Final Thoughts – Winter 2015

Greetings Earthlings, Lidov-Kozai here. Yes, I’m finally here to make my fantasutikku debut, and this is also where a lot of you will start to hate me. But hey! That’s what I’m here for. Anyway, the gang’s all here, and Haru and Yata are teaming up on me as always. A lot of split decisions, so we’re very interested in hearing your thoughts on this one.

We definitely had a packed Winter season this time around, more so than we’ve seen in a while. There were a lot of enjoyable shows, for one reason or another, and some new ideas and styles that were a pleasure to see. There were however, a lot of disappointments. Some shows managed to slip by unscathed, but the flak certainly was in full deployment.

So let’s see who made it out alive, shall we?

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AKATSUKI NO YONA:

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Standing in the blush of a resolution.

Yatahaze:
And so my steady and dependable popcorn show of the past 6 months comes to a close. Yona grew a lot as an individual, the three dragons as well as Hak and Yun were consistently enjoyable to watch, and a bunch of cartoonish corrupt pirates were taken down in a battle on the high seas! Almost makes you forget that with one episode left, the group still hadn’t found the fourth dragon and a resolution to the Kouka Kingdom coup that started this whole journey, and an answer was far out of sight.

One of those two things was solved with this final episode: Zeno, the Yellow Dragon, just kind of…shows up nonchalantly and digs in to the group’s food. He joins without a moment’s haste and immediately gels with most of the rest of the group. It’s the kind of character development that should come across as rushed, a product of last-minute inclusion when the show realized it only had a little more time left and they didn’t want to forge an anime-only ending. However, I found his arrival hilarious – the total opposite of the dragged-out introductions characters like Gi-Ja and Sinha had. Zeno also already seems like the type to be hiding something of his own past while acting so bubbly and outgoing. It’s a shame that anime-only watchers such as myself won’t get to know (for now), as there’s yet to be an announcement of a second season of Yona, and one that the show desperately needs – not just because I want more of it, but because this is no way to end a show. The true conflict has barely started, and I enjoyed the journey, but reaching the destination would sure be nice.

And frankly, that that is my highest concern right now should say a lot about how fun Yona was overall. It started and initially stayed an awkwardly paced speculative pick, but by the halfway point and beyond, it started growing into an all-inclusive adventure. I would’ve maybe quickened the pacing in the first half so we could get a better conclusion than this, but the fact of the matter remains that while Yona is not an outstanding show, it’s a very competent and reliable one that I would love to see truly finished sometime soon.
Final score: 7/10
Recommend?: Yes.

Harubro:
You know, I’m sort of glad they decided to not really rush the end of this after the Awa Pirates arc wrapped up on a nice note. It’s been a lot of fun watching the Princess mature from the sheltered girl in the castle we saw in the first episode last Fall, as has watching her group come together and watching their personalities bounce off of each other. That standoff with Jae-ha, Yona, and Kumji in the final stages of the battle at sea that culminated with Yona firing an arrow at and killing Kumji was probably my favorite moment this series has had yet. If I recall correctly, my favorite theme song from this series was playing as the whole scene went down. That was just a superb way to kind of show Yona’s hard work is definitely paying off.

After a victory party and some drama via an unexpected run-in with Su-won that occupied most of the penultimate episode, I was wondering how in the world they were going to work out introducing Zeno, the Yellow Dragon and just how they intended to close this series out. I’ve only read so much of the original manga, so I wasn’t quite sure how Zeno was introduced in the first place, but his first appearance in the final episode seemed to suffice. As it turns out, the happy-go-lucky but hungry Zeno was just a random wanderer that serendipitously runs into the Yona squad as they’re about to prepare to make a deer into dinner. When the group realizes this kid is the final dragon they’re looking for, they’re dumbfounded as to what to do, so they go back to the monk Ik-soo for advice, where they pretty much end up staying for the rest of the episode.

I do wish we had some more time with Zeno to flesh out his personality a bit, as we could only get so much out of the relatively few bits we had with him. Beyond his overall cheery personality, he does seem to be a tad sharp, as shown when he questioned Yona’s motives. After this and a cute scene between her and Hak, we get that sort of “but our battle still goes on, but I got my friends” ending we all expected with this show.

This series was a load of fun, a nice popcorn show with an occasional flair for drama and some decently executed comedic tidbits. Akatsuki no Yona was one of the most enjoyable reverse harem shows I’ve come across, and a definite recommend as far as a good time-killing show goes.
Final score: 7/10
Recommend?: Sure, as a popcorn show.

ALDNOAH.ZERO SEASON 2:

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Right down to its final moments, Aldnoah.Zero S2 is a re-Vers-al of its predecessor, and completely for the worse.

Yatahaze:
You know, I honestly stopped paying any analytical or critical attention to Aldnoah a while ago. ‘Tis the nature of the obligatory seasonal hate-watch. That said, I guess these final developments made sense? The actions taken by the sane real Asseylum are at least like her character. Slaine got full of himself and was taken down when Asseylum realized his motives were clearly not what she would hold ideal now that she was in a situation where she could safely voice her…wait, why was she able to safely voice her concerns? And…Inaho’s eye…okay, we can all laugh at how Inaho’s eye became a sentient being for a short while, right? It’s like the show couldn’t get any more ridiculous, but then they pull that shit.

So taking Aldnoah.Zero’s two cours as one whole leaves me with not much positive to say. The first cour was a little more grounded, and while character development wasn’t done particularly well, at least there was some. Slaine’s plot was doomed from the start and I still find it ridiculous that an empire as unstable as Vers would suddenly trust him just because he moved up the ranks. It made the whole second cour feel totally implausible and goofy, not expanding on the racist tension the first cour built up. The “epilogue” felt dry and lifeless too, mainly because these characters mean nothing at all to me anymore – and therein lies the real shame, because as dry as they were in the first season, at least they weren’t the equivalent of broken robots, advancing the plot for the sake of following directives, with no semblance of a soul at all. Aldnoah.Zero is not a great show, but once it realized that, it started shitting all over itself, and at least that was mildly entertaining.
Final score: 4/10
Recommend?: No

Harubro:
I’m glad it’s over! Seriously, I’m glad I can wash my hands of this series.

In actuality, the final episode of the mecha-military-drama-turned-wannabe-Gundam-space-opera Second Season featured some very symbolic bits, and no, I’m not referring to Inaho and Slaine’s roles at gunpoint being reversed or the birds flying over the ocean set to the first season’s lovely OP.

No, the symbolism I’m referring to is Slaine-sama deciding to abandon the Moon base and self-destruct it, an allegory to the staff abandoning their senses that they barely held on to through the first season and letting absolutely anything of value still left by the beginning of this series implode upon itself. Another symbolic bit was Inaho and Slaine’s re-entry and crash landing back on Earth. No, it wasn’t symbolic because Asseylum asked Inaho to save Slaine from “the chains of misery.” No, that scene was symbolic of this whole series trying to save itself from its self-realized fall into mediocrity and resulting in a crash landing.

