Friday, April 18, 2014

Bottom of the Pile - April 9th, 2014

This is extremely late, but will be followed very soon by this week's.

All-New Ultimates
You know, I should've made the connection between Spider-Woman and BW being a "name upgrade" a long time ago.  Anyway, Dagger's response to the sudden change in Jessica's superhero nom-de-plume sums up how I feel about this story as a whole.  I guess I saw the cover and was kind of hyped coming out of Young Avengers and expected that: a cool, "hip" story about a bunch of teenagers forming a super-team and figuring themselves out while they fought crime.  You figure, once someone gives you the blueprint, that's what you use going forward, right?  

And yet, All-New Ultimates is kind of confusing as hell.  The art's beautiful one moment and a scattered mess the next, and that's about how I feel about the writing--there's no concrete direction here to set up where these guys are going.  Hopefully they get on track with the next issue.

All-New X-Factor
And here we have the ever-so-gradual transformation of Quicksilver into a Decent Human Being.  Granted,he's still a spy, but it's for a good cause: Polaris is clearly nuts.   It makes sense though: Peter David was originally the guy who humanized Quicksilver in the first place with the infamous "ATM" explanation.   I guess this is just the next step.

All-New X-Men

I...wouldn't worry about being condemned by the Watcher, Hank.  This is a guy who's observed billions upon billions of people dying, and hasn't made even the slightest attempt to help or save them.  Does this just exist to make people hate The Watcher before he gets murked?  

Astro City
The worst part about being a superhero?  Very, very few days off.   Actually I'm thinking that's the only upside to dying--you'll eventually come back, so it's like a vacation.

Also, sidenote: The fact that this story just casually decided the most important magical being in Astro City's world is an asian woman, and her assistant (arguably just as if not more important) is a black woman.   Kurt's been doing this for years.  Countless article after article about why DC or Marvel need to have more diversity, and while DC and Marvel offer excuse after excuse, Astro City's like, "What's that bro?  Can't hear you over the sound of actually getting shit done.".   Amazing.


Avengers A.I.

First an Avengers World, now it's an Empire.   Next up is the Avengers Universe?   Also, daaaang Vision.  You really let yourself go.  Kidding.  I'm enjoying the fact that he's not being treated as something can be killed repeatedly because "he's a robot, he can't really die".

Batman Eternal

The part about Batman making quips is weird, but the bit where he starts threatening torture is even stranger.   Also, "Penny-One" is a terrible code name.  Its like a loose thread that if you tugged on all the secrets would come pouring out.   Just...weird. 

Still and all, Batman Eternal #1 is a very good Batman comic.  It's weekly nature gives the writers room to focus on more than just Batman, instead giving the spotlight to Gotham as a whole and allowing development for the wide cast of characters the city contains.  

Iron Man
And all this time I had been wondering where the War Machine armor had gone.  Guess Tony repossessed it once the government employed Rhodey.   Now, this issue is another great "fish out of water" story, continuing Tony Stark's battle against Malekith the Accursed in order to recover the rings of the Mandarin.  The fight goes pretty poorly in this issue, and Tony sort of loses his temper and ends it all by bringing in the "big guns". 

...But knowing Iron Man history, whenever Tony tries to brute force his way to a solution, he gets smacked down pretty easily.  So despite this being a killer ending for this issue, don't expect him to be too impressive in the next. 

Mighty Avengers
"Hey, remember that time I was inside you and we saved the world?"  I have to think that's one of the oddest experiences you could have as a superhero.

Also, earlier in this issue of Mighty Avengers we get to see a timeline of Adam Brashear (aka, the Blue Marvel)'s lifetime, with his adventures with his son from 1970's to the present.  The last event with a year is 1999 on the turn of the millenium.  The one following that is listed as "An Unspecified Amount of Time Later, at the beginning of the Age of Marvels".   It makes a reference to Galactus' first attempt to eat the Earth.   This concretely places Marvel's sliding timescale well into the 2000s, meaning the entire history from the early 60's to the present, from the first Avengers formation to Civil War, No More Mutants and the Heroic Age--all occurred in no more than 14 years.  

(More accurately, probably around ten.  Iron Man's long had his origin updated to occur in Afghanistan, so the entire timeline probably occurs in a post-9/11 universe.  ....Which actually makes a LOT more sense than "the heroes were busy that day".)  


