FIRST THIRD THOUGHTS – SPRING 2015

Hey, folks. It’s now May, and one month into the spring 2015 anime season, For Great Justice is back to bring you our thoughts on this season’s best, worst, and most irritably average shows. Long story short: start watching Blood Blockade Battlefront.

Just a note: this will be Yata’s last article for at least a month and a half, as he’s going to be moving halfway across the country to go to college and that will understandably take up a large amount of his time and attention. Haru and L-K will be back for the Second Third Thoughts article over this season at the start of June, and hey, who knows, maybe we’ll even do a mid-season podcast or two with the whole gang.

Anyways, spring! What’s worth keeping up with? Read on!

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ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM

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Yata’s allergies > Koro-sensei’s allergies. Just saying.

Harubro: (episodes seen: 14)
AssClass returns to the writeup, did you miss it? If you’ve been keeping up with us for a while, you certainly know that I dig this show. So, what’s happened with Class E since the last time I wrote a blurb about this show? We had a grand baseball game as only AssClass could do a baseball game, filled with bunting, situational hitting by Sugino the baseball kid, and good feelings all around. In this show’s typical fashion, we have an ominous episode follow immediately when a new instructor shows up to train the kids. While he seems like a nice guy at first, he quickly proves to be a sadistically cruel scumbag. When the kids and Karasuma object to his methods, Takaoka challenges the kids to a face-off, which Nagisa somehow ends up winning. Leave it to a catcher to get shit done, but the boy definitely learned from a pro.

After that, we get a pool episode as summer comes around for the Class, who inadvertently discover Koro-sensei’s biggest weakness yet: He can’t swim. Meanwhile, class goon Terasaka ends up ruining the fun time for everyone when he gets mixed up in one of Shiro and Itona’s plans to kill Koro-sensei. He ends up atoning for his screw-up, Itona loses to Koro-sensei and the Class, and so passes another day with the Assassination Classroom.

I’ve mentioned before that AssClass sure isn’t a perfect show by any means, but it’s consistently proven to be solid entertainment week in and week out. It’s not ambitious, but it’s definitely confident in its way and execution, and I love the narrative Yuusei Matsui has put at the core of this series: depicting the various abusive relationships and unlucky circumstances the kids of Class E have had to endure, treating these abusive people as monsters worse than the what the “monster” teaching the class appears to be, and having the so-called “monster” build these kids self-confidence up. There really is an uplifting tone to this whole show when all is said and done.

Speaking of Matsui, I love his art style to death. His color spreads for the manga are some the most vivid and stylish that I’ve seen for a manga series. There’s something for almost everyone in AssClass, so do consider giving some medium of this series a try.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching?: Yep.

BLOOD BLOCKADE BATTLEFRONT (KEKKAI SENSEN)

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“The god damn monkey is drunk.” – Haru

Yatahaze: (episodes seen: 4)
A lot of people (my two fellows here and myself included) have been enjoying the hell out of BBB, but some people seem to be concerned that the series has too much style and too little substance. This show’s narrative is schizophrenic as fuck, full of well-directed quick starts and stops and an unbelievably smooth sense of timing.

It feels a bit like Cowboy Bebop at the moment: an excellent episodic show with an entertainingly endearing cast and a beautifully surreal setting. Shot framing is implemented as a point within itself, such as events occurring on televisions or other electronic screens, and the sound direction is absolutely sublime, really nailing the hectic pace of the city and capturing all its nuances. They both work together to create a separate purely aesthetic narrative, and whether it’s the result of Matsumoto’s direction or Nightow’s original writing (though it’s probably a healthy dose of both), BBB may be a show that focuses on style over substance, but it’s a rare case where that’s not a bad thing. The scattered “substance” we get reinforces the style inherent with all that goes down internally, so I can’t fault the series for not making total sense on first watch. Piecing things together is half the fun.

That said, episode four marked the first time I’ve felt like BBB was really going somewhere. We’ve been exposed to enough of Hellsalem’s Lot to get the general feel for its busy eccentricity and the core cast has slowly grown in number to the point where we’ve encountered nearly every character depicted in the OP and ED. This is a good sign. Libra has a worthy archnemesis in the Blood Breeds (basically vampires, except not super lame like *cough* Seraph) and I assume that will present the major conflict throughout the rest of the show. Within Libra, I’m consistently amazed at how natural and confident the characters are. I initially voiced some worries that Zapp would be a generic hothead and Leo would be overly-explainy with his thoughts. Neither of these two things has happened; in fact, Zapp is probably my favorite character in the show, though whether that’s due to his prevalence in comedic scenes or not I don’t know and don’t care. I don’t mean to imply the rest of the cast is poor either; Leo is a solid enough main protagonist, Klaus alternates between goofball and badass incredibly smoothly (a development established for good with an otherwise kind of out of place but nonetheless enjoyable episode three), Steven A. Starphase possesses a Spike Spiegel level of cool beyond just his name, K.K. is Libra’s resident badass alpha woman, Chain has barely done anything at all and she’s still super lovable, and White promises to be an awesome addition to the series with a role Rie Kugimiya has absolutely nailed thus far.

And now I’m just gushing, but what else can I say? The action and actual premise is probably the weakest part of the show, yet it still commands an ungodly keen sense of tension and/or intentional silliness. I’m still not sure where Blood Blockade Battlefront is going, but it has me hooked and I’m happy to be along for the ride.

Also this show’s OP and ED are the best OP and best ED this season and without a doubt hard-to-top frontrunners for best themes of the year in their respective categories. So good. Everything in this show rocks. BBB is essentially perfect right now.
Current score: 9.5/10
Still watching?: Yes.

Harubro: (episodes seen: 4)
I’m calling it right here and now, Show of the Spring right here, possibly even Show of the Year.

I was really curious if and how BBB would improve upon that amazing pilot, and surely enough, it did. This show, its world, its music, its characters, its settings, and its details, they all just ooze character. BBB has captivated me episode in and episode out in ways I haven’t seen since Kyousougiga, go figure. Yeah, I’ve rated some shows as a 10 since it aired, but none since have been quite as mesmerizing, and Rie Matsumoto’s direction surely has played parts in why these two shows’ stories just ensnare my attention.

The minimal infodumping and the methodical attention to detail with the worldbuilding, animation, and shot framing are big aspects, for one. This show lets its conversations do its talking, and the gags are well-timed and executed. The characters of this series are all endearing in their own unique ways, and almost all have some of the best names I’ve seen in a show yet, none better than the aptly-named newcomer “Lucky” Blitz T. Abrams, who makes the greatest entrance to a show ever in the fourth episode. BBB lets you get a feel for the characters’ relationships with one another with their body language and tone of their conversations and never tries to force the inter-character familiarity on the viewer, opting to let them just soak the details up as they appear. This show really doesn’t talk down to its viewers the way some of these shows can. I love the random vignettes of the daily life of Hellsalem’s Lot that pop up here and there. The jazzy musical score has continued to be god-tier, and the OP and ED of this show are also by far my favorites this season. I already loved Bump of Chicken and liked Unison Square Garden before this show, and I dig their offerings for this show. That little monkey Sonic, apparently a hard drinker, is the best small companion character this season. This show is just unbelievably good stuff in a rather lukewarm season right now.