Oh hey, remember these two?

The final episode was okay in comparison to some of the crap we’ve been subjected to thus far by the second season, but it suffers from the same problem that the second season has had from the start: gutless writing. This season has been a cop-out from the start. We still never got a proper explanation how Inaho survived that point-blank shot to the head. The “deus eye machina,” as Yata calls it, was lame from the very start, and the stupid closeup shot of his Skynet eye with the accompanying whirring sound effect was absolutely unnecessary for every episode, and after being utterly outclassed in the first series, how did the United Earth Forces suddenly have force parity with the overpowered Aldnoah-bots? I’ll never have a sufficient answer to my gripes about this.

But hey, we got the ending where everybody is alive and happy and Earth and Mars have finally somehow come to peace, even though almost all of Earth’s remaining cities were sacked by all the Martian invasions. Aldnoah power is being shared between the two, and everybody’s still alive, be happy! About the most gratifying thing I got out of this was Slaine’s breakdown after his little visitation chat with now Eyepatch-man Inaho.

Slaine Troyard did everything wrong, and he’s finally realized that.
Final score: 4/10
Recommend?: The first season is okay, but I wouldn’t touch the second with a 10-foot pole.

L-K:
God this show was a mess. Inaho is still kicking and is suddenly all “I’m a computer”, Slaine is now commanding the Vers forces and for whatever reason abandoning everything that made him a likable character, and just overall it was kind of a clusterfuck of a second season. I distinctly remember that when watching the final episode I started asking myself what even happened in season 2 that changed the stakes or significantly altered the status quo in progression of the story, and well, there isn’t much. The same ending predicted in the first season, some awful action sequences and absolutely abysmal sound design.

There were moments here and there, mostly carried by the sparsely above average score, but honestly I have no idea why I didn’t drop it. Curiosity perhaps… but for galaxy’s sake, the stupid random science fact of the week and that sound Inaho’s eye made every single episode were literally just the worst.
Final score: 2.5/10
Recommend?: Nopenopenope. More like Aldnoah Zero/10.

ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM:

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Koro-sensei, a super-octopus more insecure than the entirety of his class of misfits combined.

Harubro: (episodes seen: 11)
This is my last chance to write about AssClass before the first progress report of the upcoming Spring season, so I guess I’ll take it.

After the Kyoto School Trip episodes, the showing’s been a bit weak in comparison to the rest of the show, between the AI killbot Ritsu’s introduction to the match between Bitch-sensei and her mentor, up until the bit where Koro-sensei, Nagisa, Karma, and Ritsu hop over to Hawaii to catch the premiere of a movie. That bit I did enjoy, and AssClass returned back to form this week with the introduction of transfer student Itona Horibe and his robe-clad guardian Shiro. Itona enters class in style, and then makes a seemingly far-fetched claim that he is Koro-sensei’s brother, which seems less and less far-fetched to his new classmates as some of the so-called brothers’ shared habits surface, such as the two’s ravenous sweet-tooth. Itona then challenges Koro-sensei to a fight, which the latter entertains, only to discover that the transfer student possesses the same sort of superpowered tentacles he does. On top of that, Shiro seems to have extensive knowledge of Koro-sensei’s weaknesses and attempts to use that knowledge to leverage the fight to Itona’s advantage.

Koro-sensei manages to win the battle, and Itona and Shiro take their leave, and thus ends the first of three run-ins with Itona. I know for a fact that the next episode will be very much to my liking, as it’ll adapt the baseball match between the End Class and the regular campus’ Baseball club. I’m pretty pumped to see how it turns out! Another thing, I adore how frequently this show references its fellow Shounen Jump series.

As I’ve mentioned before, AssClass has been a pleasant surprise for me, a fun little popcorn show that possesses the ability to keep me entertained, and that’s really all I can really ask from it. It’s a good rebound for the show’s director Seiji Kishi, who’s kind of been dabbling with some questionable works up until lately. Also, the Funi dub of this show is pretty solid. If you’re one of those fans who doesn’t mind anime dubs, you should definitely give this a shot.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching?: Yes.

DEATH PARADE:

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*sniff* I’M NOT GONNA MAAAAAAKE IT

Yatahaze:
Death Parade really did save its best stuff for last – and it was pretty damn good before. Onna finally snapped and emotionally confronted Decim that the arbiters’ purpose to drag out the worst parts of people isn’t just unfair, but often produces an inaccurate representation of what said people were like before circumstances in their lives changed for the worse. Taking heed of that complaint and realizing that Onna’s time is running short, Decim sets up (as best he can) a fair game of Old Maid between an elderly woman and Onna, who remembers mid-game her name is Chiyuki. No gimmicks, no brooding tension, just a pleasant game of cards, and it still manages to result in one of the most powerful and crucial moments of the entire show. Nona’s plans to create a more empathatic arbiter show signs of succeeding, though Decim isn’t quite there yet.

Even further from that mindset is Ginti, and while I wasn’t sure what specific purpose he had other than to show that not all the arbiters are on board with the whole being more empathetic thing, episode 11 gave him as well as one of the show’s weakest characters, Mayu, a chance to shine. In their exchange, Ginti baited Mayu into sending both herself and Harada to the void after she declines an option to send someone else there in their place. This finally gave the audience a little clarity as to what going to the void means: falling forever, wrapped in negativity, and yet as they were sent off, their souls were represented as beams of intertwining light – forever together, just as Mayu wanted.

After Chiyuki’s series-highlight skating scene, she predictably but movingly recalls the details that caused her to commit suicide and exhibits some of the same feelings that nearly everyone else previously involved in Quindecim’s games displayed when they remembered their deaths; pain, bitterness, and shock. Decim tries to comfort her, and with one more (laced) drink, he personally brings her to a rarely-visited area to set up one last test. He too gives her the choice to send someone else to the void in her place after seeing a vision of her mother, weeping and painfully trying to move on after her death. After tossing back and forth the options with a racing mind, she eventually regains her composure and refuses to press it, the opposite outcome of Ginti’s tactics. This triggers Decim to genuinely feel, and as the series has foreshadowed all this time, his eyes momentarily lose their signature arbiter crosses. Chiyuki is reincarnated and her dummy body stays at Quindecim as Decim welcomes his next guests.

Death Parade may have also hinted at stern punishment for Nona’s experimentation with Decim, but that punishment never really arrived; Oculus is upset but merely adds a new rule for arbiters: they mustn’t judge with humans because he thinks humanity’s perspective on judgement would ruin the arbiters, and he’s right. Being able to feel genuine empathy for people you’re testing prevents you from being able to test and then judge them in the sense that Death Parade uses the term, but in place of that is emotion Decim now has the opportunity to embrace despite the status quo for everyone else more or less remaining the same. In this regard, there’s slight sequel bait, but it also capped off the series incredibly well by retaining its ambiguity. Death Parade’s games were a joy to watch in their own right, but the true heart of the show revolved around Chiyuki slowly changing Decim’s perspective, and I’m more than pleased that the final episodes were spent in the tender and humane way they were while also giving some closure to the show’s world and signaling what could be the start of slow and lonely but ultimately urgent and necessary reforms in the afterlife. Death Parade had a hit or miss moment or two, but it’s almost entirely downright impressive visually, thematically, and emotionally. Easily one of the best shows this season, a title which I’m convinced it will hold throughout the end of the year.
Final score: 9/10
Recommend?: For fuck’s sake, yes.

