Final Thoughts – Spring 2015

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Yes, we’re aware it’s now July and thus already season transition time again. Sorry for the late publishing, but we were holding out for Blood Blockade Battlefront’s finale, which now seems to be on indefinite hiatus, though given the information it will be over a half-hour in length, I think we can expect a great conclusion. We’ll get that to you at some point, but we obviously can’t wait any longer to touch on the rest of this season’s finales. What ended well? What did we not care for yet somehow finish? And what was totally dropped? The answers lie ahead in this season’s final thoughts article!

ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM

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You done good, AssClass. You done good.

Harubro:
Well, I haven’t much more to report on Assassination Classroom. The second cour of the first of what could be a few seasons of AssClass wrapped up nicely, following the end of the island arc. I won’t go into specifics, but this arc went to show how the Class’ training is starting to pay off in both the academics and the assassinations, and for as crazy and out there the whole premise of this franchise is, it’s really what I came to enjoy about it.

At the beginning of the season, the class had a downtrodden attitude and had mostly given up on themselves for their various reasons, and through all the assassination antics and sometimes profound and heartwarming moments, it’s definitely rewarding to see how confident and resolute the Class has become.

Oh, and Korosensei shaming will never, ever get old.

It surely isn’t a contender for show of the year, and the animation quality sagged a bit toward the end, I think due in part to Lerche’s rather strange pursuits for the Summer season. Regardless, if you need a fun little popcorn show with a decent ensemble cast, give Assassination Classroom a shot.
Final score: 7/10

FATE/STAY NIGHT: UNLIMITED BLADE WORKS

God dammit Tousaka…

L-K:
It’s hard to pin down exactly how I feel about this show. I love some of its ideas and character concepts, but the execution is just so shoddy at times it’s hard to stay engaged.

The overall concept was interesting enough, and it was kinda cool to see how they utilized the historical characters and their legends to develop the plot and flesh out each of the servants as a character, but it isn’t really possible to say the show has good character development, because the main story arc is so flawed it really drags down any nuance that may have been. It’s a shame too, because the whole deal with Archer and Shirou’s past / future history is really interesting until they explain it away like 10 times the exact same way.

Shirou is probably one of my least favorite protagonists I’ve seen in a while honestly, he never goes anywhere new and he just randomly gets stronger because it’s expected in order for the story to continue, meanwhile his ideas never change or develop. On the other hand Tousaka is just a typical tsundere, and while they hint at further development they never really go into her past much. She ultimately comes off as 1-dimensional, and even though she has a couple badass moments she mostly just makes me mad.

It’s a pretty weak foundation for the show to base itself on, and if it weren’t for the ridiculous animation and fight sequences I probably wouldn’t really be bothered to care. The show did manage to pleasantly surprise me though with Archer’s true identity and Caster’s motivation. Saber of course is the best developed character in the franchise, and it was a shame to see them brush her aside all season just because someone already made her story arc, because she really is a strong, well conceived character.

Overall it’s hard to love something with such loud flaws, but I did enjoy watching the show at least. The effects animation was pretty darn badass. The score was kind of ass, but the fights did manage to keep my attention, even if they did get kind of ridiculous at times. I think I really just hope someone decides to spend this much money on a show again sometime, because it’s really nice to have everything at least look amazing.
Final score: 5.5/10

FOOD WARS (SHOKUGEKI NO SOUMA)

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Camera angle makes it look like Souma’s gonna try lobotomizing a guy the size of an ant with his mixer. God bless you, J.C. Staff.

Yatahaze:
I hate to admit it, but this show – and all its stupid eccentricities – is actually kind of…good.

There’s a delicate balance of idiocy and structure that needs to go into a show like Food Wars in order for it to come out well. Somehow, it hits that balance perfectly, and consistently. The worst criticism I could throw at it is that occasionally a gag gets repetitive or a plot event is too predictable, but for all intents and purposes, as Food Wars is a comedy shounen, that’s bound to happen. Most impressive is that I somehow legitimately care about almost all of these characters, however one-dimensional or cartoony they can get. I don’t know how Food Wars is pulling this off, and I kind of don’t want to. Just keep it up.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 13 episodes.