Side note from Haru: Libra really needs to drink better beer.

Enough praising, already. Kudos to you if you’re already watching BBB. If you’re not watching it, you damn well should be. Get watching.
Current score: 9/10
Still watching?: Yes.

L-K: (episodes seen: 4)
Man, this show is continually blowing its competition out of the water. I love how the vibe feels like a slightly sillier Samurai Champloo, and the humor is really exceptional. Each episode has its own unique gags, like the farm animal sounds surrounding Lucky Abrams and, well, Lucky Abrams, and they all mesh together super well for an overall incredibly enjoyable experience. One of the things I like a lot about the show so far is that despite it being more episodic, each episode really flows well into the next. It’s a strength Rie Matsumoto showed with Kyousougiga, and I’m glad to see that tradition of hers alive and well.

The Alterworld may be my favorite part of the show, there’s a lot of fantastic design with all the M.C. Escher-esque reality-bending going on, and there’s a lot of creative techniques going on there like abnormal framing choices. It all really lends itself to be incredibly interesting and sufficiently unsettling. The score for those bits also reminds me a lot of the OFF soundtrack by Alias Conrad Coldwood, and that’s a huge plus in my book, because if that game did anything right—and it did a lot right—it was aesthetic.

I really like White, even though she didn’t have a whole lot of screen time. I’m surprised actually how well Rie Kugimiya (a.k.a. Kyousougiga’s Koto) gets you to like her character despite this, and I loved how they introduce her character in episode two and immediately after introduce you to the ending theme, which is also spectacular. I’m really looking forward to seeing what her character has to offer, as I’m certain she and her brother have a lot more to them than we can currently imagine.

Overall it’s looking like this show is going to take the rest of this season’s content by storm, and I have to say I’m quite down with that.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching?: Most definitely.

FATE/STAY NIGHT: UNLIMITED BLADE WORKS

God dammit, Tousaka…

L-K: (episodes seen: 16)
The fuck happened to Saber? I have to say I’m disappointed how she’s basically been removed from the show, I’m going to be real pissed if they halt her character development entirely for the sake of it being Tousaka’s arc. I guess such is the life when you’re watching a visual novel adaptation. But really though, Tousaka is such a weak character, it really bothers me how they don’t focus on any aspect of her backstory and settle for “oh, she’s a tsundere, what do you want?” and kind of leave it at that. I am liking Caster a lot more as a character now that she’s been fully fleshed out, moreover I think it’s a great aspect of the show how your perception of a servant’s character is dependent on how you interpret their historical mythology.

The big let down for me though was how quickly they did away with Illyasviel. I actually watched all of the original Fate/Stay night recently, and while that show was way more harem than this one Illya was actually one of my favorite characters. I would like to have seen more of her in the first season in retrospect, as their decision to all of a sudden flesh out her character in season two only to brutally kill her off an episode later really nerfed her character in my opinion. It was also a shame to see them develop such a cool take on Homunculi for such a short time, with no real indication that it’ll continue to be a part of the show.

To be clear though I do still like the show. It’s a good example of not being afraid to totally change up the status quo and not falling into too repetitive a pattern. The one thing that doesn’t change though does bother me somewhat: Shirou’s character. It’s not a bad thing to have a character so convinced of their outlook that they’re unwilling to compromise, but it begs the question of where the character development lies if they never change their ways. It seems to me like he really just needs to get the shit beaten out of him for anything to change, and honestly that wouldn’t be a bad way to go. I guess we’ll see in the next several weeks if the story will lead to disappointment, or if it’ll manage to pull of a solid ending. I’m hopeful, but still a bit skeptical.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching?: Yep.

FOOD WARS (SHOKUGEKI NO SOUMA)

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Food Whores, everybody. Food Whores.

Yatahaze: (episodes seen: 4)
Ingredients:
1 hotheaded Shounen Jump protagonist with unexplained finesse
1 hotheaded Shounen Jump rival with slightly explained finesse
1 meek girl with an explained lack of finesse
3 cups of water
Squid

Directions:
Pour 3 cups of water into a pot to boil at 322.44 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add all ingredients besides the protagonist and let the pot sit for about 24 minutes.
After it cools down, add the protagonist. Stir vigorously for a minute and then let cool.
Eat with uncooked squid on the side and a porno on the TV once cooled.

Voila, you have Food Wars.

It’s kind of like if Chopped and Kill la Kill had a baby. Don’t think about that analogy too hard, but if it sounds like something that might interest you, the production values are just high enough and the narrative just diverse enough to prevent the show from falling flat on its face or being a monotonous bore. The foodgasms still come weekly, but they also haven’t reached the level of awkwardness that the first episode’s did, so that’s nice. If Food Wars starts trying to take itself seriously, I don’t think I’d be able to buy into that, but for now it’s a successful parody of cooking competitions, shounen battle royales, and fanservice extravaganzas…all at once. It’s not good, but it sure is entertaining, and with a concept like this, that’s kind of all you could realistically expect it to be.
Current score: 5/10
Still watching?: Beyond all logic, yes.

Harubro: (episodes seen: 4)
Jesus, why am I still watching this show?

By all means, I should’ve dropped this show after the first episode, but I am still here. This show is just too damned ridiculous, but it’s fully aware of that. Though it hasn’t really topped that outlandish pilot episode, it’s managed to stay watch-worthy for me only because it’s managed to keep an idiotic grin plastered on my face almost every minute I’ve watched it thus far. There’s not really a serious bone in this show’s body, evident by the shit ton of fan service, the befuddling size and system of the culinary school, or the ludicrous foodgasms that happen multiple times per episode. Even Souma had the tables turned against him when he tried some of his newfound dormmate/future rival in the making’s cooking, though his foodgasm was tame in comparison to all the ones that preceded it.

This show is a total joke, and I mean that in the most positive way that I can type it. It shouldn’t work, but it does, and it’ll figure out a way to get a laugh out of most of you. I’ve showed bits of the pilot to a bunch of my friends, and I get confused yet hearty laughter out of all of them.

Indeed, Food Whores has left me asking for seconds… or would it be fifths at this point?
Current score: 5.5/10
Still watching?: Yes.

GHOST IN THE SHELL: ARISE – ALTERNATIVE ARCHITECTURE

“And over here to the right we have some lovely invasion of privacy…”

L-K: (episodes seen: 4)
GITS is another tough one. It unquestionably has the best sound this season, though being what it is I’m sure they had a larger budget and more time, so that isn’t unexpected. What’s hard to judge though isn’t really so much the quality of the show or the story, but the adaptation to TV. The sad part is that one of the things I miss most from the original Arise is this bumper.

I wasn’t really happy with the re-edit for border four (episodes 1-2), since it cut out a lot of good context that took away from the tone when it was missing, but I did really like seeing border one (episodes 3-4) as TV episodes. It felt like a better looking, more mindfuck-y standalone complex, which is exactly what I wanted out of Arise to begin with. However they left out a really crucial bit in episode four that really put me off.