Harubro:
Throughout its run, Death Parade has been one of the more difficult shows for me to write about, as only Yurikuma and Maria have been more difficult for me thus far. However, these last few episodes where we discover and get to explore Chiyuki’s identity were an absolute wonder to watch. I tended to enjoy Death Parade more when it had these character-focused and reverse-grieving moments instead of the “DARKNESS OF HUMANITY” bits that we had. Those moments were very good for the dramatic flair, but these episodes where the characters accept the fact of their deaths with grace and, well- acceptance, were my favorites.

Chiyuki’s ice skating scene in episode eleven was one of the more joyous and wonderful scenes I’ve watched in a show, ever. Well choreographed, well animated, well framed – I didn’t think this show would top that as far as emotional drama, but in the final episode, it did just that. The scene where Chiyuki is brought by Decim to her old house where she watches her mother grieve was just an amazingly strong scene. Her emotion in the moment coinciding with this where Decim offers her the chance to come back to life in exchange for another person’s life was of particular note, as this was definitely one of the strongest emotional scenes of this season. Hell, it even drove the normally stone-faced Decim to sorrowful tears as he he divulges that the offer was part of her judgement. The scene where Decim sees Chiyuki off with a smile as she’s sent for reincarnation was another one that stuck for me.

I do wish Oculus’ conflict with Nona over the presence of emotion in the Arbiters’ demeanor was expanded upon a little more, but that’s really the only issue I have with the plot execution of this show. Death Parade was definitely one of the standout shows this season, and a borderline must-watch in my book.
Final score: 8/10
Recommend?: Absolutely.

L-K:
Death Parade was a show I actually found myself consistently enjoying, though it fell short of being something I’d particularly look forward to each week. It’s an interesting idea to presuppose that the world is shit because of the guys upstairs, and overall the different perspectives on the subject of death offered by the weekly characters really did contribute well to the development of the main themes. I was in the end disappointed in the execution of the final act, but the show’s beautiful animation carried it through at least. There were a handful of absolutely fantastic scenes, namely the ice skating sequence, which was a brilliant means of finally introducing Chiyuki’s true character.

I was most disappointed with the final episode, for the most part because I found it a little overdramatic, and how, for a show about death, it failed in my opinion at fully conveying the tone of what it feels like to want to die. Overall it was a rather entertaining thought experiment and the characters were charming enough to pop this one in the “solid” category.
Final score: 6.5/10
Recommend?: Yes.

DURARARA!!x2 SHOU:

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You can tell we put a lot of effort into taking screencaps here at For Great Justice.

Yatahaze:
So, as my memory serves me, at the end of DRRR’s first season, Masaomi, then leading the Yellow Scarves, fucked up when he realized not everyone in his organization would listen to his directions.

History repeats itself as much those ラs do.

To an extent, of course. As shit hit the fan just as much out of misunderstandings as it did from mastermind framing, Mikado found himself at a fork in the road with a renewed violent Dollars in upheaval. Shou closed by questioning his personality and commitment to stay with an organization that’s leaving him behind, and he chose to abruptly snap to stay relevant. It’s a re-establishing moment for an otherwise weak-willed character who only embraced the thrill of having a place to be, even if the place didn’t need him. In coaxing this out of him, Aoba served his role very well, becoming a sort of manipulator in the works, starting small, potentially growing into a bigger threat. We’ll see. Meanwhile, Izaya himself wasn’t the hand pulling all the strings this time around, and it’s nice to see that other external factors can influence the story without everything in the palm of his hand. I’ve always enjoyed DRRR most when it lets its characters loose and allows them to frenzy, and there was plenty of chaos in Shou without sacrificing the franchise’s narrative drive. This story still has places to go, and I’ll be looking forward to Ten this summer.
Final score: 8.5/10
Recommend?: Yes, but you’ll have to see the first season beforehand.

Harubro:
Alright, Act 1 of 3 is in the books.

You’ve heard me go on and on and on about Durarara!!X2 Shou already, and I’m definitely not stopping now. I told you guys that you’d be in for a wild ride for the end, and this show didn’t disappoint, for the most part. In classic Durarara fashion, the production quality gets laughably bad in certain tidbits, but hey, it still gets the point of the actions across rather than just being arbitrarily shitty like some shows have been guilty of as of late.

I’d been anticipating the end of this particular season because a couple of my favorite moments from the light novels seemed to be perfectly aligned to make their appearances in this season. Those favorite moments were Mikado and Aoba forming the contract between the Blue Squares and the Dollars, and Izaya getting his much-deserved comeuppance after playing a significant part in orchestrating the aforementioned fracas. I was very eagerly looking forward to seeing how they’d be adapted, and while the latter event turned out much as I had expected, I found the former event’s execution a tad weak. I had expected the adaptation of the scene between Aoba, Mikado and the writing utensil to be a tad more drawn out. It seemed much more intense in the novels, whereas in the anime, the scene felt quite rushed and lacked some rather important dialogue on Aoba’s part after the contract was forged. Could they not have factored that bit in and cut out some of the less important stuff, like Karisawa getting a tad too intimate with Anri?

That’s like my only serious gripe that I had with this season. I’m willing to look past the animation goofs, because those are sort of part of Durarara’s character, but this is the first really significant gaffe I can pick out with how Shou has adapted the novels. I hope it gets addressed in the upcoming OVA or sometime in the next season coming in the summer.

My whinging about one scene aside, this show was all the fun that the first season started out with. Here’s looking forward to Durarara!!X2 Ten.
Final score: 8.5/10
Recommend?: Durrrrrrr.

L-K:
The new season of Durarara was about as strong as I expected it to be. There was a clear progression by way of the evolution of the Dollars, how that affected the characters and visa versa, and the new direction they seem to be taking suits the franchise well. I love the new characters; it was great to introduce Ruri Hijiribe and in the process offer insight to Hanejima’s world view, and Akane’s unique perspective was rather entertaining. Also Izaya’s sisters really managed to reinforce how calculated their family is while adding their own comedic flair to the show.

I would have liked to hear more original score; I’ll most likely be dissatisfied if all I hear in the coming seasons are old tracks. Makoto Yoshimori is a great composer and an excellent fit for the show’s style, and I would have liked to hear more work from him.

Overall I’m interested to see where this show is going. I rather like the idea of Mikado’s new direction, and the uncertainty of what will become of it. I’m looking forward to seeing it raise its score in the Summer.
Final score: 7/10
Recommend?: Yes.