Harubro:
Just like all the characters victimized by Soma’s dishes — excluding anything with tentacles, I just keep coming back for more Food Whores. It still hasn’t come close to topping that ridiculous pilot episode, but I am totally fine with that. If it had solely focused on characters making questionable noises as they eat their food while they have hallucinations of meat juice being blown up various orifices of their body, I’d probably have dropped it by now. However, just like the food these characters prepare, this show manages to stay fresh, it manages to keep me on my toes, never knowing what the hell to expect next, and I enjoy that. Soma and Tadokoro’s Shokugeki with the uptight Shinomiya was a fun watch, I’ve really been enjoying this Totsuki Resort camp from Hell arc a ton.

I’m still trying to figure out what the hell “umami” is, though.

My rule with shows that are airing is that if I am not looking forward to when the next episode of a show airs, I usually don’t hesitate to drop it. I do make some rare exceptions to the rule, but the point I’m making is that Food Whores has consistently been a show I look forward to watching as I trudge on at work through the week. It makes me laugh, the characters work well with one another, (I love the Aldini-Yukihira “rivalry”), and the quality has been consistent throughout.

It’ll be a while before we writeup on this one, but I’m very sure I’ll still be watching this come the time for the first Summer progress report.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 13 episodes.

GHOST IN THE SHELL: ARISE – ALTERNATIVE ARCHITECTURE

They really nailed this control room, eh?

Yatahaze:
Not exactly sure what to say again. Having next to no other experience with Ghost in the Shell besides the original 1995 film leaves me with nothing to compare Alternative Architecture’s overall weaknesses or strengths to. My biggest complaint is sometimes the show is a little too information dense, but that’s to be expected given the two-episode adaption format. Otherwise, it’s good ol’ Ghost in the Shell, as far as I can tell.
Final score: 8/10

L-K:
Ghost in the Shell is pretty much always a treat. I liked seeing them culminate the story arcs of Arise together in the final episodes, even if it did leave off with an obvious lead in to the new film in the works. I have to say, I for one am all for the Shibuyakei invasion; all of the music in this series is spot on and fucking sick, and the sound job overall is easily the best out of the shows this season.

As far as the re-edit goes, there were a lot of interesting ideas explored in their redux of the series, so I definitely enjoyed watching it this way. It was really interesting to hear them take out the score in a lot of parts during episodes 5 and 6, it was pretty cool to experience it that way. Again there was a lot of good moments and great context that got left out for the sake of time, but that’s what the films exist for anyway, and I can’t wait to see them give the movie treatment for Pyrophoric Cult. I do hope they have a new end song for it, because my thirst for Cornelius’s work really knows no bounds.

One thing I did notice was that they really kind of nerfed Togusa’s character in a way. In the second film, Innocence, they make a whole deal of how Togusa can’t keep up with the way Batou operates, because he’s a family man and isn’t built like everyone else is with their prosthetic bodies. It culminates in a really fucking intense sequence where they get in a fight with the mob and Togusa nearly gets killed, and it’s really sad to see them ignore that aspect of him. Of course, I have a personal bias towards Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell being canon and all, but that’s not really something I like to argue about.

I do love the new information (unless it’s in the manga?) of how Kusanagi has no original body that they introduce to Arise; I think it really sells her mentality. The other thing that really blew me away was the sequence when V.V. explains what she really is and how she wishes to understand her circumstances, though it was a bit lame that they kind of swept it under the rug to make room for the Firestarter stuff, but given what they did with the new material I don’t really mind. It was also especially cool to see their visual representations of hacking, wrong as they are, it was a cool way to simplify it and make it entertaining and visually impressive.