Nightcrawler


Another thing I like about Marvel's sliding timescale is that it's fairly consistent.   When you think about it, the whole concept of the X-Men has been around in-universe maaaaybe since '02 or '03, which means in the grand scheme of things, the mutants were probably only gone for two years, tops. 

Anyway, Nightcrawler is essentially an 80's comic book, with art, story structure and dialogue updated just slightly for the present day.  Most comic fans know what they're getting when they read a book by Chris Claremont, and this is no exception.  He plays to his strengths and doesn't try anything terribly different that would water down what people would like about him.  It's a "simple" comic book in that there are definite good guys and definite bad guys and not really that much grey (yet), but I really enjoyed it. 

 Secret Avengers

If you remember nothing else from my column, remember this.  There are two versions of the DC and Marvel Comics Universes: the street-level hero version, and the cosmic/"super" hero version.  This is how you explain how Batman can be useful to the Justice League in one book, and yet struggle fighting Two-Face in another.   It is also how you explain why Spider-Woman is panicking over going out into space, when she was just in another galaxy five months ago.  Which, when you factor in the time compression of comic book events, translates to probably a few weeks.  The street level/cosmic level discrepancy has never made a ton of sense, but it's the only way to explain scenes like this.

Author's Note: Bottom of the Pile is a weekly column (or at least, my attempt at said) in which I cover the comics that found their way to the bottom of my pile, thus being the best as I've always been a proponent of "saving the best for last".   Since bog standard reviews can be found literally anywhere, coverage can range from mini-reviews to funny comments to commentary on a creator's run or comics as a whole, depending on a wide range of factors including the comic itself, the amount of time I have, and my general mood.




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Anime First Impressions: Spring 2014 Part Three



The first episode of Ryuugajou Nanana's Treasure goes like this: twelve years ago, seven genius students worked together to help realize the dream of their leader, Nanana Ryuugajou's idea: create an island where kids of all ages (from junior high to college students) can be free to achieve any goals they have, free of interference from adults.   Now in the present day, we meet Juugo Yama, a fifteen year old who has come to this special student zone, known as Nanae Island, in order to escape his home life.   Only, he finds his apartment is haunted by Nanana, the creator of the island who was murdered ten years ago and is now bound to the place she was killed.

Now going off the OP, you might think this was a series that got dropped somewhere between the opening and the mid-episode eyecatch. Not so.  This series is genuinely funny, actually choosing to focus on it's core concept rather than a constant barrage of fanservice.  Oh sure there's still some service to be found if you're looking for it, but it's extremely dialed back compared to what you expect in this moe era of anime.

What I love the most is how they seem to be just ignoring the fact that Nanana was killed.  It happened, they all think it was unfortunate, but they've pretty much moved on.   Nanana spends her days playing video games and eating pudding (must be nice when you can't gain any weight since you're...y'know...dead), and everyone else has gone on with their lives as well.   It's played for laughs more than anything else, even if eventually solving that will probably be the main story of the series.

With some fairly decent animation from A-1 Pictures and hints at a plot that runs far deeper than your average slice of life inanity, Ryuugajou Nanana's Treasure stands a fair shot at being one of my favorite shows of the season.  So of course it's only 11 episodes.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei

Mahouka (lit. The Irregular at Magic High School) does a couple things that bug the shit out of me.  First off, it's explanation of magic bugs the shit out of me.  Apparently, in the future resources crazy crazy scarce, so much so that nations begin fighting over them, which is cool.  Somehow magic is developed--that's fine--and then used as a method of warfare to control the remaining resources that exist in the world...and there's where you lost me.   I get that magic would have warfare applications, but they don't even hint that magic is being utilized as a way to create additional resources at a faster rate.   Plus introducing a harsh, war-torn world and then switching to what appears to be a fairly affluent high school is irksome, but that's actually fairly close to real life so that I let slide.

The other major thing it does is introduce the version up of the Boring Invincible Protagonist: The Boring Invincible Protagonist...who no one knows is invincible.  You'll often see this guy pop up in series that have invented some sort of harsh social caste system--he's meant to show that systems based on meritocracies don't always work as there are people who have superior talent receiving the same treatment as those with below-average abilities. 

But that's on a deeper level--on a more practical level, what this means is not only is the main character impossible to harm and will always win, it now means he's always right.   Everyone around him is now incompetent, because they can't see how powerful he is.  They treat him like trash when in reality he should be the most important person in the show.  I know this because the first two minutes of the show are a discussion on exactly this.  The end result of this is the viewer constantly screaming at their television/monitor about how idiotic all of the characters are.   It's a subconscious way of putting you on the main character's side, even if you don't like them.  Worse, it's a way of keeping them out of the action because they have to "hide" their abilities.

