It’s time for the Spring 2015 Anime season, and I’ve finished absolutely none of the Summer 2015 shows I set out to finish! I’ve watched all the first episodes of stuff I was interested in checking out. I tried not to watch too many (and somewhat failed as I ended up watching 7 shows when their first episodes came out), and I’m gonna try to only keep up with stuff I’m really eager to because 1). I don’t want to get the continual feeling I could be watching something way better and 2). As I’ve already established I’m terrible with keeping up on seasonal Anime. None of the shows I watched compelled me to immediately drop them, which is definitely a good sign. For now here’s my rankings for the season and brief descriptions of what wowed me and what didn’t and how interested I am in keeping up.
7. Show By Rock!!
Show By Rock!! is cute and funny and weird and very nice to look at, but not cute or funny or weird or nice to look at enough that I see myself watching to the end. It’s an iOS/Android rhythm game based Anime by Studio Bones about a girl named Cyan Hijirikawa who wants to join her High School light music club but ends up getting sucked into the eponymous phone game, which isn’t a very graceful setup. A lot of people will be able to get over that pretty easily, but personally I wasn’t quite able to. As crazy as it may sound, I think I was more interested in seeing the K-ON! wannabe this story initially appeared to be if just for the distinct aesthetic flare it could bring to that, and when that turned out not to be the case I may have been the only person in this universe who thought “but I wanna see what happens with the light music club!!!”.
I don’t have much to say except that I enjoyed most of the elements of its presentation and direction when watching this first episode, but only pretty mildly. Nothing truly made this something I desperately want to watch to the end, but I definitely enjoyed its company. Will probably give at least one more episode.
6. Takamiya Nasuno Desu!: Teekyuu Spin-off
It’s Teekyuu… except slightly less funny. Youta isn’t quite as fun a foil as Yuri, and I personally don’t find Nasuno to be as wacky as Kanae or Marimo… but it’s still Teekyuu! I’m gonna stick with it to the end for that reason, and because short shows are rarely a chore.
It’s Teekyuu… except the real deal! Teekyuu 4 brings Teekyuu back in all its 2 minute schizophrenic glory, with an immeasurable amount of gags coming at you faster than the speed of light that are so thoroughly nonsensical you can barely tell whether or not they’re actually funny, but you laugh your ass off anyway. One of the gags involved linking a URL to an actual web address wherein you’ll find an absurd digital doodle of their school. Perhaps one of the wackiest gags the show has ever done. Still kinda bummed out that no OP thus far has ever been anywhere near as tonally perfect as the first OP, which is a bigger deal than it should be in a show where the OP is literally a quarter of the episode, but I’ve lived with it longer than I’ve lived without it now.
Again, it’s Teekyuu, a series I’ve stuck with up to this point, and short shows aren’t a big hassle to keep up with or catch up on or completely fall behind on and finish later. It’s no masterpiece, but I don’t think I have any major reasons to drop this now or later.
Plastic Memories is a solid Sci-Fi drama with a strong poignant premise that has thus far been delivered on darn well, an original story from the writer of Steins;Gate that just might end up being a real hit in the long run, but thus far I’m not quite thoroughly wowed like some people were with the first episode. As much as I love Studio Dogakobo and as much as there were some really great visual and directing highlights and expressive character animation here, I’m just not a huge fan of the aesthetic. Director Yoshiyuki Fujiwara brings the same bright but slightly washed-out colour aesthetic to Plastic Memories as he did Engaged to the Unidentified, and just like Engaged to the Unidentified I don’t find myself all that into the look. There was also the odd dull and stiff looking shot here and there that wasn’t a pleasant sight for me. I didn’t find myself super emotionally invested by the climax like most people did, but regardless of that I still feel it hit all the right notes to establish the thematic substance it brings to its underlying conceptual ideas.
I’ll most likely watch this show to the end, but not certainly. I think there’s a chance of it falling by the wayside for me, which isn’t a criticism of the series but more a criticism of my own aforementioned bad habits with seasonal shows, but besides that I also see a slim possibility of many characters being insubstantial in the long run. I’m especially afraid of this happening to Isla. The thematic groundwork was laid for her to have a compelling character arc, but there were a few quirks that also point to her being an ultimately helpless object waiting to be saved from her despair. It’s not highly likely at all, but it’s possible. I’m enjoying what this show is giving me so far and I’m hoping for the best in the long run.
3. Hello! Kiniro Mosaic (Kiniro Mosaic Season 2)
Count me one of the world’s biggest suckers for breezy slice of lifes where cute girls do nothing in particular, and if you’re not one then you might want to give the second season of Kiniro Mosaic a miss. The first season was one of the cutest, funniest and generally most endearing slice of lifes I’ve ever seen, thanks in part to its lovely adorable blend between Western and Japanese culture, and Hello! Kiniro Mosaic is simply more of that to love. Armed with cheap New Zealand imported beer I had a really great Sunday night with Hello! Kiniro Mosaic, and I think I came to love Karen a bit more than I used to (if just for my drinking game where I took a sip for every “desu”… and that was a lot of desu’s).
There’s not much more to say. You get what you get with this kind of show. If you like what you get then stick with it, and I most certainly do. Being a second season of a show I loved and proving once again to be a blast to watch, I really want to consistently keep up with this, maybe with a few beers to keep me company each week. Kinmoza is back, baby!