Great stuff overall, all of the essential elements are definitely there. Looking forward to the new film.
Final score: 9/10

THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN

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no

Harubro:
Oops, I think I may had inadvertently dropped Arslan, at least for the time being. I’m in a pinch for time, plus I’m getting just a tad tired of waiting for the show to start picking up. I may pick this up again in the future if I hear encouraging news on this one, but that’s not looking particularly likely.

Gratuitous Taro Iwashiro namedrop here because that OST is still golden.
Current score: 5/10 – Dropped after 11 episodes.

L-K:
Arslan didn’t really do it for me. I can’t really pin down exactly what it is other than just general mediocrity. There were a lot of ideas that they didn’t go anywhere with yet, so it may just be a case of a decent show that took too long to get anywhere for me to stay interested. It isn’t necessarily that the show is bad per se, it’s just kind of… typical. I may return to it sometime, but I can’t say it’ll every be something I think is really exceptional. Enough of it is solid though that I could see myself bearing through it eventually. Till then, I suppose.
Current score: 5/10 – Dropped after 8 episodes.

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

Heroes voiced by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka just have the strongest asspull.

Heroes voiced by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka just have the strongest asspull.

Harubro:
Yep, I stuck with this one all the way. How the hell I did, I still am trying to comprehend.

I’ll try to keep this one short and succinct – By all means this show was just another generic adventure show with the plot and characters still not really showing anything all that outstanding. Knowing this, J.C. Staff put their hearts and souls into at least making the visuals for this show pop. I like how the lighting and shots were done all throughout the show, plus they took extra care with the fights, which had some of the better choreographing I’ve seen this year.

Though I really wouldn’t recommend this show in its entirety, at the very least I would recommend watching the last episode of DanMachi for the final battle with the Goliath. Hot damn, if that wasn’t one of the more epic battles I’ve seen in a show this year, I don’t know what was. I will give props to DanMachi for at least leaving us with that gift. I do have to call one thing out on that episode, the exposition dumping that went on late in the series and especially egregiously in the final minutes of the last episode, felt just a tad unnecessary.

It is a very flawed series from the get-go, but I can see this being an entertaining watch regardless for most people. You’d be very hard-pressed for this show to get a recommend out of me, but this show definitely has popcorn value for the less picky viewers out there.
Final score: 5/10

KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA: BATTLE FOR PLANET NINE

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KNIGHTS. OF. SPACE-HENTAI-oooooooh fuck what is this

Yatahaze:
Every season, there seems to be a show I struggle to discuss further than “yep, this show is still this show, it’s okay”.

This season Sidonia was that show.

But that’s not meant as criticism. The underdog space mecha that could was only boring at its worst and fairly enjoyable when things would pick up. I’m particularly fond of the final few episodes here; reaching Planet Nine took forever, but the battles fought for it over the last couple episodes were among the best in the series, with an enhanced sense of emotional weight and battle choreography. Nagate even went back underground when all was said and done to visit his childhood home.

And yet I still feel like Sidonia promises more than it delivers. So many plot ends still remain unanswered; what Ochiai will do going forward to try and one-up humanity, what will become of Sidonia’s proper arrival on Planet Nine, and Jesus Christ, Nagate, give Izana some attention already. I can’t take the dilly-dallying.

But yes, Sidonia is good, and I want more of it. Luckily for me, there seems to be a reasonable amount of material left to adapt. Not sure if we’ll get it as an anime installment, but I’m sure looking forward to the possibility.
Final score: 7/10

L-K:
Sidonia is another one that’s hard to pin down. There’s a lot that I like, like the ship, the world-building, and the fucking motion media design holy shit. But it has a flaw that I can’t really express other than saying it suffers from a pretty bad case of anime. It’s hard for me to like a show that has such droll tropes as the typical harem / comedy stuff when it’s a show that’s as conceptually cool as Sidonia, but it really does suffer from it I think. In that regard, I think my final recommendation is to check out Nihei’s original manga. I plan to read knights after I finish his other (possibly related) series Biomega, and that’s probably what I’d tell anyone who expressed interest in Sidonia to do as well.
Final score: 6/10

OREGAIRU 2

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These faces sum up Oregairu better than we ever will.