LOG HORIZON 2:

“Don’t mind me…”

Yatahaze:
With almost no time left whatsoever, Log Horizon 2 kicked into high gear this month, not quite finishing most of the intriguing ideas it utilized this season but nonetheless offering a solid batch of episodes that confirmed that I really enjoy Log Horizon in general. Actually, this month’s episodes just made me question why Log Horizon couldn’t always be as high-quality, and from an animation standpoint, I just don’t know, but as far as the plot goes, Log Horizon 2 mainly worked on a formula of “include some neat bits of info here and there and wait a really long time before they’re important”. That’s okay for some people I guess, and I don’t even mind it with certain shows, but Log Horizon’s first season had a nice momentum that kept the whole thing going even when good action sequences and philosophical conversations and negotiations weren’t happening. This season? Not so much.

The narrative of this season was a little scattered and some conflicts it brought up ended up being red herrings (not to mention there isn’t yet a third season greenlit) so I don’t feel like this gave us proper closure with Log Horizon for the time being. I’d like to see more Kanami, more Nureha, more Round Table discussions, and for the love of God more Crusty (guess they’re not gonna explain how he somehow teleported to China, will they?) and therein lies my biggest problem with this season. Log Horizon has a lovable cast, but they work best when interacting with each other, and generally the more adult members provide the most interesting conversations and actions. That this season spent a lot of time trying to develop some of the less interesting younger characters in the cast and only succeeded with about half (yesssss Isuzu, noooooo Serara) was kind of worrying, but I’m still invested in this franchise and I want to see how the moon issue ends, how the Adventurers will try to find a way to connect Elder Tale’s world and the real world, what the real prospects of war are between the People of the Land and the Adventurers, and more information about Kanami’s group’s journey. Almost all of this season felt like necessary development for a greater clash in the future, but when that climax never came, it’s hard to not be disappointed. I’m not completely turned off by Log Horizon yet and I’m hopeful it will continue – it really needs to for its own sake.
Final score: 6.5/10
Recommend?: Sure, if you’ve seen the first season, though this was isn’t as strong.

Harubro:
Welp, now we know where the lack of relative quality through the middle of this series went. It went into this final raid on the TV Tower that the Venomoths on steroids were using as a nest. This was a nice little flash back to the old Log Horizon we know and love, albeit in a rather condensed setting. Shiroe’s rather uncharacteristic panic attack in the first go at the raid was vaguely reminiscent of the big raid we had earlier in the second season. There wasn’t any particular stirring speech from a certain guy with a brilliant name, but Shiroe does eventually get his collective shits together and forms a viable plan of attack.

You can kind of tell that the anime has run its course through all the available source material from the novels, but this Eternal Moth raid arc didn’t feel out of place at all, at least to me. When I mentioned where the missing quality went, it’s pretty clear that Studio DEEN put in a good effort on animating that final battle with the old Moth genius. That battle was more fun to watch than basically the entirety of the Log Horizon kids’ road trip. We also get more William Massachusetts looking badass; here’s a gratuitous cap for your enjoyment.

That said, there were still some rather glaring issues with the final episode. After a rather poignant conversation between Shiroe and his old leader Kanami about establishing a method of travel between the real world and the Elder Tale world, it’s casually revealed Crusty is miraculously alive and well with her group in the China server, but we never actually get a proper explanation of just what the hell happened to him after his sudden disappearance. I never expected Log Horizon to cop out on that. After the pleasantries of the victory celebration, we’re handed a couple hints that we may have not seen the last of Log Horizon yet. There’s still quite a lot of plot left to resolve here.

It’s been a fun ride with Log Horizon in the last year and half or so. I don’t doubt that we’ll see more of this series one day. Let’s just all hope that if it does come again, that it doesn’t drop the ball like the road trip arc did for the most part.
Final score: 7/10
Recommend?: Sure. Just don’t expect it to be the first season.

L-K:
I was pretty hopeful for this show, but it seems like whatever signal present was ultimately lost in the noise. There was a glimpse of hope when Shiroe died for the first time and the memory sequence played out. This was by far the best part of Log Horizon’s entirety, and it’s that show I wanted to see, but for crying out loud I don’t give a fuck that they had a nice lunch, and I don’t give a fuck about their band or seeing them play the end credits songs to random people.

The only redeeming qualities were the small bits of world-building and the ideas presented such as in the aforementioned band arc where they talk about the translation of the People of the Land’s language referring to the fact that there are only 42 songs in their world, and in the previous half of the show the bit about the flavor text on items becoming real, but these moments are a drop of wine in a bucket full of shit I could only enjoy if I was 10. Moreover these points are barely brought up at all following the point where their existence directly affected the plot and character development.

Lastly, in the case of sound design this show was even worse than freaking Aldnoah. That same mechanical sound I mentioned in our podcast last week happens literally 3 times within 10 seconds in episode 20, and it’s used for a fucking dragon, of all things. Not to mention the icing on the shit cake in the final episode when at 11 minutes and 48 seconds in they literally use the frigging rocket launcher sound from frigging Goldeneye 64, in a place where it has no business being. One does not simply use library sounds from that game in contemporary sound work.

I swear to Hari Seldon, I am done with these fucking cuteness overload shows.
Final score: 3.5/10
Recommend?: Not really.

MARIA THE VIRGIN WITCH:

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Pierce that virgin with your spear, Joseph. You know, when you’re both ready to and everything.

Yatahaze:
I guess I’m okay with this ending? Maria’s argument has always seemed to me, as well as to many others, overly idealistic and self-centered. Not wanting to be around conflict is different from not wanting conflict to exist, and while Maria always said she wanted the latter, the former was all she could guarantee. By prolonging the war between England and France, she actually pushed herself away from the more realistic way to obtain what she desired. While the church in the sky held its tongue, the Church of Earth wasn’t going to sit idle forever, and so they took action against Maria, and what followed I’m still admittedly a little confused about.

After just one conversation, Bernard redirected his faith towards a far too-early-for-the-period humanist view, Galfa attempted and ultimately failed to vanquish Maria’s powers, and Joseph was…well, Joseph, I guess? Edwina and Viv came to the rescue and freed the leads from human persecution, but in doing so they forced Michael to intervene again, though this time he was much more lenient and allowed Maria to live unpersecuted if she accepted Joseph’s love, and…

Yeah, again, I’m a little lost still, and it’s not cause the last few episodes were poorly constructed or had poor execution; in fact, episodes 9, 10, and 11 offered some of the series’ best moments, such as Galfa and Joseph’s fight and Maria’s assisted escape from prison, but for a series where the lead characters all have opposite simplistic ideals and the show has constantly set them at odds with each other to highlight how their naive thinking is flawed, an ending this “yay, everything worked out!” just feels like wasted potential. I was kind of hoping Maria wouldn’t have a happy ending, but it does, and while it’s not really a poor one, it just didn’t feel like it earned it. But hey, maybe it’s the kind of thing a rewatch will clarify. The show overall was still a consistently above average watch that overachieved all the way to the end.
Final score: 7.5/10
Recommend?: Yes.