Fuck that; I like bad-ass, broken protagonists.  If he (or she) is going to be that way?  Just own up to it.  Find more inventive ways to challenge them, and stop lying to me to pretend they aren't really busted.

Aside from that, Mahouka doesn't really do anything particularly new or interesting in it's opening episode.  It had an excellent, very well animated fight scene at the start of the second half, and there are hints at a pretty cool magic system...but all of that is irrelevant if they don't focus on it and instead direct their attention to the weird obsession the two main characters have with each other, and the fairly tame slice-of-life elements they attempted to insert.   This is another series that's not terribly offensive though, so it bought itself four more episodes to prove itself to me.



Oh, giant robots!  Opening song sung by Masaki Endo's band, Endohkai!  Protagonist who hasn't been properly introduced to good hair styling product!  This is CLEARLY a hot-blooded super robot series!

*several boob grabs later*   LOLnope.   This whole thing is an extended parody of giant robot series.  The main robot, Daimidaler, can only be powered by people capable of generating hi-ERO particles.  Currently, the only person capable of using him, and saving the Earth from other giant robots with dick cannons, is Madanbashi Kouichi, a pervert who activates his powers by groping boobs.

Generally I don't care much for fanservice because I feel like if you want porn you should just go watch it, but when a series capitalizes off the stupidity of fanservice it becomes a blast for me.  Still though, aside from the comedy it's nothing special in terms of plotting or animation and the mecha design is obviously garbage (though there's several jokes to be made in regards to Daimidaler's right arm being diesel while the left one is all wimpy) so I can't blame anyone who skips it.   For me it's just a neat way to turn my brain off for 22 minutes.


Mekakucity Actors

Man, I don't what it is this season with anime and main characters that embrace that shut-in (hikkikomori) lifestyle.    In general though, I've never watched SHAFT series so someone will have to tell me if this series is the standard.  There's lots of neat little tricks that are done with animation, and the color scheme seems to change to be concurrent with the current mood of the plot.  

Mekaku City Actors follows main character Shintaro Kisaragi who, due to an accident involving a friend, hasn't gone outside in two years.  A major computer geek, his only "friend" is a surprisingly human A.I. he once downloaded by accident named Takane Enomoto (Ene).  The first episode sees Shintaro forced to leave the house for the first time because of a mistake Ene made, leading him to come in contact with a strange group of characters.  Oh, and he foils a store heist or something, which is actually a big deal but I'm writing it off because I've got a feeling that'll be the least crazy thing to happen.

This is another one of the better series--it's strange, but it's a good sort of strange.  Like I mentioned before, the tricks they play with the colors are pretty slick and the anime seems to have a lot of potential in terms of developing this off-beat group of characters I see in the OP.  There's a good chance I'll finish this, though I'm hoping I don't get stuck with the "bad ending" so many stories like this are known for.   

Well, we're almost done with this list as I approach the final five series.   Expect the final installment to be full of a ton of raving about pure shonen awesomeness.    The count is way higher than I want it to be, so when I do my final impressions in a couple months don't be surprised if I abruptly cut a lot of these series exactly where I said I would. 

Battle Rap Wednesdays: Fresco vs. Yung Ill








So apparently this was some long-awaited match-up and a lot of people are let down because it didn't live up to expectations.   And that's a shame too, since if you don't go into this expecting Lux vs. Hollow 2: Stand Up Niggas Still Don't Lean, I think it's a pretty decent match-up. 

Fresco first caught my attention in that battle against Rone.  He's kind of nerdy and a bit of a pretty boy, but he owns up to that instead of trying to ignore it--that gives him the necessary authenticity to pull off the raps he spits.  I dunno what the fuck that whole throwing up twice in the first round was about, though.

Anyway, overall this battle is a pretty clean win.  Fresco 3-0, maybe 2-1 if you felt like the aforementioned "chokes" cost him the first.   Also, anyone saying Yung Ill won 3-0 is stanning something fierce--Ill either forgot half his second round or tried to freestyle to extend it.   Maybe he was jealous of how Clips won in their battle off that 3rd round freestyle or something, but he needs to let that "I'll go off the top" shit go.   KOTD crowds are mad respectful so they didn't boo the shit out of him, but I heard he tried that shit again versus Arsonal and well...   Listen.  Not everybody can freestyle--if you can write, just do that.  It's all written battles anyway.


