Summer 2015 – Act 2 Update

Hey, folks. Summer may be rapidly approaching its end, but as far as anime is concerned, these summer shows are just ramping up for the homestretch. Yata and Haru are back again to bring you some updated thoughts on the summer season with two out of three months complete. We’re making do with what we have in this slim pickings season, and some stuff we didn’t think much of at first is proving to be surprisingly consistent. Who’s still going with what? And how is everything faring with one month to go? All this and more on our second mid-summer update!

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ACTUALLY, I AM… (JITSU WA WATASHI WA)

The subtitle pretty much sums this all up.

The subtitle pretty much sums this all up.

Harubro:
Yes, I’m still watching this.

No, it’s not really all that impressive of a show; it never was to begin with.

It’s just been more of the same, with more of the same still piled on top. This show continues to rely way too much on the near-constant barrage of overreactions to even some relatively benign happenings to get its laughs. It just makes this show come off as childish. With the introduction of the wolf man/girl Shishido and the horned devil girl Akane, what little meaningful dialogue there was before has gone by the wayside. This show achieves its peak comedic value in the rare moments that it shies away from the use of the overreactions.

The show’s animation, which was nothing to write home about from the get-go, has cheaped out even further, nulling what small bit of charm this show’s quirky style had to me. I was actually going to trudge on with this show before I actually put my honest thoughts into words, but in the process of writing this, it looks as though I’ve given myself all the justification I need to drop this show.

Actually, I Am is a sub-par, clumsy, childish supernatural clusterfuck wannabe harem. End of story.
Final score: 4/10
Dropped after 8 episodes.

CHAOS DRAGON

Don't look so shocked, kid. It's a miracle I stuck around this long.

Don’t look so shocked, kid. It’s a miracle I stuck around this long.

Harubro:
Worry not, everyone. This won’t take very long.

Since my last writeup, Chaos Dragon went from being laughably bad but slightly entertaining to just being bad. The characterization still proved to be nonexistent, the plot stayed predictable, and the plot twist attempts would continue to fall flat. The show’s attempts to seem interesting scream with desperation, “HEY, HEY, LOOK AT ME! AREN’T I EDGY AND COOL?!?!?!?!111” I held out with this all the way to the eighth episode trying to grasp the hope that somehow this show’s all-star creators would pull some fantastic save out of their asses.

Predictably, they didn’t.

Narita, Nasu, Urobuchi and crew must’ve been royally shit-faced when they played their little game. That’s the only way I see this show turning out like it has. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for this little transgression. The only things about Chaos Dragon that really merit any praise from me is the oversaturated color palettes that were used helped make some otherwise utterly unremarkable visuals pop a bit more, and the OP. Yeah, I said it. I like this show’s crappy OP. I’m fully aware that my taste in music and I are trash.

Moving on.
Final score: 3.5/10
Dropped after 8 episodes.

CHARLOTTE

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“A post-rock concert? But there aren’t any moshers there! Who will I make fight?”

Yatahaze:
If Charlotte started as a good comedy with moments of hit-or-miss drama, it’s now more like a good drama with hit-or-miss moments of comedy. Jun Maeda just can’t seem to have his cake and eat it too, but this show’s attempt at the moment is far more enjoyable than many of his previous ones. To address the elephant in the collapsing room, Ayumi’s dead. Or at least Charlotte wants us to believe she’s dead. I think that’d be for the best, as any way she survived would probably carve its way into deus ex machina territory, and she was far from my favorite character in the show to begin with. Her existence up until now had been one of tragic foreshadowing, the overly cutesy moeblob who’d likely meet an early end or at the very least be the center of a major plot point given the immediate information that siblings often both have powers. The secret sauce jokes had run their course and the girl just seemed too perfect to keep around. Charlotte was funny, but it needed a curveball. Perfect timing.