Yatahaze:
It’s tough to talk about Oregairu because so much of the emotional force in the show comes about not through huge episodic plot events, but through weighed responses to everyday things and simple concepts like friendship. Naturally, this doesn’t lend itself kindly to the monthly reviewer; there’s too much to dissect at any given time, none of it arguably more important than anything else going on. As such, and because this is a final impression, this will be less of a review and more of a response.

So uh, I have a request. Just hear me out here.

There has to be some cruel irony in analyzing the daily life of a fictional over-analyzer learning to appreciate the moment. I feel like that’s a lot of what Oregairu is when I watch it; appreciating the moment where these characters are together, interacting, observing, backhandedly trying to learn things about themselves and each other. It’s a show where I see a bit of myself in everyone; understandably so, considering this is a work with multifaceted characters whose relationships with one another vary from anxious silence to gritty passive-aggressiveness as life rolls on around them. As they learn from each other, I feel like I learn not just about them, but about myself as well.

And if that sounded deep…well, it’s not. It’s adolescence.

And that’s why I love Oregairu, as a whole franchise, but especially this season. It’s a slice-of-life that gets people. It gets narrative structure and voice. It gets nuance. It gets that it doesn’t have to be an intense traumatic emotional rollercoaster. It gets that one can just enjoy the ride, enjoy the moment. It gets that sometimes what you think is best actually isn’t. It gets that sometimes what you want is not what you need. It gets that sometimes you don’t have to consider everything in terms of want, need, and potential injury. It gets that people are a complex mix of all these ideas, whether they realize it or not, and how someone sees themselves and others depends on a dizzying variety of prior experiences and philosophies.

And if that sounded deep…well, it’s not. It’s life.

Oregairu is one of those series fixated on showing us (with some minor comic relief gags aside) the real thing. The real thing doesn’t have to be a mindfuck or life-changing. It can (and does) exist in our thought process, how we approach problems, and what we identify with. In a world where outcast anime leads only have to uphold their immature viewpoints to sell copies for the current market of young pariahs, Oregairu is miles ahead, letting Hachiman grow into a less abrasive, more open person. Granted it’s not instantaneous, nor are the similar experiences his friends have, but that makes Oregairu all the more rewarding. The real thing often takes time and patience to manifest, after all.

And if all that sounded deep…well, it’s not. It’s me being a pretentious twat about an animated television program.

But there’s some truth to it, I think. In what may potentially be the biggest run-around write-up on this entire fucking website, I have only told you basic truths about life and that Oregairu understands them. That is something I feel in my heart to be correct. Your mileage may vary, but if any of my nonsense just resonated with you, you might want to consider watching Oregairu, or as I’ll remember it, one of the best romantic comedy slice-of-life anime in recent years. I’m the source on that.
Final score: 9/10

Harubro:
And Thus, Harubro Thanks His Lucky Stars For This Wonderful Sequel.

That’s seriously what this one comes down to. I would give anything to have Feel just redo the whole first season, because literally every aspect of Oregaitwo improved upon the first season, and that’s saying a bit. Strange thing is though, despite those differences in styles between the seasons, Oregaitwo felt much like a second cour of a 26 episode series rather than a separate second series. The flow worked well with this series.

Yata’s put all the analysis needed on this one into writing, so I probably won’t touch on that one. However, my favorite aspect of this series, one that sets it above and beyond the vast majority of high-school slice of life shows is just how much effort was put into making these characters and their interaction feel deeper than the caricatures we’re used to seeing time and time again in similar settings. All these characters have their own experiences, their own perspectives, their own likes and dislikes, all of them differing from one another, and all ever-changing as the series progressed, the biggest examples being the Service Club and Hayato Hayama. They’ve all have seemed to change vastly in different ways from the kids we we first introduced to a while back, or we actually see now who they were the entire time. It’s all very well played.

