Summer 2014 Anime Impressions

It's a little late to call them "first" impressions, since we're actually about halfway through the season.  I've actually got a good measure of these series for once, so let's talk about them.

Akame ga Kill!

VIOLENCE!  DISMEMBERMENT!  Comically evil antagonists to make a point about how power corrupts!

Okay, this series isn't actually bad.  I just wanted to poke fun at the cartoonish, Tarantino levels of blood splurting all over the place in every episode.  AgK is about a group of assassins living in the capital of a non-descript country after the ruling class has become corrupt beyond belief, abusing the common people for their own amusement.  The assassins, known as Night Raid, perform political assassinations in order to de-stabilize the city's power and military base to aid a so far unseen army in the hopes of one day toppling the empire altogether.  There's more to it than this, but that's the gist.

AgK is one of those series that becomes the talk of the season it belongs to, but when it ends the only people who'll remember it are anime geeks like me.  It's not bad by any means, but it doesn't do anything at all to stand out.  The characters are unique enough to not be otaku pandering, but not so much that you'll remember most of them when the series are over.  Worse, it has a nasty habit of killing the coolest characters not long after you get their back story so it can stay "edgy"--meaning characters you do like don't stick around long enough to really become favorites.   And since the plot is about as standard as it comes, well.

But don't let that discourage you from checking it out.  The fight scenes are sick and the world is actually pretty full of cool's just that you don't know when they'll die, so don't get attached.   This is definitely one of the best series of the season.

Status: Watching @ episode 8.

Aldnoah Zero

If you don't know by now, someone like Aldnoah Zero series director Gen "Urobutcher" Urobuchi doesn't really appeal to me.  He's done a fantastic job of creating a heroic tragedy with Gaim, but aside from that I usually don't have much to do with him, what with his penchant for fucking up good universes and characters.  Still, I decided to give this series a try.

*yawn*  Here's the problemThis series has given me almost no reason to care about these characters.   The central cast is a group of kids swept up into this war, but their personalities are all bland as fuck.  

Status: Dropped @ episode 3.

Rail Wars

I'm not sure what I expected of this series when I saw the initial description and image for this anime.  I guess I pictured it to be somewhat of a throwback to late 90's, early 2000's anime?   Something largely humor focused, with lots of wacky adventures featuring a group of likable characters with no random lolis or worse, my great nemesis, the tsundere.  

But the first episode tossed out any chances of the whole "likable characters" deal with the redhead inexplicably disliking the main character.   He's not an asshole or a pervert or anything like that--he's just...there, which makes her distaste for him oddly inexplicable.  Of course, it doesn't help that the guy is as milquetoast as they come, which is becoming frustratingly more common.  I get that often anime tend to create characters that most resonate with Japanese people, but I really don't think the Japanese are as boring as guys like this.  

And as far as the "wacky adventures" bit?  Yeah, not so much.  The big point of the first episode was the characters learning to make a train go fast.  And I know that slice of life-y anime are supposed to make the mundane exciting...but this didn't succeed.  

Status: Dropped @ 2.  I went back and watched the second episode to be sure, but while it was mildly more interesting it really just gave me that "chore" feeling that I hate to get from anime.  Couldn't do it.

Sword Art Online II
Ahhh, the sequel to one of the most controversial "popular" anime since Naruto and Bleach.   Although many fans ended up despising this, I quite enjoyed the original Sword Art Online series (though not nearly as much as I found myself enjoying Log Horizon) and was looking forward to seeing Kirito in "Gun Gale Online".

I'm not sure if it's just that the writer got better or if the increased popularity allowed for a better adaptation of the source material, but it seems like to me SAO II is far superior to the original.  To begin with, Kirito is slowly seeming like less of a static character and the ridiculous harem has been toned way down.   

But there's also the fact that Gun Gale Online's dark, modern weapon-focused universe with an odd mixture between steampunk and cyberpunk simply makes for a far cooler environment that actually differentiates itself from the original game in a way that ALO never could. And Death Gun is a much more mysterious villain while also getting more done than both of the last two put together, in all of five episodes. Call me crazy, but I think I'm going to enjoy SAO least until we get to Aliciazation.  
Status: Watching @ episode 5.

Tokyo ESP
Ow.  My fucking neck hurts from the mood whiplash in this series.  The first episode's all super-powered, would-be "mutants" murdering a fuckton of "normals".  Then the second episode is a comedy that's about a girl who keeps falling through shit and her father who becomes a Katamari Damacy ball because neither can control their powers.

Normally, I enjoy sudden switch-ups like this, but Tokyo ESP's decision to go from hardcore action and huge, high stake fight scenes between heroes and villains to a dull origin story took me way out of this series.  I was actually looking forward to Japan making up for that terrible X-Men series they inflicted on my eyes back in 2011 with their own, original X-Men-type series of their own, but sadly that didn't happen here.

Status: Dropped @ episode 4.

Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen

*sighs*  Are you fucking happy, "serious" mecha fans?  You finally got your Mobile Suit Gundam redo, with "realistic" looking mecha, army versus army, and little to no ridiculous laser weapons.  You finally got all of these things, and it is boring as shit.  

Watching Argevollen wouldn't be so bad if it were so completely, utterly fucking stupid that I could laugh at it like Kakumeiki Valvrave.   I'd probably love it if it didn't bring anything new to the table but was an excellent execution of the tropes in its genre (Gundam Build Fighters).   But no, Argevollen is instead merely dull.  The "down-to-earth" nature of the early episodes make the world feel tediously pedestrian, and the characters in the episodes I watched failed to stand out in any way that would matter.   There's a saying that the worst thing you can do in entertainment is be boring, and I absolutely concur.   Again, if it were bad there would still be some value in watching it to mock it--but here there's very little to mock.  Mostly because you're already half-asleep.  

Status: Dropped @ episode 3.

Re: Hamatora

Ahh, Hamatora--one of the most disliked series of the Winter, it was actually one of my favorites.  The animation, the unique powers, the detective aspect and the completely insane villain all combined to make one of the few anime I could watch multiple episodes of with no trouble.

And Re: Hamatora is actually a superior series, boasting a better continuous plot, fewer filler episodes and a far more personal villain.  I think when all is said and done this may actually be one of my favorite series from the last few years of anime.

Status: Watching @ episode 4.

Aaand, aside from a series I've yet to begin yet (Zankyou no Terror), that's going to do it for me.  I know I still need to do the Spring close-out series, so you'll start to see those articles go up over the next couple weeks before the Fall season starts.


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