In the scene where Batou and Saito lead Kusanagi, as a suspect, to Aramaki, they cut out a whole bit after she gets the phantom pain again where Batou talks about how even after cyberizing your body “your brain never forgets the original”, and why ghost pain exists in the first place. But then Kusanagi says something really freaking important, and remember that this is all cut out in the TV version: “I don’t have an ‘original’ body”. This information really sets the tone for Kusanagi’s true nature, having been made a full cyborg at birth by an EMT following the death of her parents while she was still in the womb, she questions her very existence for what it is—nothing but data accumulated from experiences never felt truly firsthand. Leaving out such an important bit of character can’t really be overlooked, but the damage isn’t necessarily fatal. On it’s own episodes three and four are highly enjoyable, and it’s only from my having seen the originals that my frustration lies. Even someone who is watching Alternative Architecture as their first foray into Arise isn’t necessarily robbed either, as they can always just watch the originals and be further wooed by their superior experience.

Experience is a key word as well however, as for someone who owns all four Arise Blu-rays as well as a surround sound playback system, I feel obligated to say the show isn’t nearly as good in stereo. Cornelius’s score was designed for 5.1 surround from the ground up, and the difference between surround sound and stereo is essentially in this case like the difference between stereo and mono. His score really wraps around and envelops you as elements paint themselves all around the room, and it isn’t just the score either. The scenes when the major is accessing the net are freaking killer in surround, and I know for a fact that the next couple episodes (border two) will really be a let down, as the re-recording mixer really went adventurous with the surrounds there and it makes for a really unique viewing experience for those few that are able to appreciate it that way.

Now that that’s all been said, should you watch Alternative Architecture? Hell yeah. It’s still downright amazing, has fantastic tone and action, really satisfying sound, and a great score by a truly unique artist. Plus, it has this sick OP. Even if you prefer the originals, it’s still worth it to follow the ride along to the new content, and I for one am highly anticipating the rest of this one.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching?: It was never up for questioning.

THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN

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The heroic legend of nearly everyone except Arslan so far.

Yatahaze: (episodes seen: 4)
Arslan is getting off to a fine but not overly-impressive start. Episode two featured a now-slightly older Arslan going off to his maiden battle, one that ended in a spectacular loss for him and Pars’ men. The Lusitanians’ strategy was a clever and believable one: take advantage of the poor weather conditions and Andragoras’ pride and confidence by luring his men into a trap with the help of some inside sources. Arslan is saved by Daryun, a strong and level-headed servant to the royalty, and the two run off to the rural residence of a former strategist named Narsus to hide out and ask for his assistance, though Narsus mostly just wants to paint all day.

And so four episodes into Arslan, the show remains at a pretty consistent level of “yeah, this isn’t bad” and “yeah, this isn’t amazing” at the same time. In every aspect, the series remains serviceable and for lack of a better word, “nice”, but it’s yet to grip me and really earn my interest. It’s doing well enough for me to stick around a while longer, and since the series is following a similar trend to last fall/last season’s Akatsuki no Yona as far as the “lost kingdom/troop buildup adventure/grow the main character along the way” pattern goes, I’m hoping it can deliver a similar result and play a similar role for the coming months. Not much else to report.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching?: Yes.

Harubro:
First things first. Arslan has the most horrendously mismatched OP to a show that I can recall. It’s not even a bad song, per se, but they chose an Uverworld song for a setting like this? Really? This isn’t quite the music I had in mind for a show set in this kind of era.

Aside from that, Arslan has shown quite the flair for the dramatic after that pilot with this grand battle. What was supposed to be an easy victory for the Parsian forces turns into a decisive rout in the Lusitanian army’s favor after some treachery by some of the Parsian king’s men leads the Pars army into a nasty ambush. Arslan barely escapes with his life before being rescued by Daryun, and the two escape to the retreat of one of Daryun’s old friends. Things look very grim for the Kingdom of Pars, as their army is now completely in shambles with the Lusitanians bearing down on the Parsian capital.

Yeah, the CG may have been jarring for the battle, but it certainly did its part demonstrating the vast scale of the battle. The show also did a fair job demonstrating the armies’ tactics, and most of the combat in the show is pretty believable for the most part. Also adding a nice bit of spice for the show is the soundtrack. I will never not be a fan of Taro Iwashiro soundtracks. Oh, and save for the CG bits, the rest of this show is gorgeous.

Arslan has left me sufficiently impressed, so I’ll be sticking around for the beginning of this adventure.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching?: Yes.

L-K: (episodes seen: 4)
Arslan, you surprised me. On the one hand it’s still a mediocre show, with very obvious plot developments and little nuance to speak of, but there are some really good moments at least, and best of all it keeps things moving. There are some really strong scenes and the general progression seems well enough conceived. The best thing so far is that there aren’t really any annoying characters to speak of, so at least I can watch it without clenching my forehead through half the episode. I think one of the reasons I like it so much though may just be that it really makes me want to play Total War Shogun 2, and I have been, and it’s been great.

The battle scenes do kind of leave something to be desired; I think the show fails somewhat in capturing the sense of scale that is implied by the context, and it takes a toll when the show tries to do a large action sequence. The predictability is also not a friend here, and when it’s super obvious to the viewer that something isn’t going to go right it isn’t really as compelling to see things not go right, even if they did drop a ton of people into a pitch ditch and light them on fire.

The sound in this show is pretty solid, though I do take issue with some of the design choices. Whenever someone sheaths their sword you hear a long ring-out, though it would in reality do the opposite. But of course I’m the only person who cares about that sort of thing, so I’m sure that won’t be a problem for most of you. There is some great abstract work in the sound job, particularly in episode three. It’s a little over the top for my taste, but it does the job well.

Overall I’m looking forward to see where they take this show, as they hinted at some decent themes in the first episode and it’s proven it can pull of an important story beat fairly well. I just pray to Seldon it won’t make me eat those words later.
Current score: 5.5/10
Still watching?: Yes.

IS IT WRONG TO TRY TO PICK UP GIRLS IN A DUNGEON? (DANMACHI)

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tfw there are no girls to pick up in a dungeon

Harubro:
There is something seriously wrong with me.

By all means, I should not be sticking with this show, but I’m still here. Maybe it’s how pretty the show is, or the passable conversations in comparison to some of the total crapfests going on this season. There do seem to be some decent developments and machinations going on with this show. Perhaps I’m watching this to keep my perspective on shows in some sort of check? DanMachi at its worst certainly isn’t the worst show this season, and at its best, it has some fun and really damn pretty moments. Yeah, it’s a bit of a titfest and is showing obvious signs (as if the title wasn’t enough) of going the harem route. Maybe I’m sticking with this because of the ardent Suzupin fan in me.

I’m ultimately confused by this show, as there really isn’t a good reason for me to watch it, but it’s sure as hell entertaining me more than some of the other shows have failed to do this season. For the time being, this show is ultimately harmless popcorn. Let’s see if this is still around for the next writeup.
Current score: 5.5/10
Still watching?: inexplicably, yes.

KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA: BATTLE FOR PLANET NINE

Sidonia

Sure, go ahead and do the good luck handshake thing that always leads to bad luck. I wonder where this is gonna go…

Yatahaze (episodes seen: 3)
Ugggghhhhhh, Sidonia’s one of those shows I just want to kick back and enjoy and not have to write about, but that’s just not how I work, so…

Battle For Planet Nine is Sidonia is as Sidonia does. I’m almost worried the series is rushing a bit. I don’t know the speed of Nihei’s original material, but a lot of things seem to be happening pretty quickly now. From what I can tell, Ochiai’s plan is going somewhat smoothly and Kobayashi’s taking some brave initiative sending the ship to attack the Gauna mothership head-on. With Sasaki’s indication that very few of the Gardes will be prepared with new tech before the offensive, I’m predicting this will probably end in a horrible defeat. The introduction of the chimera Tsumugi Shiraui opened up the gateway for some interesting ideas, but she’s mostly been used for awkward girl gags so far, minus that scene where the near entirety of Sidonia’s passengers say loudly and clearly they want nothing to do with her and…you know, her entry into the Gauna at the end of the episode three. No biggie there, right?

For me, Sidonia’s visual work seems slightly more refined this season, though it comes with a minor loss of clarity of the behind the scenes stringpulling. I’m not really sure where Sidonia’s going right now, and while I guess that’s a good thing, it also makes it pretty tough to discuss, seeing as it’s also never been a show I’ve liked to analyze, mostly on account of the harem-y and at times sterile character work. Whatever your opinions were of season one, I have a feeling they’re the same for this. For me, that feeling is one of passive enjoyment while I’m watching it and one of little hype or amazement at all other times. That sounds overly negative, but I don’t mean it to be. It seems weird to call Sidonia a popcorn watch, as it doesn’t have the qualities a lot of popcorn shows do (such as episodic narratives, an immediate and enjoyable cast, etc.), but that’s a role it’s filling for me this season, and as with all popcorn shows, sometimes it’s better to just sit back and say “yep, this is still this show” and let that be it. I’m hoping it exceeds that position by the end of the season, but it’s an acceptable and spiritually ambitious work at the end of the day anyway, so even if it stays at this level the whole way through, Sidonia’s doing alright. Curious where we’re going from here.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching?: Yes.

L-K: (episodes seen: 4)
Alright, so I couldn’t find volume one of the manga anywhere and I eventually caved and marathoned the whole thing. I have to say I love the look and feel of the show. Not necessarily so much the animation or character design, but rather the tone of the show. The way the command room looks, the way ships launch out of the tubes, the way the captain carries herself, the horror elements of the show, it all really sells itself well and creates a great atmosphere for the show. It also sounds excellent (though the new OP is total crap). The environment and ship design are top notch as well, and I do really like how they try to at least keep some notion of realistic physics with regards to how the ships move throughout space.

As for the second season, so far I’m a little less wooed than I was with season one. I’m not really a fan of Tsumugi’s character, though the next episode may remedy that. Also seriously, fuck parasites. The show’s greatest strength so far is definitely its solid “fuck your status quo” attitude. I like how there’s a constant feel of things moving forward and changing circumstances, and it really makes you want to continue the show even if you’d already decided you want to read the manga instead, apparently. I’m really hoping they don’t totally fuck it up later.
Current score: 6.5/10
Still watching?: At least until I pick up the manga.

MIKAGURA SCHOOL SUITE

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Dropped. Not from Mikagura Academy, but from my Watch List, ryui.

Harubro:
Yeah, I would’ve dropped this show on episode 3, but I ended up watching episode 4 anyway. Good thing I did, because the latter ended up being far more photogenic than the former. By “photogenic,” I mean it had a few more reaction faces that I could actually use to accurately convey my feelings about Mikagura School Suite.

If it had tried even a little bit (aside from blatant infodumping) to actually develop their characters beyond their typical tropes, then we could’ve had a workable show here. Instead, we have another flop of a Vocaloid adaptation hammering the same obnoxiously played out caricatures so repetitively it becomes mind-numbing. Seriously, this show makes Mekakucity Actors look like a great show in comparison. The battles were mildly fun to watch, but they don’t measure up at all to the battles going on in other shows this season. This one is as good as dropped.
Final score: 3/10
Dropped after 4 episodes.

ORE MONOGATARI!! (MY LOVE STORY!!)

OreMono

Madhouse, you’re having too much fun with these faces.

Yatahaze: (episodes seen: 4)
I wasn’t full of shit when I pointed out that as silly as OreMono’s premise seemed, it was only that: a silly premise. Takeo presents a goofy dynamic by default given the expectations of a shoujo lead character, but that doesn’t mean the show itself isn’t going to escape the other genre staples that define almost all shoujo. For better or worse, I was right. What that means to you depends entirely on what you look for in a shoujo show.

If you’re like me and don’t care too much about obvious shoujo-isms and you want to see the story progress a bit more, you might be pleasantly surprised in some areas and disappointed in others. Suna is a great character, though Yamato is almost as unpalatably sugary sweet as all the food she bakes and Takeo is great as a gag, but dull as a narrator. To keep things interesting, these last few weeks he literally held up a falling steal beam and jumped from at least a story up out of a burning building after saving two of Yamato’s friends who made fun of him behind his back. What I’m trying to say is Takeo’s too goddamn strong and nice. Yamato’s also too goddamn nice. They can be endearing, but more often than not I see these two and feel like they lack any opportunity to go beyond obvious archetypes. There’s no tension to their relationship. Everything is goody gumdrops. Whether or not that will change, I don’t know, but right now OreMono is leaning heavily on the “comedy” side of “romantic-comedy”, and not a particularly diverse one.

That said, the show can be pretty silly. From the reaction faces to all of Takeo’s gags (both of which I thought would’ve worn off by now, but they seem to be one-upping themselves), there’s still enough to enjoy with each new episode of OreMono, but I also can’t help but feel like this show could also be exponentially better if it had given its characters some more realistic characterization. Not bad enough to drop yet nor a great highlight each week, OreMono is settling into that solid “eh, whatever” category. I’ll give it a few more weeks and see where I stand on it then.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching?: Yes.

Harubruh:
….and here I have one of the more difficult shows for me.

I think that at its core, Ore Monogatari is a good show. It’s really adorable and the unorthodox un-pretty-boy protagonist in Takeo is a breath of fresh air, and his interactions with his deadpan pretty-boy childhood friend Suna are decent, as is the too pure (and a tad unlucky) for this world Yamato, but for some reason this show just doesn’t really grab my attention. I can get a few minutes into an episode, but this show just seems so vanilla that my mind begins wandering off.

It’s typically shoujo pretty, and I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who would like this show, but this show is just sort of lost on me. For me, this show is going to be a rare drop that I’d probably recommend to fans of the shoujo genre. I’m just at a point where I need to begin making better use of my time, and that means cutting down on shows I ultimately can’t fully invest myself in.
Final score: 6/10
Dropped after 3 episodes.

OREGAIRU 2

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Our protagonist trio’s teen romantic comedy SNAFU isn’t just theirs anymore.