Harubro:
Though I’m sort of not totally satisfied with its conclusion, I certainly must give praise to Maria for its unorthodox setting and its sometimes really inspired commentary towards human greed and the true intentions and machinations of the church. There was certainly a bit of roundabout logic used between the parties of the Church of Heaven, the Church of Earth that attempted to interpret the will of the former, the witches and the Lords and soldiers fighting on their behalf…. but I suppose that was sort of the point. I’m still at a loss as to how simply Bernard took leave of his senses after seeming so calculated throughout most of the series, though the scene where he goes off his rocker and berates Archangel Michael and is summarily turned into what seems to be mayonnaise will never not entertain me.

I had high hopes for the finale after the penultimate episode, which featured Maria being bailed out of a burning at the stake by her witch comrades, Joseph and Garfa taking turns beating the tar out of one another, and Maria and Joseph having a rather adorable argument before finally coming to realize their feelings for one another. The finale came off rather weakly, with Maria being summoned and judged by the Archangel, leading to a rather chaotic bit where Michael asks a myriad of people express their opinions on the witch Maria, leading to her being spared. Ezekial was not so lucky, being expelled from the heavens for siding with the witch of her own will, and is forced to be reborn into the human world… with Maria as her mother. Don’t even ask me how these immaculate conceptions work.

At least we get somewhat of an explanation concerning the faceless foreboding blob in the forest! Small victories here and there, amirite?
Final score: 6.5/10
Recommend: Go for it, if you don’t have anything better to watch.

L-K:
I was never really impressed with this show. I enjoyed it at first, but honestly raunchy humor isn’t really my thing, and it tired on me rather quickly. Yes, the character relationships are well considered and there are a handful of good character moments, yes, it had an interesting setting, and yes, the show was very tasteful, but overall it still just didn’t do it for me at all. I think one of the main reasons it failed to catch my interest was probably that I just didn’t really like Maria as a character. She felt too naive and stubborn for my taste, and that stubbornness didn’t feel as much out of strength of resolve so much as childish arrogance.

I was hopeful for a show that approaches the concept of religion in a new way, but the progression of the philosophical argument just seemed far too predictable for my taste, and both sides of the issue still felt too much like that one kid in your anthropology class that just does not get it. The whole thing felt a little watered down to me, but I continued with it only to see where they took the main themes. Needless to say, it lost me completely somewhere around when the solution became fuck it, just get a boyfriend already. That line Maria delivers about everyone finding their own happiness is probably the best explanation for why I really can’t stand this show; what it fails to consider is the hundreds of thousands of individuals for whom finding happiness just isn’t possible due to their circumstances, and it’s this naivety that kills the show for me.
Final score: 3/10
Recommend?: Nope.

PARASYTE -THE MAXIM-:

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and somewhere in the distance, Linkin Park plays at max volume…

Yatahaze:
Okay, look. Parasyte is not a great show. It has some great ideas. It had an above average and very enticing beginning. But more often than not, it is a meandering work caught in between cheap action thriller (can we pretend the raid never happened?), derpy romantic trouble, and psychological drama without actually succeeding at being good at any of those things. That doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining – hell, that’s basically the only reason I finished it. But is “entertaining” enough when entertainment is supposed to take the backseat to making you think?

Let’s start with the good stuff: Migi and Shinichi have great chemistry and grow over the course of the show to slowly let each other’s ideas take root in their own minds, reinforcing how Migi becomes a part of Shinichi and vice versa. They constantly touch on (sometimes too much so, but not always) the relevant points that get brought up as the series moves from one awkward genre to another, and give what’s happening a bit more clarity to those who might’ve gotten lost. Unfortunately, Migi is the show’s best character, and while he doesn’t get worse as Parasyte bumbles along, he’s not used as often and the spotlight gets taken away from him and shoved to other variables with mixed results, such as Murano (meh), Tamiya Ryouko (yessss), the police (ugh), or Goto (uuggggghhhhh) instead. Where Parasyte’s once great sense of tension was elevated by Shinichi relying on a utilitarian and very parasite-like Migi, when Shinichi grows comfortable with his transformation and gets closure after his mother’s death, the series takes so many twists and turns to try and keep you interested, and there’s no flow to them at all. It’s a show with enough ideas to last two cours but only enough good execution and tension to warrant one. By trying to do too much with too little focus, Parasyte trips over itself on the slow and tedious run towards its finale. Some of these episodes (the raid ones and Goto ones especially) are so cheesy and stupid they’re downright embarrassing, and the second half of the show never nears the clever execution of its ideas that it thought it could and so often hinted at in its first half. Parasyte starts great but ends up as missed potential; a clusterfuck that only got worse as it went on and impossible to take seriously even at the points where it might’ve had a shot at poignancy. What a shame.
Final score: 5/10
Recommend?: No.

SHIROBAKO:

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Go nuts, Shirobako. You’ve earned it.

Yatahaze:
The spaghetti western imagination invasion and Zuka’s long-awaited break of episode 23 were all I needed, but episode 24 happened too, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I’ll cut to the chase; Shirobako is essentially perfect.
Shirobako is essentially perfect for all the reasons I’ve previously explained in these write-ups.
I have nothing new to report on Shirobako except that all the way until its close, it remained endearing and witty and charming and sometimes crushing but always perseverant.
Shirobako is a story about work and potential and motivation. It is a story about passion and growth. It is a story about life, and like life, it can sometimes be a funny story and sometimes not be, but in the end, everything seems to work out.
Shirobako did not need to work out, but I’m sure damn glad it did.
Final score: 10/10
Recommend?: Yes.

Harubro:
What a lovely end to a show that is, as Yata mentioned, essentially perfect.

You’ve been reading us gush about this show for months on end now, so I’ll keep it brief. This show has done such a wonderful job building the characters and the company up and demonstrating the various processes of the creation of anime whilst doing an excellent job depicting the stress and consequences thereof, and it’s done all that subtly whilst refraining from going way over our heads. I love how these anime producers seem to be naturals at the art of hooning a car, and MusaAni’s VP Okitsu’s delivery run in the Alfa Romeo was easily the best car hoonage scene yet.

Then we get the treat of moments like Tarou and Hiraoka going out for a drink after work, or Kinoshita’s spaghetti-western entrance to his meeting with the author of Third Aerial Girls Squad, or even the actual meeting between author and director. Mr. Funny Story getting his just desserts was fun to watch after he almost screwed everything over for all parties involved. However, my favorite moment was definitely the scene where Shizuka gets called in to voice a character added as a result of the aforementioned meeting, with Miyamori present at the recording session. After realizing all five members of her high school animation club had a hand in making this anime, she is brought to tears of joy. What a lovely moment! It’s one of the few scenes in all of anime that actually get me all teary-eyed!

Shirobako is probably the best year-straddling anime I’ve ever seen, especially since I can’t recall many year-straddlers this good in the first place, and definitely warrants consideration for Best of 2014…..or 2015? Which would you put it as? Watch this show. Seriously. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Final score: 10/10
Obvious recommend.