Oregairu as a series, whether you dig the setting or the genre, handled character depiction and development more tactfully in 26 episodes than some shows could muster with vastly more episodes.

This Teenage Romantic Comedy is Actually One of the All-Time Greats.
Final score: 9/10

L-K:
I can’t really understand why people are saying this is the best show evarrrrr, because all I see is a slightly atypical school romance comedy, with the comedy being good at best and the romance being pretty standard. The writing isn’t shit, so there’s that. I think people see a show that has a lot of subtext and they immediately correlate subtext with substance, but I don’t think that correlation can really be drawn in this case. A lot wasn’t said yeah, but does that make what isn’t said significant?

I liked the show better in the beginning when it was more about 8man being who he is, even if he is a bit unlikeable to most people, but in the end I feel the show kind of forgot about that and he ended up just a normal dude same as the rest of them. That’d be all well and good if I liked him in the end but I can’t say I did. His breakdown just didn’t seem that concrete to me, and I couldn’t really get the feels. It’s probably just a case of me not being into high school shows anymore to be honest, but I still feel like it isn’t as good a show as people make it out to be, so I’m saying so.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t the worst thing in the world, in fact it’s well put together in a lot of ways, but the characters just don’t interest me and on top of that the score feels like something akin to a daytime television commercial, so watching this was basically like pins and needles for me most of the time. So yeah.
Final score: 4.5/10

PLASTIC MEMORIES

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Plastic Memories is like staring at the sun. It looks pretty, but you’re not exactly doing yourself any favors by seeing it.

Yatahaze:
Gotta assume we all saw this one coming, right?

Okay, Plastic Memories could be enjoyable if you’re looking for a light-hearted romance. It’s a light show with light implications and a light cast in a light setting. “But Yata,” you might ask, “how can you say that when there were those scenes with the fake retrievers, and Kazuki’s backstory, and…and…and the Giftia time limits?”

I can say that because those were more or less the good parts of this show…and they occupied barely a quarter of its total runtime, if I’m allowed to stretch that far.

No, Plastic Memories is ultimately a disappointment because the primary conflict in the whole thing, Isla’s nearing demise (and the Giftia’s demises as a whole), are based in status-quo “this is why it is cause we say so” word of God and nothing more. With all the technological innovations in that world, you’d assume there’s a better way of going about this. In that sense, Plastic Memories fails as a sci-fi, and since its primary romance is between a human and an android…it fails as a sci-fi romance. So while neither Tsukasa nor Isla are terrible characters (even if fairly derivative), their bond doesn’t make a solid foundation for a show like this. The last episode was especially jarring, practically going from the nervous to touch one another stage to super lovey-chummy in the span of one episode. The supporting cast is not much better, where characters relive the same handful of tropes they’ve had from the start with nothing that makes them their own characters. Asuk- I mean, Michiru is the most obvious example.

Plastic Memories was saved by otherwise beautiful art, solid character design, and some fantastic reaction faces. And by “saved by,” I mean, “I was able to get through it due to.” That’s not much of a redeeming factor.
Final score: 4/10

Harubro:
I managed to tag along all the way to the end of Plastic Memories, or as I’ve been calling it lately, “The Zack Show.”

In the end, this show ultimately didn’t really do much to knock me off my feet. It tried too hard to focus on too many topics and moments that could’ve been particularly strong throughout the series end up feeling vague and unfulfilling. I do dig it when a show tries to be ambitious, but the lack of focus and flawed exposition relegate Plastic Memories to the “ambitious but unsuccessful” category that so many shows have been falling into as of late.

That said, the final episode was probably the best one this show cranked out. Tsukasa and Isla enjoy their last day together doing all sorts of cute couple things, but you do see things become tense leading up to the final moments. Trust me, they very clearly let you know this is weighing on everybody’s mind. Some things never change. The last bit with Tsukasa and Isla at the amusement park was good though, probably the best that this show has delivered on an obviously-impending moment.