Anime First Impressions - Spring 2014 Part Two

Aaand, here we are in the middle of the week with Part 2 of the First Impressions.  Let's just get right to it.
Blade and Soul

This series appeals to some group, but man I'm really not apart of that group.  Everything about the episode screamed "generic" at me, from the boring-ass "stoic" warrior chick to the rustic village filled with people who've carved out a "rough, but fair" existence farming that are being threatened by a kingdom who wants their land for its resources.    It wasn't offensive, it was just dull. Well, correction: the main female is offensive.  Note: Quiet protagonists are boring, not cool.  Stop using them.

I'll probably sit through another couple episodes to see if some of the other characters spice the universe up, but I'm guessing if you aren't watching this to see tits and violence that you're wasting your time.  Mind, not that I'm not a fan of both of those things, but I need something besides that.  Comedy.  Inspired designs.  Interesting characters.  Bunnies.  Anything at all would have helped.

Revision: Okay, I watched the second episode of this and I think I'm done.  The main character is so boring and so violent people who come within a six feet radius seem to become boring themselves or get murdered brutally.  Again, it's done nothing offensive but it's just too dull and watching it feels like a chore. 


Mahou Shoujo Taisen

After Madoka, nobody ever really knows what to expect from magical girl series anymore.  Even though it was just a single series, that deconstruction of the genre makes most fans feel like at any moment something unspeakably horrible could happen to a character at any moment.  So when I picked up Mahou Shoujo Taisen (lit. "Magical Girl Wars"), I had no idea I'd be walking into a five minute mini-episode that was basically a crack show.

Meant to be part of a variety show, Taisen features anthropomorphizations of local Japanese towns.  This means the plot is largely irrelevant (so far) and it's just about girls wearing extravagant outfits while whacking deceptively cute evil furballs to keep them from possessing humans.   For the most part I don't see myself dropping myself because it's pretty cute, and five minutes is one of the smallest time investments I've ever had asked of me.


Hitsugi no Chaika

A brother and sister with military training help a young girl sorceress do...something.  If I'm being honest the picture isn't painted clearly enough yet for me to know that yet.  The brother is a retired soldier, the sister is the only one with a job, and the girl can only speak in simple sentences for some reason that would probably make me brain myself if I knew it.

Actually, can we talk about that?  Chaika, the girl in question, is positively adorable, but can we stop making females who seem to be mentally damaged?   Anime never ceases to amaze me with the weird shit that they fetishize, but I need this not to be one of them.  It's really weird.   I'm not the most progressive guy in the world, and still I know we can do better than this.

Anyway: Honest opinion on the series?   Chaika's cute enough to give this series the requisite five episodes but this series is still high up on the list of shows likely to be cut if my time finds itself too taxed to keep up.

Captain Earth

Captain Earth was...weird.   Typically gorgeous BONES animation, but initially I thought it would go the route of weak ass Eureka Seven, until it suddenly saved itself mid-episode.   I don't actually know enough about the characters or the plot to make any concrete statements about the series yet, though.  Right now it just looks like your standard Super Robot series, complete with an oversized mecha, a really awesome assembly sequence, and an alien race with the requisite lack of respect for human life that makes it easier to root for the good guys.  (Also, as required for any post-2000 series, some very strange sexual overtones.)

Shows like this pretty much only get crazier as time goes on.  With only a generic kid who's determined to stop the Earth from getting...well, presumably blown up but I can't say for sure...I'll have to wait a little more to know if I'll stick with it.  Fortunately it bought itself the other four episodes.  

Seikoku no Dragonar

Mehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!   This show bugs the hell out of me.  A main character with a hidden past.  a bunch of tsundere characters, and yet another loli snuck it's way in despite all evidence to the contrary.  Seikoku no Dragonar is supposed to be about kids who happen to possess the special ability to ride and control their own unique dragon partners, with the exception of the main character who can ride and control any partner.

By itself that'd be an interesting idea, but judging from the OP/ED, there's a fair chance that this will morph into a generic harem series.   I wanted it to be good, but it feels like a less inventive version of Unbreakable Machine Doll, and that series had its irritating moments. I'm in for four episodes with the caveat that it may get dropped if it has to stand alongside some of the better series for too long. 