L-K:
I never got around to watching Shirobako when the first season aired, so I figured I’d catch up on it this season and see what all the fuss was about. I think the first nail in the coffin for me was (to be fair) a case of wishful thinking on my part that set my expectations higher than the show could deliver; there’s a cut early on, right after they do the donuts thing, that’s super abrupt, cuts the score out suddenly, and skips forward 2 and a half years into the future, where Miyamori just has this look of pure dread on her face. I hoped at that moment for something gritty, down to earth, and realistic in contrast to the bits they show of their high-school lives. Needless to say, Shirobako just wasn’t that show, so it’s partly my fault I couldn’t get into it.

For what it’s worth though it is a really well put together show, well animated, and does a great job of showing the hurdles that come in certain stages of production, and more importantly the finished product of that particular hurdle. That was a really nice touch, but it just wasn’t enough for me somehow. The characters, pacing, and development are all fairly solid, and I would honestly recommend it to anyone looking for a good light-hearted slice of life. For whatever reason though, I’m just not.
Score: 4.5/10 (dropped after episode 12)
Recommend?: If you’re looking for a popcorn slice of life, which I am not.

THE ROLLING GIRLS:

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Rolling, falling, scrambling…and for what?

Yatahaze:
Well, The Rolling Girls had been about as good as it could be up until episode 8 – enough so that I was even considering giving it a 10/10. That…changed.

Rolling Girls in general seemed to be an underrated series even in its best parts, so I’ll do my best to explain why I loved it. It had a Saturday morning cartoon feel, one-upped itself with each passing episode, and used a few bare-bones characters as a tasteful plot device to explore the more interesting characters and situations around them. The art was beautiful and it was easy to get sucked into; a motivational feel-good show about helping (or trying to help) people. And it worked brilliantly…until it got overambitious.

This final arc simply tried to do too much, and as a result it got longwinded and sloppy and generally less interesting. There were a lot of great things going on with Chiaya’s mom and the alien sideplot, and frankly, I think the show would’ve been better off had it made that its main concern for the last few episodes. This arc, and specifically the final episode shoved so much at you with (and I really hate to say this considering how much I loved the show) absolutely piss poor execution and a total lack of direction. It’s like the crew was scrambling to wrap up every single thing they started, without realizing there simply wasn’t enough time to do so. This arc tried all this on top of yet another side-character conflict, and one that uncharacteristically didn’t sell itself or resolve itself well at all. There was no reason for The Rolling Girls to attempt this. It was better in smaller chunks with simpler plot threads that it could, as colorful and ridiculous as they were, tie up.

And though I could ramble on and on about how much of a disappointment that final episode was and how Rolling Girls bit off way more than it could chew in the end, almost the entire rest of the show did the same and was still able to swallow it down with pride. The Rolling Girls did not end on a high note, but there were several standout moments in this series and even a few contenders for Episode of the Year, such as episode 8. That was an episode that really defined Rolling Girls’ heart, and it wouldn’t be right to be overly harsh with this show for leading us on to more than it actually delivered when so many of the small things along the way resonated so well. That’s I think where the real problem with this final episode lies; The Rolling Girls was a show that in its prime revolved around mini-arcs and vignettes, and in attempting to overachieve by presenting a whole new conflict and trying to finish developing the alien thing and the stone thing and all these loosely-defined character details, it became vulnerable to clutter and lost the charm it carried before. Am I disappointed? Yes. Would I still recommend this? You bet. The bobbles at the end were serious, but a majority of the show was uplifting and downright beautiful, and if you can find yourself naturally enticed at the start like I was, there’s no way you won’t find lots to love in this anime, even in spite of its sloppy – and it isn’t even really offensive, just sloppy – conclusion.
Final score: 8/10
Recommend?: Yes.

Harubro:
And then suddenly, aliens.

As I had quietly feared with this show, the final arc sort of turned into a mess. All good things must come to an end, but this wasn’t quite what I wanted or expected, yet it was certainly not enough to make me dislike the series, no way. Far from that actually, as we’ve had too many fun times with The Rolling Girls to shun one seriously bad finale.

It just feels as though they attempted to pack two episodes or more worth of information into the last one, and that kind of blew against the flow this show’s had since its start. The animation came up lacking there at the end, too. I guess it may have been asking a little much to expect them to wrap up all these wacky little tidbits so easily. Even though the hints were always right there, the way the whole aliens thing was used felt maybe a tad like a cop out. They’ve kind of squandered the 10 potential this show had going for it at the beginning.

Gosh, I’m sounding like such a downer on a show that was actually such fun to watch! Well, up until like episode nine. It started going downhill for me right around there, though I loved the nod to Easy Rider with Shigyo’s motorcycle decked out like Fonda’s Captain America bike. Kind of a bummer the plot ended up so shaky, because The Rolling Girls was one of the prettier shows I’ve seen in a while, and I loved the Blue Hearts-inspired soundtrack this show featured. You’ve gotta love Wit Studio for making an earnest attempt at something outside of the box. Those are a couple of positives I can definitely take from this series, and I guess I’ll settle for that, at the very least.
Final score: 6/10
Recommend?: If you need a decent show to kill time, give this a shot.

L-K:
It’s hard not to like a show that’s this goddamn pretty, but hey. I’m allergic to fun apparently, or at least that’s what I start thinking when a situation like this comes along. But then I go watch a show like Mobile Police Patlabor, which has that same Saturday morning cartoon feel, but that I actually find fun and engaging. A world consisting entirely of anime characters doing anime things just doesn’t cut it for me, no matter how good it looks or how fun it tries to be. The best comparison I can think of that has a similar thing to it but that I thought was extremely well put together would be Kyousougiga. That show had an equally fantastical world that was both fun and intriguing. The world itself became a character that supported the show’s main themes and lent itself to some really intimate character moments. Rolling Girls on the other hand just seems too much like aesthetic for aesthetic’s sake.

While discussing this with Yata he said “so the message I’m getting here is aesthetics are nothing, give me something to analyze”, and well, yeah, that’s about it. I replied by saying “aesthetics need to reinforce something, not make up for it”. Ultimately Rolling Girls’ lack of substance stopped it short of making the cut for me.
Score: 4/10 (dropped after episode 8)
Recommend?: If you’re looking for pretty disappointment

TOKYO GHOUL √A:

No, this isn’t a status quo ending.

L-K:
Well, here we are. Apparently I was the only one to tough it out with this show until the end, but I plan on writing enough for the three of us, and allow me first to say that Tokyo Ghoul’s ending is one of the best things I’ve seen since Ping Pong, and if you haven’t seen it yet you should stop reading here and go watch it before I spoil literally everything.