In the end, Plastic Memories ends up not being yet another Doga Kobo stinker for me, but just another show I’ll likely end up forgetting about in the near future. It’s not something I’d recommend to somebody unless they’ve exhausted literally every better option out there, and there is a literal ton.

tl; dr: Don’t waste your time if you haven’t watched this yet.
Final score: 5/10

L-K:
Ugh, speaking of a bad show. I think it lost me the second I realized it was a ‘sci-fi but not really sci-fi’ show. The world-building is total ass and nothing really makes sense other than “well it needs to be this way because reasons”. That really turned me off, but the bad comedy writing really killed it a thousand times over. Anything good the show may have is just grossly overshadowed by that crap, and ultimately I just can’t deal with it enough to care. At least it isn’t as bad as some of the other shit Yata is watching. *cough*
Final score: 1.5/10 – Dropped after 9 episodes.

PUNCH LINE

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You might not have heard Punch Line’s punchline before, but that doesn’t make it funny.

Yatahaze:
I’d rather take the Cinnamon Challenge than try to singlehandedly review this.

Punch Line is a show. It’s not all fanservice fluff. It’s a show. And that simple fact makes it so much harder to talk about. In a way, all the pieces are there in its time-traveling escapade, and there’s enough foreshadowing and exposition to make later events feel understandable and not pulled out of Kotarou Uchikoshi’s ass, but…

Two things seriously hindered Punch Line in its closing stretch: rapid-fire pacing and an unearned emotional backstory.

I suppose there’s not much of a way around the breakneck pace, even though Punch Line received an extra episode in lieu of the standard noitaminA 11, but the show just had too much going on in its later stages and too little time to smooth itself out. Balancing multiple timelines and giving the continuity enough clarity to not feel like a total clusterfuck is a hard thing to do, and in this instance, Punch Line did not succeed well. No, I don’t think any of its plotlines retconed themselves, but the result nonetheless felt subpar.

This is perhaps best represented with the side-conflict and history of Guriko, Chiyoko, and Pine. Punch Line didn’t give us much of a reason to care about any of its characters on an emotional, empathetic level at first. It was dumb entertainment and good laughs in the beginning; the okay characters in the Korai House were fun to watch because they interacted naturally with each other. It felt like there was more history to them than shown on-screen. On the flip side, the Guriko, Chiyoko, and Pine plot felt rushed and stiff despite supposedly having that history. Guriko was an incredibly vague cartoonish villain and the Qmay group failed at being a bunch of interesting antagonists.

It’s all a shame, because when Punch Line just kind of…does its thing, it can be good. When it started to get serious, it became harder to take seriously. Credit where it’s due though, the animation quality and battle choreography in the final episode were above average, and the show as a whole was still far more fulfilling than I thought it would be when I started. As the twists piled up, however, the show knotted the hell out of itself, something I couldn’t untangle enough to enjoy by its finale.
Final score: 4.5/10

SOUND! EUPHONIUM

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I repeat: Godsound You! Brass Euphonium.

Yatahaze:
Man, I’m such a sucker for book ends. Prepare yourselves, this one’s gonna take a while.

Very glad I stuck around for Euphonium through its early lighthearted slice-of-life fluff, because over the course of about two months, it went from obligatory KyoAni popcorn watch to a standout of the season, year, and studio’s history, a title it maintained through its finale.

The most obvious contributor to that is of course Euphonium’s absolutely stunning visuals. The lighting job and attention to detail are absolutely phenomenal, the kind of consistently beautiful quality you’d expect to see in a Makoto Shinkai film. Euphonium also understands sound design; there’s a lot of background nature noise, silence is used tastefully to build tension or focus in on a scene, the musical performances are splendidly nuanced, and the decision to withhold the full concert performance songs until the final episode significantly increased their impact on the viewer. Hearing parts of the solo auditions and the occasional cut-off or lead-in throughout the show doesn’t do the full songs justice – fitting, because this is a show about a concert band, not about one or two individual performers. In fact, the less well-rounded practices help the slice-of-life pace through the series’ start and middle, with the most attention to the music coming right in the homestretch before the competition. Actually hearing how these solos or troubled parts come into play in the song as a whole is nothing short of breathtaking. Whatever angle you approach it from, Euphonium’s production quality was stunning, the result of true passion (and presumably a sizable budget).