Yatahaze: (episodes seen: 4)
With all sequels, the hype of enjoyable media returning often masks any flaws or shortcomings in the start of its run. Now that the dust has settled, the question must be asked: is this season of Oregairu on par with the first?

Short answer? No.

Long answer? It’s undeniably a million times better. Get ready for way too many words about fictional teenagers.

Oregairu’s first season was characterized by a trio of fantastic main characters who dug deep into each other and their surroundings while trying to keep a safe distance from the things they felt could potentially hurt them. The animation and art were only serviceable, and poor side gags littered the otherwise surprisingly solid narrative. Oregai2, as I’ve lovingly dubbed this season, has consistently only focused on the absolute best of what season one had to offer by scrapping nearly every cringy joke and upping the animation and visuals in a way that highlights the distance between the characters, objects and body language and all. The shot framing is more purposeful, comparing this and the first season’s animation fluidity is like comparing a rock and a waterfall, and the refined characters and heavier themes make this season feel more fittingly mature for a work all about kids in their latter years of high school.

The last few weeks are easily the tensest and densest the franchise’s anime adaptations have gotten yet. Hachiman volunteers to be used to prevent Hayama’s clique from falling apart, but like the cultural festival arc at the end of season one gets chewed out for how he feels like he has to be everyone’s go-to butt-monkey: someone to act as a mutual enemy to unify opposing forces afraid of falling apart. He thinks acting like this is natural for him, his role in the high-school hierarchy, and he shuts out any responses that may suggest otherwise. In sneering at the superficial bonds that hold together Hayama and his group of friends, Hachiman shows a hypocritical weakness; he’s the ones holding their superficial bonds together.

Or is he? The consequences of his actions aren’t always heroic, and he hurts from this too, as much as he doesn’t want to admit it. Yukino, Yui, Hayama, Hiratsuka-sensei…basically all the people close enough to him feel that pain too; they don’t want to see Hachiman go down this route, because he’s only selling himself short in order to maintain his downtrodden philosophy and self-fulfill his prophecy of emotional seclusion. He’s just a grumpy alienated teenager, not a hero.

Yukino in particular takes great offense to this, because while she initially connected with Hachiman over their mutual contempt of the “superficiality” of high school, she’s already starting to move past this while Hachiman stays in his shell. Yukino adapted to the superficiality of school by finding solace in a select friendship or two and genuinely trying to help people. Unlike Hachiman, she allows her aid to others to uplift her, and she’s growing increasingly frustrated now that she’s realized he’s staying stagnantly stubborn and internally upset with himself over the way in which he handles things. She’s especially annoyed because the way he sacrifices himself allows the people they help to maintain the surface status quo that he says he despises while causing damage underneath. Hayama is also growing irritated with how Hachiman resolves matters, but he’s stuck in between a rock and a hard place, feeling guilty about entrusting Hachiman to play the role he can’t. Seeing Hayama stick up for Hachiman in episode 4 was certainly something. Hayama knows it’s not what Hachiman wants, but he, misguided good guy that he is, also knows the kind of treatment Orimoto and her friend exhibited on their day off was what caused Hachiman to roll up into himself and become the person he is today. Hachiman won’t admit he wants help, but Hayama is doing what he can to show Hachi that he could find true friendship if he would only seek it, especially with the people already close to him. At the same time, Hayama completely misses the point with his afternoon of baiting Orimoto and her friend into this hole. It doesn’t really help Hachiman at all. These two characters are perfect foils, living wrapped up in opposite realities, and they have a great dynamic that Oregairu’s first season only scratched the surface of.

Meanwhile, Yukino, Yui, and possibly Hayama too are all planning to run against Iroha to show how their way of settling concerns is the best way. Haruno continues to manipulate everyone’s emotions at her whim for some cheap laughs and to – I assume – backhandedly encourage her younger sister to step out of her shadows. While I focused on Hachiman and Hayama, nearly every character this season has exhibited their most selfish wishes and ideas on the rest of the cast, and the tension is so thick you’d need a chainsaw to cut it. The developments of Oregai2 are uncannily similar to the state of the franchise itself: this is the point where the characters are trying to get one another to realize their worth and how much they can mean to each other if only they would tear down the unnecessary walls and coping mechanisms they’ve built up. Season one was lined with filler and completely unnecessary moments that tried to draw the viewer in but only muddled the narrative in a wincingly obvious and pointless fashion. By clearing those moments (and now that I think about it, almost all of the comedy) out, Oregai2 is a purely character-driven teen drama that can finally attack the contradictions of its characters’ naïve philosophies in a way that doesn’t feel separated from the overall tone of the show. Everyone in Oregairu is broken, and it’s nice to see the team behind this season hone in on that. It’s not worth sacrificing yourself to be anything less than you can be, no matter how normal and/or fucked up the situation may seem. The shorthand English title SNAFU has never fit this series as well as it does right now, and I’m loving every second of it.
Current score: 9.5/10
Still watching?: Of course.

Harubro:
And Thus, Oregairu Continued Impressing Everyone With Its Rather Ominous Teenage Drama.

Perhaps it is due to the fact that there’s not a whole lot of shows on a tier comparable with this airing this season, but I cannot even begin to put into words how much I’ve missed this series’ overall pragmatic yet lively tone.

As alive, as relatable, and as sometimes hard-hitting as OreGairu’s first season was, this season already has me floored with how it has preceded. We’ve seen the important characters take major steps in their development, be it the tenuous conflict of procedure between Hikki and Yukinoshita, the drastic steps towards self-advancement Yuigahama took in the most recent episode, Hayato’s rather estranged friendship(?) with Hikki, or the elder Yukinoshita sister’s manipulations only exacerbating the issues at hand, this show has been chock full of social suspense. I love it.

Remember Hikki’s ‘I hate nice girls’ monologue midway through the first season? It may have seemed rather harsh at the time, but after seeing the type of people the Hikki had to deal in his past with the two run-ins with some old classmates, the elder Yukinoshita and Hayato, one can sort of understand how 8man’s rather warped thought process came from. Seeing Hayato confront those girls after their constant ridicule of Hikki (right in his face, no less) was probably one of the best moments this series has presented thus far. How pro was Hayato trying his hand at Hikki’s methods? The resulting conversation was something else, too, the most striking line for me being when he asked Hikki to stop sacrificing himself to resolve these tough situations. Seriously, this is heavy stuff.

How about Yuigahama, too? Her taking things into her own hands for once by running for student council against her friends, and her rather cryptic confession to Hikki, which I’m not all that sure he realized exactly what she said.

This show keeps hitting it out of the park with every new episode, and Feel has done more than its share improving upon the visuals. The animation is much cleaner, the lighting is handled better, and the shot framing is in a world of its own compared to the first season. As a cherry on top of everything, this show also has my second favorite OP this season. I eagerly anticipate more OreGai-two with bated breath.
Current score: 9/10
Still watching?: Duh.