If you’re still reading you probably don’t believe me, and there’s definitely good reason for that. The animation in the first half is sub-par, especially in the Cochlea arc (which at one point basically became “Who Has the Biggest Tentacle, the Anime“). I would have liked to see more variation in the Kagune, as there was quite a bit in the Quinques. Another big flaw is that the CCG guys have a bad habit of spilling their guts out whenever someone says “sup?”, and it’s usually about Mado, who wasn’t that likable a character in the first place. This is particularly damaging in the first half because they tell you fuck all about what’s going on with Aogiri and Kaneki, and a lot of what’s left to fill the time is filler, including a clear comic relief episode right after the Cochlea arc’s slightly redeeming completion, which wasn’t really welcome considering how dissatisfying that whole battle was. There is some good character development though, with Touka and Hinami having to deal with the fact that Kaneki is making things worse, and with Hide desperately trying to do whatever he can for him.

Looking back though, I have to say I respect the original author’s decision to alter the anime and have Kaneki do exactly the opposite of what he does in the manga, joining Aogiri instead. It’s far more interesting, and really draws upon the show’s philosophy to have him fall the way he does. This in particular actually reminds me of Code Geass—with Kaneki putting on a mask in order to gain the power to act, even if the people who know his true self hate him for his actions—and I like how they don’t really tell you what’s going on with him at first, instead of having him monologue in the middle of every fucking conversation, like Lelouch. The culmination of that theme with Touka’s confrontation of Kaneki on the bridge is one of my favorite scenes in the show. The sound drops back and holds a powerful silence as she asks him what his reasons were, and the exchange is rather moving.

There’s also some fantastic scenes with Eto (who is also revealed to be Takatsuki Sen), like in the first episode when she toys around with Kaneki in the fog, showing her playful interest in him. The exchange she has with Hinami in episode 7 also really shows her character as she sees right through Kaneki, because she sees herself in him. I was also really surprised at how much I enjoyed Tsukiyama’s scenes, especially in that episode. Hearing Mamoru Miyano (a.k.a. Kida freaking Masaomi) deliver such ridiculous lines was pretty hysterical. I also came to like Juzo and Shinohara’s character relationship the more I analyzed it, as one of the themes of the show becomes that even with an upbringing as fucked up as Juzo’s, there is always hope to mold an individual by connecting with them. You can’t change the circumstances you are born into, but it’s what you do when faced with those circumstances that matters. Juzo’s torturous upbringing essentially ruined any possibility of him leading a normal life, but Shinohara’s reaching out to him really redeemed his character, especially after what happens to Shinohara in the end. The clear winner however in terms of character interactions is definitely Yoshimura (who is revealed to be the owl), as his lines are what really give insight into the meaning of the show.

And what is that meaning? The show presents an interesting perspective on the age-old philosophical argument that because life cannot exist without taking things from others, the act of living is in itself evil, and it does this by creating a world in which neither side is truly evil. Each is merely a victim of the other’s existence, or rather the circumstances they were born into. The Owl’s confrontations with Shinohara really drive that point home, and it tells you why Yoshimura started Anteiku in the first place. One such confrontation is when the two of them sit down for coffee, and Yoshimura explains his philosophy on coffee brewing, and his intentions as an individual become perfectly clear. “Just because some beans are expensive, if you brew them without care, they will not turn out well. The opposite is also true. Even cheap beans can become flavorful, if you carefully brew them to bring out their special qualities.” Yoshimura’s dream wasn’t to brew coffee right, but to brew people right. The entirety of Anteiku is to offer hope for future generations, and it really makes it hard to see such a thing go, even if it is a beautiful death.

All of this leads up to one of the greatest character deaths I’ve seen in a long time, with Yoshimura tallying up all the people he affected with his life, satisfied with leaving things in their hands, and it’s very touching since he was such a likable individual. Overall the animation quality jumps significantly in this arc as well, and I really enjoyed the action scenes in the last half. The sound is mostly above average, though the effects editing leaves a little to be desired, but the way they use silence (especially in the last episode) is something I’ve loved about sound design since I was a student. The score throughout the series is also exceptional, and especially in these final episodes the OP really fucking suits the show. One of the best sequences leading up to the end was the arrival of Yoshimura’s child, the grotesquely larger one-eyed owl, and her subsequent pwnage of Shinohara. Shit was badass.

This leads me to the final episode, which is in my opinion the best of the entire franchise. It opens silently, with fantastic lighting effects and editing as the memories of Anteiku flow around Kaneki. Hide manages to save Kaneki, and their interaction inside Anteiku really blew me away. Him giving his life to save Kaneki builds on a theme previously held by Hinami, that the worst situation is one in which you can do nothing. He makes that sacrifice understanding the reason for Kaneki’s actions, just as Kaneki was planning to do himself, and while it affirms Kaneki’s resolve, it also solidifies his failure. He burns Anteiku to the ground because he knows that what Anteiku represented was already destroyed. Having made peace with his own evil, he goes to meet his punishment with Hide’s body in his arms. Touka is again unable to follow him, and Yomo’s last words to her bring the meaning of the show home: “All we can do is live as we endure loss”. Having said what it needed to say, the show then concludes with a 1 minute and 50 second unbroken shot of Kaneki walking into the enemy camp, which is probably the best shot of the series. I’m a huge fan of the unbroken shot; I think it’s one of the most powerful devices in cinema, and the director definitely uses it well.

Overall it’s hard to judge a show with such a split execution, but with such a deep philosophy and fantastic moments that support it, it really had the ideas it takes to get something up to an 8 in my book. However, given its flaws I couldn’t really give it that. According to Anime News Network, the spinoff airing this summer isn’t the only thing left in the franchise, so I’m hoping to see a great third season at some point, as much as I would have liked for Amon to end up as a bloody smear in the ground. I highly recommend you watch this show all the way to the end if you ever had any hope for it at all, as it delivers some great ideas, and the last episode is truly unique, if not exceptional. Either way, this series must have taken a lot of guts to make, and I can definitely respect it for what it set out to do, as well as what it did.
Final score: 7.5/10
Recommend?: Definitely. If you liked the first season at all, at least try to finish it.

YOUR LIE IN APRIL:

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You’re Chopin’ my heart in two, April. Stop it.

Yatahaze:
April ended the way I kinda figured it would; not bothering to wrap up any loose plot threads but focusing on the heart of its presentation; the visuals and the relationship between Kousei and a now late Kaori. In a way, I didn’t mind this approach, since the last few episodes warranted the focus on their central relationship, and for many people, one final emotional visual display like that was all they needed. Kousei’s growth was reflected beautifully, and the few scenes of post-death everyday life showed that Kousei moved on about as well as any sane person of his age could. The episodes leading up to that almost promised something much darker, as April used visual cues like birds in flight and dropping liquids to tie together various scenes with different characters in their most emotionally uncertain states. By all means, this last stretch of episodes was without a doubt the show’s best.

