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.  




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