L-K: (episodes seen: 4)
This is definitely one of the best put together shows this season. The writing is solid, the characters both likable and believable, the humor is there, the OP (whyyy did they change the OP??), the animation, everything is basically passing grade. So why am I not as crazy about it as other people are? Well for one, I haven’t been on a slice of life kick in ages, so even if I am enjoying it considerably I’m not really all that interested in the stuff that’s going on in the show. Being a college graduate with little to reminisce on from high school I don’t really care about high school politics or any of that, and I’ve said so before, but it’s pretty exceptional how the show holds my attention despite that.

The characters in this show are by far its greatest strength. The dynamics of their goals and interactions are well thought out and woven together, and I am genuinely invested in seeing how Hikigaya’s character will develop past his stubborn self disregard. If it ever gets there, that is. In that sense this show actually reminds me a good deal of Fate, with both Hikigaya and Emiya dead set on their world view while constantly being challenged by others to see why their attitude is wrong (though in Fate’s case it’s a little more ambiguous). The key with both of these shows is going to be where the main character ends up, and I’m skeptical for this one, because it feels like the type of show it wants to be is the kind that I find least powerful. I think if I had to categorize my distaste for slice of life shows that would be the best way to put it. I do harbor some hope however, that the creators are smart enough to do something more with what they’ve got than simply make a moderately satisfying up ending and leaving it at that.

On that note, here’s looking forward to seeing Yuigahama get crushed by reality (wishful thinking).
Current score: 6/10
Still watching?: Yeah whatever.

PLASTIC MEMORIES

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The cake isn’t a lie.

Yatahaze: (episodes seen: 4)
Plastic Memories got off to a strong start, but I had second thoughts when it come to guessing how well the series could properly build off itself. What we’ve gotten since its debut is clumsy antics and dragged out “humor” that limps pretty hard but has a heart of gold and solid ideas it’s not quite sure how to tackle. As predicted, it was revealed at the end of episode two that Isla only has a bit under three months worth of time left before she herself needs to be terminated. She’s getting jobs out of pity because of her strong silent will, and while I can’t tell if she’s always been like this, she clearly doesn’t want to be much more than a helper with everyday tasks. Isla is presented as the most android-like android we’ve encountered thus far, and I think this stems out of a fear of getting to be more involved with people knowing that her time is almost up. She doesn’t want to make any last minute memories she knows she’ll have to abruptly erase.

This contrasts well with the retrieval of episode four, when Souta, an “android child” (a kid who was primarily raised by an android) tries to deny ever having memories of his optimistic and kind soon-to-be-terminated mother figure Marcia. After a lot of difficulty from Souta and more than a few questionable realities the show just kind of throws out there (the kid has to sign the release form? wtf), Marcia throws Souta a birthday party with the help of the two main retrieval teams. It promised to be a bittersweet end until an obviously shady man showed up the next morning and claimed he was with SAI to take Marcia away.

And here lie a few of Plastic Memories’ major problems: there is almost no subtlety to this ending cliffhanger whatsoever. The danger of “black market retrievers” was plainly alluded to earlier in the episode, so this event was hardly surprising and thus had little impact. It was too predictable, not to mention how cartoony and goofy the retriever looked. Much the same way Isla’s decline was too obvious from the start, this proves my theory that one of the biggest problems of Plastic Memories’ plotline is that what’s going to immediately happen next is just a little too obvious. This affects the characters too, as while Isla and Tsukasa remain a perfectly acceptable duo to lead the show and Michiru is fine character in her own right, combining them gives way to a fit of tsundere-isms and cliché anime tropes that drag the show not just down a little bit, but straight into the mud. Episode three was almost entirely one long, tedious, and humorless dragged out “joke” about Michiru misinterpreting Tsukasa’s actions while moving in with Isla and trying to get her to notice him. It felt, fittingly enough, recyclable, and those are the kinds of moments that shroud the future of this series in doubt. When it wants to be good, Plastic Memories can deliver a competent if not slightly too obvious drama with light sci-fi themes. When it thinks it doesn’t need to do that, we get dull predictable banter that drives forward no plot, develops no characters, and really has no worth.

So needless to say, this show is in a precarious spot right now. I don’t think it will pull through as a season highlight, but I think it has just enough gusto and ideas to stay watchable until the end. If it could concentrate on its heavier topics and build some actual team camaraderie, Plastic Memories would be more than just alright, and in my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons, but only for the moment. What comes next is anyone’s guess. Here’s to hoping this show works out.
Current score: a generous 7/10
Still watching?: Yes.

Harubro:
After that rather dumb gag-filled third episode, I was starting to become concerned that we had two Doga Kobo flops in one season on our hands. Fortunately, the show hit its stride once more with the latest episode. With it, I think this show has clued us in on what the main focuses of the show’s plot will be: The mortality of the Giftias, the ethics of these androids ultimately becoming surrogate family members and then their suddenly having to be ripped away, and these illicit Giftia retrieval goons that have just been introduced. All ideas that have ultimately been done before, but this show has definitely shown some inspired moments.

I was afraid that this show was going to go to gag hell following the pilot, but Plastic Memories seems to have assuaged most of my concerns for the time being. The occasional gag is fine, or even having the handfuls that the second and fourth episodes had is fine too, but this really isn’t the kind of series to build around gags. Yeah, Isla and Tsukasa have some pretty funny reactions to things, as do most of the side characters, but I really don’t want the funny faces (which are sort of DogaKobo’s affinity) to get played out on played out gags, you know? Also, as Yata also alluded to, the exposition is a tad flawed, with the most notable bit being the illicit Giftia pickup guy bit at the end of the fourth episode being utterly predictable after that meeting with the SAI bigwigs. The sad attempt at foreshadowing kind of sucked the punch out of what could have actually been a decent cliffhanger.

This show has most of the pieces set for what could be some good drama, and I really hope it can make good on them when it comes time to execute. I’ll be sticking around for more, but this show had best limit the gaffes from here on.
Current score: 6.5/10
Still watching?: For now, yes.

L-K: (episodes seen: 4)
Plastic Memories sort of took a dive the past couple weeks, and it’s made it really hard to write about this show. Do I like it? Yes. Should I like it? Not really. The humor has taken a turn for the worse and there’s a lot of stuff out of left field since because anime, and the show also has a knack for getting super cheeseballs at the end of each episode, and it’s exactly the kind of things I hate in an anime, especially one about a subject I like so much.

I’ve been trying to logically figure out why I’m still even watching, but I don’t really have a clue. The cast isn’t particularly strong, the gags are pathetic, there isn’t a whole lot to the main character more than tea, and the show can overall just get really fucking stupid at times. I guess I’m just really hoping for at least some substance or creativity regarding the concept of androids and the themes that come along with such stories, or maybe I’m just a weaboo fuck who likes shy girls. I guess we’ll find out.
Current score: 4/10
Still watching?: I guess so.

PUNCH LINE

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What is this show even.

Yatahaze: (episodes seen: 4)
After Punch Line’s first episode, I thought to myself “you know, this would probably be pretty great if they dropped the whole panties shtick,” and while it didn’t completely eliminate that aspect of its premise, man, has it mostly focused on other stuff since. A few episodes spent alongside Yuuta in spirit (I can make puns too) have shown us quite naturally that the four female leads have a great bouncy back-and-forth energy. Said energy eventually gets so big and their patience so thin that it threatens to split the housemates apart.

