll, I refuse to watch anything on their site anymore out of general principle, I'd rather not watch the show at all.

      Delete
    4. You know I have the strangest sense of Deja Vu with that line. What's wrong with Crunchyroll though?

      Delete
    5. Primarily the fact that they had their chance and blew it. I paid for their service for about 8 months maybe 2 years ago and the service sucked. In addition, the quality of their subs is all over the place. They can churn out quality work if they put their A team on it but most of the time they put out mediocre boringsubs. I don't have enough free time to give more chances to a company that I already used for a while and found highly unsatisfactory.

      Also there's the whole thing of them using other people's fansubs without their permission when they first started out, but considering I'm advocating illegal fansubs that is admittedly a pretty weak argument. Just thought I'd bring it up so nobody forgets that they started out as a pirate site too.

      Delete
  5. Yeah it's disappointing that so few new shows made the cut this winter.
    Well at least you get a break from a normally busy shedule and if you want you can still use those "free" days to blog about a movie, Events or shows you still watch but stopped blogging for whatever reason.

    ReplyDelete
  6. yeah, opinions and stuff, but still surprised you like kotoura so much. It's not really much better/worse than some of the stuff you rated lower or dropped altogether. Very cringe worthy imo: I just can't find myself believing these characters and their upstanding morale.

    ReplyDelete
  7. What is everyone's opinion on Love Live! School Idol Project? I think that it's kind of refreshing for a idol anime with a hint of Tari Tari. I can't seriously stand idol shows like AKB0048 or Aikatsu!; however, some of the concluding story arcs of The iDOLM@STER were pretty decent. Anyway, if they can get Maki behind a piano again then I'll be a happy camper.

    Also, I'm glad to see that some people are looking beneath the surface of Amnesia and sticking with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like Love Live! The show feels very authentic for a premise that's hard to bring down to earth. There are realistic goals (no "We want to be the best in the world!" or claptrap like that, just "We want to have fun and enjoy this"), there are fairly realistic characters, and they have stopped hammering so much on the "We need to do this to save the school!" side.

      Girls working to do something to have fun and enjoy themselves is not a bad premise. And I like the songs a lot, even if they let Kotori sing too much.

      Delete
    2. I like AKB0048 in general but by and large I'm really over this idol shit, there is way too much of it.

      Delete
    3. I haven't watched any other idol shows, so that helps. And I like that they're just high school girls who join a club, not tryouts or superstars or fighters or anything. The show started out with a "Oh no the school is closing due to low enrollment" angle, but that's been largely dropped because the group has realized that doing this because they want to do it is better than because they want to get more people to the school.

      Delete
  8. The new arc in Magi is starting next week so may I request you pick it up seeing as your Monday schedule is free? I know the last arc was pretty long and drawn out but you might have something new to write about in regards to the anime come next week. Please consider it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm still watching, so if it really impresses me it's a possibility. As long as the series doesn't revolve around Alibaba I think it's pretty good.

      Delete
  9. Definitely the worst Anime season for me: this is the first time absolutely none of the new shows entered my Watching List (luckily last season had many carry-overs so the list itself is thankfully above average in size :p ).

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think the only people who are saying this season is weak are the ones who watch everything... every season no matter how weak there are shows people are going to gravitate to even if there's only one.

    Winter is usually a season where studios are saving up their A Game stuff until Spring apart from a few gems anyway so I don't know why people are groaning this season is significantly worse past Winters.

    A surprise show that isn't getting much attention for me is The Unlimited: Hyoubu Kyousuke, a well executed action show with cool characters and powers

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm saying the season is weak because I can only find 3 shows that are really good, and two of them are sequels. I certainly don't watch everything, and that's easily the worst for any season since I've been watching anime.

      Delete
  11. Well now that you've got some free time, how about reading the all-time sport manga classic, Slam Dunk? You still haven't read that one, have you? Trust me, you won't regret it. The anime sort of sucked due to the low budget, but the manga still stands as the top 10 Japanese manga ever, certainly the most popular sports manga ever in Japan even after all these years, I'd presume (not that popular in USA, though, since it's essentially NBA-rip off, which the writer freely admitted).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Free time? Good one, I needed a laugh! That said, it might be fun, though truth be told if I were to catch up on a classic sports manga it'd probably be Ashita no Joe.