And though I don’t really give a shit about her being gone, thankfully the show doesn’t botch what her death means to Yuu. With essentially no close family, he spirals into a deep depression that finds him yell at his episode 1 crush (nice return appearance there), run away from home after his behavior starts getting suspicious, and hide out in various cafés. Charlotte doesn’t really pull any punches here either; when Yuu hits rock bottom, he hits it hard. His episode 1 jerkass self comes back with a vengeance, abusing his power to pick fights with thugs, but this time emotionally empty and unsatisfied, a far cry from the smug narcissism that defined his introduction. When he’s about to reach the point of no return (and by this I mean snorting crack, cause again, Maeda pulls no punches with the drama), Nao reveals she had been following him as her own self-punishment. She feels guilty for Ayumi’s death too, having hesitated assessing the severity of the situation. Vicariously experiencing the same new painful daily life as Yuu can only go on so long however, and she snaps him out of it with a kick to the face and a fresh meal. Episode 7 was a crucial episode for Charlotte, the kind of exceptionally well-directed, moody, and character-defining stuff that can make or break a show of this nature. Nao is far from a perfect individual herself, closing people off before they get too close, but as much as she and Yuu won’t admit it, they truly value each other’s company now. Charlotte is at its best with these two leading the way.

It loses focus when it comes to…pretty much everything else. Episode 8 was one of the worst episodes the show’s presented yet, a poorly paced, overused joke-reliant, and rather confusing affair. Takajou’s Yusarin love was at one point a little silly, but now it (and everyone else’s default reaction to it) is indeed a turn-off. There are several unanswered questions this show is likely going to flop at addressing or will completely ignore, and almost all of them have to do with the inherently melodramatic nature of the scientists’ experimentation plot. On paper, that should be a frustrating flaw, and I figure if the show bothered to include various scenes of an unknown girl frantically looking around the building before Ayumi collapsed it and the ominous shot of the eternally-soaked clue kid standing in its rubble, it will at least go somewhere with them…but we’re not there yet. On the emotional side, when I say Maeda pulls no punches, that can sometimes be a bad thing. Case in point: the psychotic jealous girl who chased Ayumi around the building with a knife and murderous intent just because of some little pre-teen romantic turmoil. If all she had to do for the plot was kick off a chain of events, there are far more subtle (and as a result far more resonant) ways to go about that, but all things considered, Charlotte’s weaknesses mostly lie on the fringe of what it’s showing us. I didn’t think I’d be this into it this late in the season, and that’s either a testament to the show’s endearing main cast or…

…guys, this anime has a post-rock band. I’ve had this conversation before several times, and it’s something I never thought I’d see on screen in anything, much less a fucking anime. Am I biased because of this? No shit. But putting that aside, do I think Charlotte is doing well? Maybe not as well as it could, but at this point, it’s a confident season standout. Can’t ask for much else right now.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

Harubro:
Thank you, Jun Maeda, Key and P.A. Works.

Thanks for obviously foreshadowing that tragic turn of events and still somehow managing to harp on my emotions. Holy cow, the last three episodes have gotten right to the nitty gritty right as the show seemed poised to really wander off what little semblance of course that Charlotte had. It was needed for this to remain a viably good show, but how can something hit that hard when literally anyone could’ve seen that Ayumi was doomed for the terrible thing?

The big bad thing happened to Ayumi, and her untimely demise sends her brother spiraling into a grief-fueled episode of manic depression that turns into a rather sadistic mania after Yuu hits rock bottom and makes some rather poor life decisions such as picking fights with delinquents, using his power to gain the upper hand against them and cruelly incapacitating them with the wooden skewers from his dango snacks. We all grieve in different ways, eh? Yuu then proceeds to almost make an ultimate poor life decision before he’s brought to his senses by Tomori. The heavy tone of that whole episode is an ode to Jun Maeda’s affinity for melodrama.

The episode that followed took on a much lighter tone, with Yuu attempting to find some sense of normalcy again upon his return to school and the student council. We see more of Maeda’s lighter tics return, with a gratuitous (and unnecessarily lengthy tbh) Yusarin music video, more of Takajo’s obnoxious Yusarin fangasm-ing, you get the picture. Yuu goes through the motions of the school day with this air of “I’m okay, I’ll be okay” typical of the short-term grief process. It feels almost eerie to me watching a fictional character do that “going through the motions” thing after living that myself. Kudos.

Anyways, things happens, and Yuu and Tomori plan on attending a Zhiend (the post-rock band Tomori and her bro dig) gig, and while walking home, Yuu runs in Sara Shane, the frontman for said band, and proceeds to show her around town. Sara is blind, and as such, her remaining senses are rather keen, and she’s instantly able to tell Yuu’s dealing with some tough times. She hangs around with him for the day, gives the boy some advice, and ends up meeting with Tomori’s brother during one of his episodes, with that last bit culminating in a nice little scene with Sara singing to calm to guy down. I actually enjoyed this bit of gratuitous music, Maeda.