Since Punch Line has primarily focused on its female quartet the last few weeks, whether or not you find their interactions as personality-filled and fun as I do will make or break this show for you. Although if the NSA guy, the cat, and the Qmay terrorists have anything to say in the matter, Punch Line could wind up a story that starts revolving around a group of friends and ends revolving around the near-end of the world. It can change moods effortlessly and I’m sure we’ve only brushed the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the absolutely zany content this show has prepared for us. In a way, (and I know this isn’t “anime”, but bear with me) it reminds me of Regular Show; it’s about a group of eccentrics who live in a park (I think) and might be setting the world up for destruction before it’s ultimately up to them to turn the situation around. The vigor is the same, the exchanges are smooth, and the way Punch Line comfortably adds more and more absolutely nonsensical things to its story is heavily reminiscent of that Cartoon Network hit. Stylistically, with Punch Line, MAPPA do Trigger better than Trigger do themselves. It’s already a divisive series, and the occasional panty jokes do get tiresome since Yuuta is currently the weakest link in the show as a whole, but unless Punch Line collapses in on itself in the end, I don’t see myself losing interest anytime soon.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching?: Yes.

Harubro:
Repeat after me, everyone.

Trigger did not make this show.
Trigger did not make this show.
Studio Trigger did not make this show.
MAPPA did make Punchline.

Good, now that we’ve got that out of our system, now we can concentrate on the review. Punchline has largely stuck with the schtick it started us off with in the pilot, while still staying centered on the plot of just who the hell is possessing Yuta’s body. All the while, we’ve conveniently been told that an asteroid is going to hit the Earth, coinciding with the consequence of Yuta not controlling his superpower triggered by panties.

Yep, just another week with Punchline, guys. As Yata mentioned, if you look past the silly panty schtick, this show actually figures out a way to work most of the time. It’s done an okay job building the framework of the plot around the zany antics of these neighbors, solid enough to elicit me sticking around to see where they intend to take this “doomsday asteroid of doom” thing.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching?: Somehow, yeah.

L-K: (episodes seen: 1.5)
I have no preconception of an idea what Yata is smoking, because this show is absolute garbage and I refuse to give it any more of my time.

In fact I won’t even write about it. Watch me.

RIN-NE (KYOUKAI NO RINNE)

Rinne

“Hey, Yata. Why are you still watching this?” Wednesdays are pretty fucking boring I guess

Yatahaze: (episodes seen: 4)
Sometimes an extremely bland show will slip through the cracks and become something I keep watching solely because it was better than some of the trash I was wading through during first impressions week.

This season, Rin-ne is that show.

I was not aware it was meant to be a kid’s show – hell, it’s airing on the NHK so that should’ve made it obvious, but somehow that fact escaped me. In a way, the forced simplicity of the show to fit children’s demographic guidelines kills a lot of the drive it could’ve had. Somehow, it still managed to keep me vaguely interested solely as a popcorn watch. Rokudou is a reined-in kind of cheeky and his grandma and cat/servant/thing could produce some dull chuckles, though Sakura is as bland as a main character can get, and the new boy Tsubasa feels predictably jealous already. Even still, this show doesn’t have any intrinsic good or bad moments. The only objectively poor thing in it is the sluggish animation quality, but in all other aspects, Rin-ne is the very definition of “average”. It isn’t good or bad, it just…exists. It’s just there. That should be enough of a reason to drop it now, just as it should’ve been a few weeks ago, but…well, look how that turned out. I’m still here somehow. Going forward? I honestly don’t know.
Final score: 5/10
Still watching?: Nah.

SERAPH OF THE END

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Same, dude.

Yatahaze: (episodes seen: 3)
I’m sorry, I can’t. I just…

Was this story written by a 13-year-old?

The dialogue is sluggish and unnatural, the characterization is piss-poor, the setting is filled to the brim with clichés and plot “twists” that you can see coming a mile away and still don’t make any real sense. The vampire fight in episode 2 was cool and the background art has mostly stayed nice, but everything else about Seraph just screams “hype train” for reasons I’ve previously explained. It’s a shame that given Funimation and Toonami’s recent track record, this will probably be anime’s next big hit in the United States. It sure as hell doesn’t deserve to be. Hell, even the core idea (vampires attacking humanity) is inferiorly portrayed here. Want that? Go watch Blood Blockade Battlefront! It’s a million times better! Want the same character motivations and set-up but one that’s actually half-believable? Go watch Attack on Titan for the umpteenth time! But please, for your own sake, don’t try to convince yourself you actually enjoy watching…this…whatever exactly Seraph is.
Final score: 3/10
Still watching?: No.

Harubro:
This has been the most unimpressive hype train show in a long, long time. For all the crap we gave SAO II, at least that show had a handful of redeeming moments. Seraph, though… not so much.

Reading Seraph’s manga was more exciting than watching this show, but that’s not really saying a whole lot. This show is just all kinds of dull. Despite the show’s best efforts, everything thus far has just been a total yawn fest. The Hiroyuki Sawano OP and ED sound like every other Sawano work ever, the narrative is so “been-there, done-that” that it hurts, the character interaction is stale, and their attitudes and archetypes are cardboard-cutout dull. Even the action scenes aren’t that striking, which is a shame, because action stuff is supposed to be Wit Studio’s specialty, that and more watercolor backgrounds.

Yeah, no. Time is becoming a precious premium for me as of late, and I can put the time I would’ve wasted on watching, capping, and writing about this yawn-fest to better use. Sorry Seraph, but this is the end.
Final score: 4/10
Dropped after 4 episodes.

L-K: (episodes seen: 4)
What the fuck is this show even? It feels like a teenager screaming at you “AREN’T I COOL?” while wearing a kidz bop t-shirt. I made it about two minutes into the second episode before its attempts at edginess literally made me choke on my own laughter. The plot is essentially nonexistent, and is rather ignored until a character says something along the lines of “I guess we should continue the plot now”. Not to mention the show is literally the definition of ‘tell’, even to the point where there’s a character I call “Exposition” because I can’t be fucking bothered to remember her name.

I’m done.
Final score: 1.5/10
Still watching?: Take a wild guess.

SOUND! EUPHONIUM

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A sensei, sheet music, and other distress.

Yatahaze: (episodes seen: 4)
I was more than a little uncertain about Euphonium after its pilot aired, mainly cause I felt like it didn’t have any drive, but it’s warmed on me a bit the last few weeks. I didn’t feel invested in the story that much, but as it grew clearer the club was half comprised of people who didn’t really care about what they were doing, it gave a clear conflict for the characters to try and resolve. I can kind of relate to this; though my high-school extracurricular fine arts credit came through choir instead of concert band, the same “if anyone is off, we’re all off” dynamic remains inherent in both activities. Concert band is a group effort, and when a sizable chunk of your members don’t give a fuck, you’re going to have a tough time.