And that's part two.   Part three has a good chance of showing up later today or probably a little tomorrow.   Don't worry, it's not all doom and gloom. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Anime First Impressions: Spring 2014 Part One

Spring is here, and with it we have another new anime season, packed with new series.  No, seriously.  This may just have the most anime in a single season ever.  Even for someone with my completely random and incredibly picky tastes, over twenty different anime piqued my interest.   Of course, not all of them are modern day classics.  Some won't even pass the five episode check. Let's get into which ones have potential and which ones were duds.  Note: Since there are a crapload of these, I've decided to split this up into five series at a time, updated (hopefully) daily.

Black Bullet
Basically, as you'll see it described all over the internet, this is Attack on Titan with lolis.  And while the kid in question is adorable (and far, far more of a bad-ass than her older male partner), I'm really not sure what Japan's obsession is with sexually amorous little girls.  Don't get me wrong, it was actually pretty funny seeing the main character stiff arm the fuck out of her advances, but these are exactly the kind of series people point to when they talk shit about anime.

Even without that though, Black Bullet wasn't for me.  The fight scenes were decent, but holy SHIT that opening was bleak.  It was like someone took a course in Post-Apocalyptic Tropes 101 and tried to shove them all into a one minute scene.  And even though the rest of the episode is semi-light hearted, preliminary information I've gathered leads me to believe the status quo is more like the opening.  That's the kind of pointless nihilism that I just can't engage in as recreation, so I'm out.   If you're following, be sure to update me on the doubtless excess carnage that will occur over the series' run.

Cardfight Vanguard: Legion Mate Chapter


Cardfight Vanguard returns for it's fourth season, introducing a brand-new card mechanic with it: Legion, the ability for two level 3 cards to share the soul, gaining an effect neither card would have on its own.  I tried following this series back in 2011 when it was but a twinkle in the eyes of some exec at Bushiroad, but I was pre-occupied with...oh, who remembers?  But when I saw this series was doing another jump on point, I figured it's not like I don't already have more than enough to do, and went for it because I'm a glutton for punishment. 

Anyway, the hook for me with this season was that the series' normal protagonist, Sendou Aichi, has actually been retconned from existence.  His friends, his family, everything he's ever done (which apparently includes saving the world) has been completely forgotten by all but one person: his former rival and the person who taught him the game, Kai Toshiki.  It's like if they suddenly decided Seto Kaiba would be the main character of Yu-Gi-Oh for a year.  

Five episodes in (this series started in March), this series has settled into a typical routine of Kai having matches against Aichi's former friends, and getting them to regain their memories when he defeats them.  There's also a shadowy group in another realm that's already made their first move to stop Kai from succeeding at his task, and as the story seems to have assembled most of Aichi's best friends, I imagine they will start to come into play more soon.  It's all very basic kids' television, but it's decently done and well-animated, and I love the crack designs of the cards, so hopefully this will be the year I keep up with the series...at least, if Kai lays off using the word "mate" so much to refer to Aichi. 

(Also, I know usually I do openings for first impressions, but that ending is just too catchy.)

Soul Eater Not!
A spin-off of the popuar shonen anime/manga series Soul Eater, Soul Eater Not takes an interesting tack to expand on it's universe. Whereas Soul Eater is about nothing but a bunch of "ace of aces", Soul Eater Not shows us the lives of normal meisters and weapons.

Soul Eater Not is centered around Tsugumi Harudori, a completely normal girl who one day partially transforms into a weapon, and is then promptly sent to the familiar DWMA, but rather than be involved in the EAT courses that the original series' charaters are, she is enrolled into the far less illustrious NOT (Normally Overcome Target) in order to learn to control her abilities. While there, she has dreams of getting involved in a romantic love triangle with two beautiful guys...but instead gets stuck with two other girls, a twintailed tsundere princess and a ditzy girl, both vying to be her meister. (And, no, the fantasy versus reality comparison is certainly not lost on her.)

For me Soul Eater Not was pretty decent, with cameos from the original series' characters that serve as both fanservice and a reminder of the enormous gap between our new protagonists and the older ones, even in this prequel side story. Soul Eater Not is clearly not geared towards the shonen battle crowd, but that's okay--the lighter tone is a welcome change of pace for the more slice-of-life/yuri genre, along with a switch of characters that makes the earlier chronological setting tolerable. Even the art is immensely different, something that might be a turn off to Soul Eater fans...but I was never terribly impressed by the original series' art to begin with. This lighter, more traditional art style is visually superior to my personal sense of aesthetics...even though they kept that goofy-ass sun in the sky. I'm definitely sticking with this.


Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers

I've got a bet going that this series will end up being better than all four "Marvel Anime" projects from 2011/2012.  So far, so good.  Marvel Disk Wars is definitely geared towards younger audiences, with all of the characters inexplicably wearing cumbersome armor reminiscent of the original Avengers cartoon in the late 90's, but that doesn't make it bad.  Surprisingly, the characterizations for everyone are still accurate, and I really can't knock any series that puts Cyclops, Beast, Iron Fist, Doctor Strange, and the Avengers in the first episode.

If the rest of the series focuses on finding different Marvel heroes that aren't necessarily the Avengers, it'll actually be superior to...whatever that series is Marvel calls themselves airing on Disney XD.  The animation is slightly lacking, but aside from that I'm actually hyped for the next episode of Avengersmon.


Uhhhh.....I'm already watching a series that involves giant robots in an ancient Japanese setting.  (Sort of.) Fuuin Dai Shogun is basically Nobunaga the Fool but from a far less inspired mind.  To "make up" for that, they tried pushing the ecchi angle, but they failed miserably there as well.   It's not all that great at tittilation, and the comedic element to it is basically non-existent.   Also, speaking of tittilation, I'm pretty much incapable of forgiving the series for making this monstrosity an artistic reality:


"Granma tits" was something I could've gone my entire life without seeing, thank you very much. 

So, for those reasons, and the fact that the entire thing is as sparsely animated as possible, and that it's another mecha anime series in a year that's 20% mecha anime series, means I won't be returning for the next episode. 

Okay, that's it for this entry.   With approximately 25 series for me to check out, it's probably a good thing that these first five ended in me dropping 40% of them.  But can I keep my overall series count at only a dozen by the end of this?  Tune in next time to find out.




Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Battle Rap Wednesdays: QP vs. Cadalack Ron




Posting a classic this week while I wait for some of the more recent battles to pop up.   Man, GrindTime had some of the best battles: the sound quality was always good, they had rappers from a wide variety of styles, and most importantly the battles were the perfect length--less than 30 minutes, ads and all.

Anyway.  QP and Cadalack Ron put on a hilarious show here, with some of QP's bars going *way* over the crowd's head so it leaves him looking a little weak in the crowd reaction, but if you catch them it makes the battle much fairer.

 Anyway, over the next few weeks the battles from Black Ice's The Crown event should drop, plus there are still the ones from The Vendetta coming at the end of the month.   Should be some crazy shit coming out of both.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Anime Final Thoughts: Winter 2014

The Winter season of anime continued the streak of anime being bearable for the first time since Fall 2012, or at least that's what I believed at the time.   Let's see how that turned out.


Nobunagun: I said something to the effect of "inertia alone will help me finish this anime" in the First Impressions article.  As it turns out...that wasn't true.

"Background viewing" is a fairly common thing for most people--you put something on the television while you do something else like washing dishes, or homework, or whatever.  But when a series' native language is in Japanese, it means if you're not paying attention you don't even get the dialogue--literally no part of the plot is conveyed to you.   So when I couldn't keep my eyes open watching this series--and when I did I was always doing something else--I knew this series had to go.
If you're watching something for entertainment, it just shouldn't feel like a chore.  Based on that alone I had to give Nobunagun the boot.


But even besides that, overall, the main character's struggle was simply uninteresting to me and the visual style was sort of a turn-off.  I do hope this was an enjoyable series for those who stuck with it, though.


Strike the Blood: Couldn't take it anymore.  Strike the Blood was incapable of staying focused, often straying into that "misunderstanding" bullshit that seemingly gets off all the otaku.  Somewhere into the fourth arc, when the main character's body gets switched via a kiss, and they focus on the kiss instead of, oh I don't know...HIS BODY BEING SWITCHED?   My brain shut down and the next thing I know the series was deleted from my hard drive. 

Plus it was never all that strong of a series.  To it's credit, it created a fairly interesting world with beautiful animation and decent character design, but all of this was tied down by virtue of being a harem series.  Every four episode arc had the same basic structure: Introduce new villain, introduce new girl, main character sucks new girl's blood, gains a new power, defeats the villain.   Oh, and that disgusting beginning to the start of every fight.  "From here on...this is MY fight!"  "No...this is OUR fight!"   Ugh.  It was corny the first time it happened and repeated exposure never made it any better.