I’ve never met a Kyoto Animation series I’ve straight up disliked, but truth be told there have been a lot of days these past two years that I wouldn’t hesitate to say they’ve seen better days. The day I first saw Tamako Love Story was the first day in a long time I didn’t fully believe that, and the day I saw the first episode of Sound! Euphonium was another. Sound! Euphonium is KyoAni at their best, a series of endearingly human character moments woven with understated grace by breathtaking visual storytelling and character animation, some moments genuinely funny, some moments dramatically powerful and some moments deeply emotionally endearing. Ishihara’s directing gave me the highlight of the first episode in one of the dramatically powerful character moments. Kumiko first realises Reina, who her relationship previously became strained with from Reina’s immense disappointment with getting “dud gold” in a Junior High band competition, not only chose the same High School as her but also wants to join the school’s music club, and suddenly everything moves in slow motion as Kumiko lets out a dopey sounding gasp but tries to hold herself back from being seen. This is reinforced in the way Reina has an intimidating presence to Kumiko, constantly close up in the foreground taking up a significant portion of the shot with Kumiko out of focus in the background. It’s simple directing tricks, but it’s very dramatically effective when used competently in a scene like this.
Just like Hyouka, Sound! Euphonium is a regular novel adaptation (rather than a light novel adaptation like most KyoAni works). Works like Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Tatami Galaxy and Uchouten Kazoku have proven regular novels to work extremely well when adapted competently into Anime form, and considering KyoAni themselves did an impressive job of it in the past with Hyouka it isn’t a big surprise Sound! Euphonium is no exception, though it certainly is pleasing. Regular novel writers are arguably more reliable than pulp self indulgent light novel writers, which shows in the translation of Ayano Takeda’s impressively eloquent character writing and narrative flow. You just don’t see the subtle characterisation in light novels of little moments like Kumiko rolling her skirt up in the mirror to look more fashionable only to quietly roll it back down before she gets caught when she realises her teacher isn’t going to take it kindly. That says something small about Kumiko as a self-conscious High School girl, and KyoAni very appropriately executes it without overtly pointing it out.
As per usual with KyoAni, Sound! Euphonium is generally just gosh darn pretty to look at in a way that reflects passionate and meticulous visual craft, but it also has a rich shoujo aesthetic that gives it a distinct classiness compared to other works by the studio. There’s also plenty of impressive moments from the score as you want out of a show about music, but more than that music is used effectively to move the core narrative, such as when Kumiko first hears the High School band and immediately picks out that they kind of suck (Something I admittedly did not pick up on). Sound! Euphonium has all the impressive touches of a KyoAni work, but it’s one of very few in recent years to elevate those touches with all the impressive surrounding elements.
Sound! Euphonium is shaping up to be one of Kyoto Animation’s most impressive dramas, and I’m very excited to see where it goes and hopeful that it blows me away. If this is a sign that KyoAni are back to doing what they do best in storytelling then I’ll be darn happy.
1. Ore Monogatari!!
Ore Monogatari!! is adorable, but in a totally different sense to Kiniro Mosaic. Ore Monogatari!! is adorable on a deeply emotionally engaging level that makes me want to just gush over it. It’s a romcom centered on a love triangle – please bear with me – wherein main character and socially awkward giant Takeo Gouda is so thoroughly used to the feeling of rejection that he doesn’t even entertain the thought that a girl might be attracted to him, let alone the thought that Rinko Yamato, a girl who lovingly bakes delicious cakes for him and furiously chases after him for his contact details, is head-over-heels in love with him. It’s the fact that his social obliviousness comes from such an understandable emotional perspective as someone with life-long experiences of self-consciousness that makes him so tragic and so endearing, but at the same so funny to watch. Even more heartbreaking is that he’s such an earnestly nice person deep down, which was most evident when he heroically saved Rinko from being sexually harassed while on the train, something that unfortunately does happen in Japan. That’s not to say he’s a pure white knight for the helpless girl. Rinko may be a timid airhead, but it was Rinko who had the power to say that she was being sexually harassed when the officer doubted Takeo, and it was Takeo who overzealously punched the lights out of the perpetrator. Ore Monogatari!! isn’t a tongue-in-cheek pity-party for a “nice guy”, but more than that Ore Monogatari!! truly and consciously respects women in a way that isn’t as common as it should be in Anime.
Ore Monogatari!! is being done by Studio Madhouse, who, while not as reliable as they once were, can still do impressive things with impressive works, and Ore Monogatari!! is definitely one of those cases. This is a smartly composed adaptation, with just the right pacing and comedic edge for the Anime form and a beautiful aesthetic coat to the already gorgeous art style of the original Manga. That makes it just that bit more wonderful an experience with a series that has already seriously tugged at my heartstrings.
I love this Anime. Love love love love love this Anime. Ore Monogatari!! truly won me over, and even though I want to hold back on overwhelming expectations I seriously hope to see it continue to win me over with each new episode. I’m rooting for you, Takeo!
And that’s my Spring Season for Anime thus far! Not quite as impressive a batch as last season, but there’s definitely some fantastic highlights that I’m keeping with to the end and have plenty of reason to hope for the best from. There’s certain shows like Oregairu S2 that I’m not watching yet simply because I’m not caught up, and I’m totally open to watch anything else from this season that proves to impress others in the long run, but for now this is where I’m at with Spring 2015.