And then there’s the fact that Euphonium understands that weird type of adolescent pressure in an extracurricular activity. I’ve mentioned before that my high-school fine arts credit of choice was choir, though I have plenty of friends who willingly put themselves through the physical and mental exhaustion that is high-school band. As a whole, Euphonium seems less stressful than that, which may just be a cultural difference between Japan and the States, but their characters still go through their fair share of difficulty. Some leave altogether to focus on academics, others get in spats with one another over the pickiest of details. There’s the internal pressure to succeed and the external pressure of bandmates counting on you to contribute at least the bare minimum of effort. Sometimes groups can’t come to a middle ground with this; a fair chunk of Euphonium was spent acknowledging and moving past the fallout of Kitauji High’s inadequate band of yesteryear. It lent immediate understanding and later paid dividends to the show’s upperclassmen cast, who otherwise received less screentime yet still felt as fully-fleshed out as they could be without leaving the boundaries of realistic character writing.

Even Taki-sensei, who for a while was heralded as the band’s knight in shining armor or blunt destroyer of fun depending on who you’d talk to, gained a much more human tone at the end, exploring a bit of his own pressure as the son of a lauded conductor. His visible exertion of focus and energy conducting the band’s final pieces was incredible, ringing true of my own memories of conductors in competitions; in the moment, with the song, ultimately responsible for any fuck-ups that may ensue on their part. The few seconds it takes for him to catch his breath and regain composure before facing the crowd was a late albeit fitting crowning moment for the guy, really coming into his own.

And speaking of people coming into their own, you couldn’t ask for a better protagonist for Euphonium than Kumiko. At series start, she was very much unattached, wandering, following along with the flow. As Euph hit its stride, she really gained a love for participating in band and a desire to impress the people around her, especially through sticking it to her older sister and bonding with Reina. (by the way, happy marriage equality, America. It only took us…way too long). It’s part of the pressure I talked about earlier; with no motivation comes no effort to excel. It’s why she felt stuck in a rut, bumbling on. In a similar position was her section upperclassman Natsuki, who while never getting the full spotlight in Euphonium, was also a fantastic character to watch grow from aloof and self-interested to compassionate and inspired. I could go on and on about how every character reaches some growth in some way by the end of Euphonium, but instead of that, I think it’s better to look at the group as the collective whole they now are. The band is better than it was, and when you’re a part of an ensemble with a goal to improve itself, you individually improve along the way.

Whether or not you really care about that will come down to your appreciation of subtlety and simplicity, as well as your patience with slice-of-life shows in general. Regardless, Euphonium really pulled out all the stops. As an anime reviewer, during the end of a season, I sometimes feel like how Kitauji did at the end of Eupho’s finale, anxiously waiting to see which shows really accomplished what they set out to do, and which faded into the endless sea of monotony from a lack of effort or focus. Again, like series end Kitauji, there’s no dud gold to be had here. Sound! Euphonium is pure gold, and without a doubt KyoAni’s best work since Hyouka, proving that when they put their all in, they’re a damn impressive studio capable of crafting standout shows. After Euphonium, I think a resounding round of applause is in order once again.
Final score: 9/10

Harubro:
I was already loving this show before those last 3-4 episodes, but like, holy cow, this show totally nailed those last few episodes. Between the animation quality that would make Shinkai blush, and the drama of that trumpet solo audition leading into the big performance, it’s enough to make your head spin.

I also got the spit valve scene I desired! 10/10? Probably.

Back to important stuff: How about Kumiko’s total about-face in her attitude towards performing in band, huh? It was fun seeing the change from the somewhat apathetic outlook she had towards band at the beginning of the show turn into that fervent desire to improve on her craft when she thought she wasn’t going to make the cut. That scene where she suddenly understood Kousaka’s frustration at not making Nationals during their final days of middle school band was possibly my favorite during Eupho’s glorious run.