I’m really glad this was made evident with the introduction of glorious Taki-sensei. He’s the greatest. He doesn’t want his time wasted, so when he’s promised the kids will aim for the Nationals and then they make no progress, he’s terse and upset…with a smile. Then when they finally prove their worth after toughing out his rigorous respiratory exercises and connecting a bit more in their sections, he’s still calm as can be and ready to start the real work. Love this guy.

Props for the sound direction too. I imagine it takes quite a bit of effort to intentionally score sections out of time to mimic the sound of an inadequate high-school concert band. The sound didn’t impress me that much on first watch, but as Euphonium’s kept slowly chugging along, it’s grown on me more and more. The quality is pretty obvious now.

The character work is still my least favorite part of this series, but that too is becoming less of a problem slowly but surely. Reina Kousaka is without a doubt the best young character in this show, her frustrated solo trumpeteering a bliss to watch and hear, and Kumiko’s indecisiveness and passiveness is meshing well with the understated and intentionally choppy direction. I still think Midori and Hazuki leave a bit more to be desired, but the upperclassmen are getting more spotlight now and that seriously helps push things along. Going back to Kumiko’s personality, I think it’s weird how fitting she seems as a lead for a show like Euphonium. It’s just kind of there, meekly pressing on, observant and quiet but none for the worse because of it, as she is. Euphonium still isn’t a favorite of mine this season, but I at least appreciate it more now.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching?: Yes.

Harubro:
Surprise, surprise. I’m still here, and I’m actually enjoying Eupho!

I’ve mentioned many times that I have high (sometimes unrealistically high) expectations for Kyoto Animation works, and thought perhaps I had my bar set a little lower considering “KyoAni show about music, mostly girl cast,” but Eupho has actually been a solid watch for me.

I really like the steadfast, no-B.S. style Taki takes with his music lessons, all while wearing the most serene smile on his face. You can tell he intends to hold these kids to their goal of making the National competition and won’t accept anything but the maximum effort towards that goal. We also get a few other nuances of band geek life, like the breathing exercises or practicing with the instruments, and complaining that the director is a hard-ass. The subtle spice of teen drama here and there that is always a must with these slice-of-lifes is sprinkled all throughout the series, as well. Also, KyoAni has been much more subtle about the humor in this show compared to some of its predecessors, and I kind of like it this way. We get a few gratuitous exaggerated reactions, some of which harken back to KyoAni shows of past, and we get just about anything that happens around Asuka, the sometimes obnoxious leader of the bass section. I actually enjoy her zaniness, though, especially the gratuitous foreign languages she uses here and there.

It must be a load of fun for these musicians to have to record intentionally bad playing for the students’ gaffes and actually attempt to make the mistakes sound convincing. I’m also still waiting patiently for a spit valve part. Other than that, I don’t really have much more to add. You’ve got my attention, Brassholes. What direction to you intend to take me now?
Current score: 7/10
Still watching?: Yes.

YAMADA AND THE SEVEN WITCHES

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What do they do? Oh, you know, skip class, hang out, touch themselves in the body of the opposite sex, basic club activities.

Summary: Ryu Yamada, the show’s titular character, is a standard short-tempered “delinquent” who falls down the stairs on top of Urara Shiraishi, a booksmart silent girl. They suddenly swap bodies, and after some trial and error, they realize they can switch bodies if they kiss each other. They’re caught in the act by a student-council member jack-of-all-trades named Miyamura who lets them have some space to do their thing under the façade of a Supernatural Studies Club, which attracts a girl named Itou. After a while, all four swap bodies via kiss at their convenience, but others have their eye on the bunch…

Yatahaze: (episodes seen: 3)
Apologies for not actually getting to this in time for our first impressions article. With the ecchi and harem tags and overall vague summaries, a lot of sources made Yamada and the Seven Witches sound like a lewd sloppy magic-filled show that was worth skipping over. It was only after the first episode was met with surprisingly positive response that I bothered to check it out.

And I’m glad I did, as it’s a competent enough show, but it certainly isn’t a standout of the season. Body-swapping shows can be a huge success or failure depending on how tastefully the experiences a character has posing as someone else are expressed and how well the voice actors (or actors, cause this also applies to live-action) can sell their performances as an alternate character. As far as the voice acting goes, the swapped scenes are impressive enough to keep me hooked and the normal scenes are acceptable in their own right. Once that was confirmed, my concern shifted to the tone, which is unfortunately a little more uneven.

Is it lewd? Sad to say every now and then, yes. It never reaches the level of viewer power fantasy, and the characters stay in character when they naturally react to their new bodies, so I guess that’s a start. Where it most obviously slips is an occasionally (and I really mean occasionally, maybe like 5 to 10 seconds per episode) cringeworthy line or action in which one character tries to take advantage of another’s body. In general, while I wouldn’t call the tone sloppy, it’s clearly underdeveloped and lacks the poise a show like Kokoro Connect had, mostly because the characters themselves are stuck between writing that sometimes tries to make you feel empathetic for them and the simple reality that they’re comedy characters and grounded drama just doesn’t apply well to most of the scenarios they find themselves in. It’s entertaining but not particularly thoughtful or analyzable. The “magic” and “witch” motifs seem to be simply that – motifs, and nothing more, and to be honest I’m kind of glad. It’s just too sketchy a show to operate on magical rules, so if it will steer clear of that the whole time, that would probably be for the best. That said, I don’t have any idea what the source material is like, so maybe it’s just going to come into play later on (though I hope it doesn’t).

And so three episodes in, Yamada and the Seven Witches has acceptable voice acting, a nice enough main quartet of characters, and a mildly amusing representation of a premise that I didn’t think would be pulled off well in the slightest. It’s got some glaring weaknesses in its tone, side characters, and occasional ecchi-bait and I’m not sure I’d recommend it, but it’s also served as a fair enough weekend popcorn watch up until this point, so I’ll stick around for a while longer and see where it goes.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching?: Yes.

Harubro:
Hey guys, remember how there weren’t really any wild-card shows that we covered in our first bit this season? From out of left field, we have Yamada and the Seven Witches.

So, to make things short, we have a high school setting, we have our delinquent Yamada, and the resident smart girl Shiraishi, who inadvertently discover that Yamada has the ability to swap bodies with anyone he exchanges a kiss with. Enter student councilman Miyamura and the UFO-crazed girl Itou, both of whom find out about Yamada’s strange ability, and you get this strange show. Ohhhh boy.

Yamada is obviously a fanservice-y harem in the making, and it absolutely shouldn’t work as a show… but it does, and it works well. This show ended up being more entertaining than a lot of shows airing this season. Yamada has figured out a way to consistently keep me laughing through each episode, and a lot of that has to do with how great the voice acting is in this show. The voice actors and actresses do a really great job mimicking each others’ characters. Watching the normally reserved Shiraishi and the loudmouth Yamada swap personalities elicits a laugh out of me without fail. The show is also adequately good looking, and has its share of pretty moments here and there.

Toss in one of this season’s top three OP/ED combos, and Yamada looks to possibly be the wild card show of the spring. I’m just curious to see how this show proceeds from the Supernatural Club’s establishment.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching?: Yes.

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