Seitokai Yakuindomo*:  This series turned out to be pretty much what I expected from it: lewd humor from innocent-looking girls while the two straight men (Tsuda and Hagimura) deflected their friends' insanity to the best of their ability.  I will say it was a bit more difficult to sit through this time--I think the pacing wasn't quite as solid, or maybe I've just grown up a bit?   ...Nah, that's not it.


Mahou Sensou: Woo, people really hated this anime.   It was as if for a brief second the veil that covers everyone's eyes from the cutesy/tsundere/"misunderstanding"/harem bullshit that can be found in far too many anime every season was pulled from their eyes, but only for this series.   The sad thing is it wasn't that bad--as series go, there are far worse offenders than Mahou Sensou.  If I had to guess, the real problem people had with this series was its weak animation.

But it's not a perfect series, and it does lose a lot getting caught up in the story of these minor players.  Mahou Sensou's most intriguing bits are always going on in the background, with the machinations of the villains and lesser protagonists keeping the story moving while the main characters do slice-of-life high school shit with a magic-based twist.  The series would have benefited from a full two-cour episode count and actually developing the world around it.

The only major flaw I personally had with this series was the main character being yet another weakling who can never get the job done when it counts, and then later the main villain being one of the most despicable little shits I've ever seen in any medium, ever.   The ending had a killer hook, but I doubt the series was popular enough to get a sequel so who knows if they'll ever follow up on it.


Buddy Complex: Ugh, Sunrise gonna fucking Sunrise.  In the First Impressions entry, I was pretty hyped going into this series.  It had gorgeous animation, well-designed mecha and a seemingly competent main character along with a neat first episode hook.  What happened?  Pretty simple: Episode 2 introduced the Idiot Ball, and it seemed to pass from person to person depending on the scene and the episode. 

It didn't help that despite typical Sunrise silliness (so many overwrought references to marriage), the show was just as generic as could be.  Literally nothing made these characters more interesting or unique from other series I've seen.  Everybody was just...there.   It was an easy cut to an already incredibly busy season.


Gundam Build Fighters: You'll believe a fight between two toy Gundam models can be awesome.   Sure, at the end of the day this was a giant toy commercial, but it was a toy commercial that featured some of the most solid writing of a Gundam series or anime in general in quite sometime.   It's carefully crafted to be full of references that make it a heaven for Gundam fans while simultaneously being enjoyable to newcomers--exactly the way all celebrations of a given franchise should be.   It's also able to reach Gundam fans of all ages--as an adult there's an emotional resonance that they managed to keep up over the course of the entire series that pulls you in and makes you feel like a child watching Saturday morning cartoons again.

It's also absolutely crazy in this era of tsunderes and soft, Shinji-like protagonists to have a series in which I liked pretty much every character, and the ones I didn't like the series eventually put them in situations to make them likable. (The Chairman, Ms. Baker, and Caroline all spring to mind for this.) 

The only complaint I kinda have is that near the end every Sei and Reiji win broke down to "Build Knuckle", but even that's minor at best.  There were fights that didn't have Sei and Reiji which overcame that, plus the very last fight even gave some innovation to their "special move" to make it fresh.  Overall, this was one of my favorite series in the fall and that didn't change as it finished in the Winter.   Season 2 when.




Hamatora the Animation: Hamatora was a bit of a weird egg.  The first episode presented viewers with a series about eclectic cast of characters with cool powers, and a pair of fairly simplistic detective cases with a twist that the two cases were actually connected in the end.    These are all things I said in my first impressions, with the hope that the plot would improve.   But it didn't, at first--in fact the first half of the series was just kind of "eh" plot-wise, with the only reason to stick around the beautiful animation and the characters.

And then -that- episode happened.  While it's not quite on the level of say, Madoka Magica's early series twist, the hammer still dropped in episode eight, with a shockingly emotional episode that ended in the permadeath of a main character in the series.  From then on, the series shifted focus from the simple cases to the plan of the main villain, creating a massive change in momentum both in the action and the plot of the series and revitalizing the whole show.   The ridiculous cliffhanger ending pretty much demands a season two, and while I'm not sure it'll get one, I've got more hope for it than I have for Mahou Sensou.    It's probably the fourth or fifth best series to finish this Winter, with the main reason it's not higher being that it had to compete with too many titans.