Actually, my favorite part was definitely the lead-up to the performance, the recital itself, and that big moment of jubilation when the band achieved gold. That whole last episode was a joy to watch, as Eupho has practically been this whole time.

As with Shirobako, I had the wrongest of wrong ideas in my head about this show going into it. My faith in Kyoto Animation was beginning to falter at first, after their rough patch of the last couple years. I totally thought this was going to be another musical hell show, a la K-On, but what we got was a rousing performance by KyoAni, proclaiming that they have returned with a flourish.

You have restored my faith, KyoAni. What’s next?
Final score: 9/10

L-K:
This is probably one of the better shows I didn’t watch this season. I watched a little bit of it myself as I was waiting for other things to drop, and I have to say the score is actually pretty well produced, and I don’t mind the characters so much. I might have been able to watch and enjoy it were I among brighter spirits, but I think it at least deserves a nod.

YAMADA AND THE SEVEN WITCHES

vlcsnap-2015-07-01-22h42m17s403

“Glad you guys’ memories have returned, but uh…where’s my fucking microwave?”

Yatahaze:
Oh, Yamada. I don’t really know what to think of you now.

See, on one hand, your silly body-swapping shenanigans were more than entertaining on their own. Your sense of comedic timing was excellent. You just knew what you were doing.

On the other hand, you started trying to get serious. I can admire that. You actually wanted to make something out of all these weird powers. You let your characters have agendas. You wanted me to feel their pain, their confusion. And most importantly, this involved introducing a handful of new characters with limited screentime instead of honing in on the solid bunch you started with.

But did you succeed at that? Hard to wholeheartedly say either way.

A common complaint I’ve seen about Yamada and the Seven Witches’ second half was rushed pacing, and I’m gonna have to agree there. Past Shiraishi and Odagiri, few of the remaining five witches left more than a fleeting impression, and the few who did were discarded by the next episode to move on to the next witch of the week. On top of that, you got all mindtwisty on me. The ambition is commendable, but it felt so unbalanced and whimsical. The omnipotent student council seemed too goofy to take seriously, something that also tends to happen in these shows when you’re not careful about it.

That leaves me with a tricky question though: how do you change the show’s flaws? More time would be nice, but even one extra episode might not be enough, and after that you’d be stuck with a whole second season’s worth of episodes, something that would stretch it out too long. Better exposition in the complicated parts? Not sure that would help. While many of the later witches’ powers weren’t explained clearly, the show used the time to try and establish them as characters instead of plot devices. That’s the right kind of thinking, but when you also don’t give them enough time to prove themselves as characters, we’re right back at square one.

For all its awkward usage of time later on, Yamada nonetheless started as (and remained) an enjoyable comedy-drama that exceeded my expectations. Even after doling out all that critique, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it more often than not, and beyond my three easy favorites this season (Eupho, Oregairu, and BBB), it was one of the shows I most eagerly looked forward to each week. Don’t expect to be amazed if you watch Yamada, but a good time should still be had.
Final score: 6/10

Harubro:
Congrats to Yamada for making it all the way to the end with me! The last few weeks were a tad unkind to this show, but there is sort of a reason for that.

The last few episodes of Yamada turned into a mess as the plot felt veeeeeeery rushed, but that is to be expected when you run though what I’ve heard is around 90 chapters of manga in only 13 episodes. I’m kind of surprised they pulled that off as well as they did. I guess the pared the material to be used for the show down to the bare bones, but hey, it sort of got the necessary point across, even if there were still some massive plot holes left and the exposition was getting laughably awful. Seriously, they packed what could’ve been an entire season’s worth of quality material into a below-par four episode span.

Whatever. This show was definitely good for a few laughs for most of its run, and that’s what matters most with an overall goofy show like this.
Final score: 6/10

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