      Delete
    2. @Enzo: AnJ? *perks up* one of the pivotal series from my childhood :,D.
      The two anime series are quite long but I remember spotting online an English BD sub for the movies at bakabt. Well, for movie #2 (aka the handy season #2 recap ). In any case, if you ever tried watching it you can't really go wrong with Dezaki Ozamu's direction + Akio Sugino's anime chara des + drama and iconic works. <--- yes, I'm a total fangirl for this specific combo. Their imprinting goes a long way for me XD

      Delete
    3. Slam Dunk is definitely a classic, it was a lot like Hikaru no Go in that sense, totally exhilarating.

      Delete
  12. I'm actually watching 23 series this season, more than the last two (and Chihayafuru isn't in there, I'm kinda burned out on Chihaya after watching the first season in January).

    I actually think the season's fine. Maybe there aren't a lot of great new shows (I rate Haganai higher, and definitely see a different trajectory for it, moving farther away from the outright bullying and more towards realization of bonds of friendship), but there were also a lot more really good shows that carried over: Psycho-Pass, SSY, Sakurasou, Tempest, Robotics;Notes. I don't even put Little Busters in the 'great show' category with those others. So it just lines up that so many shows are carryovers.

    My best new shows are Tamako Market (which I think is actually doing something pretty different with much more of a focus on outright love and friendship, and even non-traditional romance), Kotoura-san, Love Live!, and Haganai Next.

    Just behind them are Vividred (which has a lot of action and a little too much hot pants and repetition), Mondaiji (which after a really predictable start seems to be getting interesting), and Maoyuu (Hopefully this stays here if they do more romance / couple stuff, which is what I think it needs).

    OreShura, Senran Kagura, and Sasami-san are shows I'm just watching because they're better than nothing. And also 5 short series (but I didn't like the first episode of Osaka-Mama so that hasn't been one of them).

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm a lil sad you aren't watching Cuticle Tantei Inaban. I hated it at first but oddly after a couple eps it settled into its random pace and now i enjoy it immensely. Kind of reminds me of Gintama :) Anyway thanks for the update Enzo!

    ReplyDelete
  14. It's too bad you're not enjoying the winter lineup up as much as I am. Take it easy this season and hopefully you'll have more time for classes and sightseeing :)
    My favorites this season: Love Live! School Idol Project, Tamako Market, Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, Haganai NEXT, Cuticle Tantei Inaba, Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, AKB0048 Next Stage and Minami-ke Tadaima

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm only watching the Chihayafuru from this season. It's not just weak, it's abysmal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So you didn't watch the previous 24 episodes that set up all the main characters and plot points and now you think this season is awful.

      Go on...

      Delete
    2. Glass shadow. So basically all the light goes right though you but you still cast a shadow. I hope you can take in some light next time before you type out turd

      Delete
    3. I think he is referring to the season being abysmal not Chihayafuru.

      Delete
    4. Yes, I believe that GS's reference was to the entire season, not to Chihayafuru. Everyone needs to chill out.

      Delete
    5. Ahhhh my bad I totally misread the post as a slam against Chihayafuru. The way it was phrased was confusing, my apologies.

      Delete
    6. LOL..nvm. I love Chihayafuru~ hoho. But apology accepted. Maybe I should better phrase myself next time. xD

      Delete
    7. Man... a scary cesspool of Chihayafuru maniacs this place is... Say anything negative about it, folks will gang up on you in no time... Truly terrifying. I don't have anything overly negative thing to say about it, but oh man. I will keep this in mind, y'all~.

      Delete
    8. Sorry GS thought you were bad mouthing the only great show from winter so far and my favourite show from the last few years.

      Delete
  16. You do know that the Osaka Okan is pretty fake. Osaka people don't actually speak or act like that. It is just that most Tokyo people when watching Osaka TV thats what they get. But due to public education, the Tokyo Japanese has over taken and Osaka dialect is not common. And although, there are cultural differences its not like those potrayed in the anime.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Ironicly I find myself reading more manga than anime nowadays, I'm merely making an effort to keep up with Little Busters, Psycho pass, R;N & Magi, which I will say now although there are no drastic changes I liked the current arc alot better in the manga. I haven't gotten around to Kotoura-san and I'm still trying out season one for Minami Ki to even bother with season 4. HxH and Space Bors are a given and I need to simply find time for Chihayafuru.

    ReplyDelete