Witch Craft Works:  I know a lot of people didn't like this series because the main character's kind of a weakling.   I really hate to be "that guy", but that's the point.  I realize some people want to argue this, but let's cover a few things:

- At no point does he ever win a single fight without help.
- Any time he tries to do something even remotely cool, he fails.
- And the reason he matters at all?   There's a hidden power trapped within him that would be very dangerous to the world if it ever escaped.  And that power?  A female.

He is, quite literally, useless. And why wouldn't he be?  The entire thing is a complete and total gender inversion from 90% of existing shonen fight series: the most important characters are all female, and the males are incapable of doing anything on their own.   There's even a point at which the only other male in the series that "matters" flat out says that men have no politcal power in the witch society, just in case you didn't get the point that men do not matter in this universe.  (Honestly, you could almost teach a class on all the ways this thing twists and inverts gender roles.)

Is that a bad thing?  That would depend on your perception of existing shonen, otherwise it's a "what's good for the goose" situation.   The way this series plays with gender roles is actually funny.  It's never mean-spirited or cruel, so it's hard to feel insulted by it.  I'm not saying I'd want this in every series of every season, but for this series alone, it worked.  Even the cold, aloof Kagari became pretty adorable to me near the end--I'd actually love to see more focus on her, but as I understand it they exhausted the source material so I'm thinking it'll be awhile before we see more of this. 


Noragami: As I understand it, this series became somewhat of a breakout hit for the season.  It isn't hard to see why: beautiful art, a unique plot, and it has just enough romance to hook the romance geeks in.  Noragami had a lot of powerful, emotional moments all the way up until the end that were animated beautifully by Bones, and I'd be lying if I didn't say episode 10 wasn't one hell of a tearjerker.

The story about the various Regalia and their relationship with their gods turned into a powerful hook that I didn't expect, and my only real complaint is that the short length meant they had to go with an anime original ending that was kind of weak compared to what I saw the manga had in store for viewers next.  It's my hope that in the future they'll return to this either with a complete remake (like the one Yozakura Quartet got) or a continuation that ignores all the filler like most shonen series do.   In competition with Hamatora for one of the best series that actually launched this season, but it edges out Hamatora if only because the animation is even better here and the series was solid start to finish.


Z/X Ignition: This was another series that a lot of the anime community seemed to write off, only it was leagues better than Mahou Sensou was.  The base concept of there being five different futures that were each going into the past to alter the future to their own is brilliant, but it could've used a lot more fleshing out.  The series really should have been a year long, with 52 episodes. That would have given them more time to developing the characters and world, and perhaps finished off the plot instead of just ending with some vague hints at where the series would go if given a continuation.   As it stands there are far too many questions left unanswered, not the least of which being what are the other worlds (besides Blue and White) like?   Unfortunately, the series was a tie-in to a card game, so unless the owners decide they want another push to their game, I doubt we'll see more of this.


Log Horizon:  Another left over from the fall series.  I said that if this series didn't fuck up in the late teens it'd be a classic, and having finished it...it's definitely a classic.  Like I was hoping in my First Impressions entry, it spent a ton of time delving into MMO mechanics and ideas, to the point where there's actually a very important arc that occurs specifically because the characters forgot they were living in an MMO.  It's touches like that which make Log Horizon probably the best in it's little sub category of "trapped in a video game" anime, but really the series as a whole is an excellent high fantasy anime as well.  In fact, I'd go so far as to argue it's the best high fantasy series since the 2000's started.

Definitely the best series of the fall, and of the ones that finished this winter as well.  (It just barely edges out the amazing Build Fighters.)  The fact that a second season is confirmed for the fall means that anime season is already partially awesome.  I can only hope it stays as true to the source material as the first one did, as I understand the upcoming Minami arc is quite a bit darker than what we've experienced thus far. 



Nobunaga the Fool: The Nobunaga-focused series I did stick with.  It had a slow start, but around episode 4 and 5 as THE DRAMA piled on, it became easier and easier to follow as the quirky, ridiculous story pulled me further and further into this world.  At first I was watching a starving Nobunaga chomp down on scenes every episode, then I was taking note of how each episode managed to build it's plot around a tarot card in their own distinct way.  And while historical accuracy went out the window in the first episode, it's still fun to see them draw parallels between the characters and their real selves in history.   (Although it may be breaking some sort of rule to turn Caesar into a bishounen...)

I realize I'm missing a huge entry and that First Impressions aren't up yet.  Give me time, as I plan to have both up relatively soon.