Which leads us to arguably one of April’s only real problems: these scenes would’ve meant so much more had the middle of the show treated its characters more like people and less like puzzle pieces. You could say the show simply went on about half a season too long, and I’d agree, but there isn’t much you can do about that with television airing restrictions and a choice of just one cour or a full two. With that extra time, I would’ve loved to see Kaori’s illness explained in more detail. April would’ve benefited a lot from seeing more events from Kaori’s side in the way that the Kousei/Tsubaki love knot improved a lot the more Tsubaki narrated her own feelings to us. That’s not to say you won’t feel the brunt of the show’s emotional force when it comes down in the last few episodes, but behind that force is the lingering disappointment that the show could have been even better if it put as much detail into its dialogue and narration as it did its animation and sound. The melodrama is part of what drew a lot of people into this show, but it also drove some people away in the middle, and more balanced character development likely would’ve prevented that.

But that’s not to say April is bad – in fact, I prematurely put it as an honorable mention of my Favorite Anime from 2010-2014 list, and I don’t regret that decision one bit. While I wish the hit-or-miss humor and the character detail were a bit more refined, this show is beautiful regardless. A little childish and overdramatic occasionally, yes, but that’s part of the adolescence the show takes place in, and shaping its tone like that at least helps the show feel realistic to its characters ages. As I’ve mentioned time and time again before, the visuals are splendid and the musical performances and soundtrack are outstanding, and most importantly, when the show really wants to hit hard, it will. Could it have been a bit better? Of course. But I still regard April as one of the better shows from the past year in spite of its flaws.
Final score: 8/10
Recommend?: Yes, and especially if you enjoy music shows.

Harubro:
Wow, Yata’s joke about it being “She Dies in April” came to fruition there. Oops, too soon?

I’ll mention once more that for all the issues that I nitpicked with in the first half, Your Lie in April’s second half totally made up for. Kousei has come into his own as a musician, and watching his maturation firsthand was the second best thing this show had going for it, the best thing being his (and the others’) performances. The recitals were really a sight and sound to behold, with the final performances we saw from Emi, Takeshi and Arima easily being some of the best music I’ve heard in an anime. Seriously, they did a top-notch job making these performances sound as lively as the characters’ monologues hyped them up to be.

As mentioned before, Your Lie in April also toyed with its audience’s emotions, with some revelations here and there in the final episode. Speaking of which, I’m glad that Kousei’s friends leveled off on the twat behavior, though Tsubaki will forever be tsundere. Your Lie in April, a quintessential teenage drama at some of its finest. This show’s art also stayed consistent throughout most of its run too, sort of a rarity with these long-running A-1 series.

If you can persist through the shaky first half, this show will reward you in dividends. This is a show I’d gladly call a definite recommend, especially for any of you music buffs out there.
Final score: 8/10
Recommend?: Yes.

YURIKUMA ARASHI:

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gao gao-ne off the deep end

Yatahaze:
Is your show the real thing?

Yes. Yes it is. Yurikuma Arashi is the real thing, and not just great, but also one of the easiest-to-follow stories director Kunihiko Ikuhara has tackled to date without sacrificing his signature symbolism-cloaked flair for theatrics. First and foremost, it’s social commentary, and as such it’s more thematically-driven than character-driven, but that’s not to say Yurikuma isn’t also a genuine love story in a genre that’s often highly-sexualized to increase male viewership. Yurikuma might have its moments where you just don’t follow, either because things are confusing (and that significantly changes after the first three or so episodes so) or because watching these lesbears and their desiiiire doesn’t do much for you. Well, shame on you. Including things for no reason is not the sexy way. Everything in Yurikuma has a purpose, silly catchphrases and symbolism and all, and it contributes wonderfully to a borderline flawless conclusion with what I believe will remain one of the most well-executed plot twists of the year.

If Yurikuma stumbles anywhere, it’s actually in regards to its character development. The first quarter of the show is slow and focused more on worldbuilding and jamming some of the series’ key motifs into your head, and so the rest of the show forces you to play catch-up. It’s something I’d normally criticize, but the slow progression of backstories and characterization is something that actually works in Yurikuma’s favor, not revealing too much too quickly, and the lack of immediate development is more than made up for by the way the series eventually handles itself. Yurikuma is also Ikuhara’s shortest show to date, and I found the adapting and script to be done phenomenally for a one-cour show despite what some people have said. Could Yurikuma have been better had it been longer? Honestly, I’m not too sure. Part of what’s so enticing with this show is how concise it is. Some have claimed that gives it a feeling of rigidity, but Ikuhara shows have a tendency to ramble when given the time to do so, and that’s avoided by the narrower time constraint imposed on Yurikuma.

And back to those silly catchphrases I mentioned earlier, because along with the shorter series length, one of Yurikuma’s biggest selling points is its way of handling comedy. Catchphrases are nothing new to Ikuhara’s work, but in Yurikuma they’re downright hilarious and work in several different contexts, something that allows the series to change its mood at the drop of a hat or subvert its more humorous aspects with somber ones. The visual direction is top notch and it’s perfectly balanced in cuteness and anxiousness. Yurikuma is an interpretive and successful piece of work about fitting into societal roles, sacrificing your identity for the sake of a group, and whether or not either of those are worth doing if it means giving up on love. It also just so happens to be what will likely remain one of the most unique shows all year and incredibly well shaba-da-done.
Final score: 8/10
Recommend?: Yuri approved.

Harubro:
I said I was glad that Aldnoah over earlier, but I’m probably even more thrilled that this show has run its course.

Seriously, the constantly repetitive Ikuhara vignettes that would feature on and off every episode were beginning to cause me headaches, especially the Invisible Storm Exclusion Ceremony thing, that one (and how it very frequently features throughout the series) damn near killed me. The tacky “KUMA SHOCK!” and Life Sexy’s “Shaba-da-doo” lines were about the only constants that I would really get a kick out of with this show. That said, when Ikuhara isn’t playing with his repetitive antics that made much of the hidden meanings of this show go right over my head, Yurikuma did at times present a competent and somewhat coherent flair for drama, if that makes any sense. That said, the drama gets killed a bit for me when the characters are repeating the exact same lines that they’ve said from the get-go again and again and again and again…

I’m still a tad off-put by the overt sexual overtones of the whole thing, but I’ve come to realize that these sort of shows just really aren’t my sort of schtick, if you catch my drift. Watching this made me question how I was even able to survive Penguindrum. I’ve gone over the episode a couple times now, and aside from Kureha’s mother’s fairy tale coming to fruition in a somewhat strange way, much everything else went right over my head, as has been the case for much of the series. I never really could get myself invested in this show all the way. I’ll likely steer clear of Ikuhara in the future, because this show had a tendency to make it hurt to think for me.

Those bear designs will always be freaking adorable, though.
Final score: 6/10 (being generous with this one)
Recommend?: Eeeeeeehhhhhhhhhh…….

L-K:
I was having a conversation with Yata about what I should / shouldn’t try and fit in before writing these reviews, and when we got to the subject of Yurikuma he basically said if you didn’t like Penguindrum (I didn’t), you’d hate this. I looked at the OP and he was right. Did not watch.

And that’s the lot. I know I speak for the three of us when I say we’re going to miss these shows, of course in a lot of cases I’m actually going to miss making fun of them. Anywho, here’s looking at you, Spring.

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