By far the most outstanding element of this show is the presentation. P.A. Works’ art style and attention to detail is a close second only to Kyoto Animation in my book. Heck, I’d go out on a limb for this show and say that the art direction on this show is outstanding by even P.A. Works’ lofty standards. The backgrounds, shot-framing, lighting, and palette choices are second to none on this show. I adore that they don’t screw around on their animation no matter the quality of the source material.

I’m still hoping the show will eventually elaborate on the celestial theme, I hope they haven’t forgotten about that.

I’d have never thought that Charlotte was going to be my personal front-runner as far as shows original to this season are concerned, but here we are, the eight week of the summer cour, and Charlotte rules supreme.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

CLASSROOM CRISIS

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kaito best girl

Yatahaze:
It’s been jokingly brought up before that this show’s very own title defines its constant struggle. Classroom Crisis is an endless identity crisis of a show, and I don’t just say that because one of the main characters is an amnesiac with PTSD flashbacks. The war between the show’s optimistic hard-working A-TEC cast and its more shady business politics has the potential to be entertaining (and often is), but not without the unfortunate side effect of being really inconsistent. It’s not so much a matter of inconsistency with one of its halves in comparison to the other, but a matter of each half of the show only nailing the sweet spot 50% of the time, the remainder fading to the background amidst a plethora of dull anime jokes and poorly scripted melodrama.

The good in the Classroom side of the equation mostly comes down to character interaction. Sure, there’s a pointless beach episode (there always is, isn’t there?), but there are also several understated moments of positive connection between Nagisa and a group of peers that both mock his serious demeanor and try to invite him in, to loosen up. It’s something he can’t really afford to do; as is, his expertise lies in the business world, not in the first-hand development of machinery like his classmates’. Mizuki and Iris, especially Mizuki, slowly aid him coming out of his shell, showing him “friends” aren’t weaknesses or full of disloyalty. It’s a hard lesson to swallow amongst the stacks of retake tests and festival preparation he probably shouldn’t be wasting his time on, but it’s important, and it exemplifies Classroom Crisis at its best. Sometimes the Classroom side’s sense of adventure and spontaneity can be found outside the classroom, such as episode 7, a large gratuitous action episode where Iris and an utterly hammered Angelina-sensei take down a ship holding a professor hostage from the inside. It was silly and stupid and really fun. It just worked, surprising considering Iris usually doesn’t do anything for me. Her trauma is a run-of-the-mill path for the show to take her on, and her insistence on only liking Mizuki and what Mizuki likes sucks any personality out of her character. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Nagisa’s a pretty great character. The only person alive now related to both founding families of Kirishina, his past explains his high expectations and special status…and also why he’s despised by those who want to keep their hands on their share of the company.

The good in the Crisis side comes in the form of 1.5 billion dollars flushed down the drain to a destined-to-lose political party the executives are obligated to throw their support at. The money was originally part of A-TEC’s budget, an example of the upper brass taking from the workers and giving back to their own rich pals for favors down the road. The pro-labor Oozora Party meanwhile shows up to sway Kaito back to their side after leaving him behind at the drop of a hat earlier. As one of the kids playfully remarks “I guess that’s what you call the swing vote”, Kaito represents the crossing of executive power (though hardly his forte) and honest workmanship, one of the few middlemen in an election that seems rigidly split between classes. I hate corporate politics in real life, but in fiction, they’re pretty great at setting up conflict.

Unfortunately, the bad of the Crisis side isn’t great at much of anything, and sometimes it skips the bad and goes straight to ugly. Nagisa’s constantly abused by his increasingly dimwitted older brother who even lets it slip that he’s working with the CEO for the Seimin Party’s benefit. I mentioned I like corporate politics in fiction, but it’s a little frustrating when the figureheads on one side are so frustratingly archetypal with their villainy. It makes it even less satisfying when the heroes win, and if there’s a show where the “heroes” will undoubtedly find a way to win, it’s Classroom Crisis. Its gung-ho attitude is both its biggest charm and weakness. I’m going to keep coming back until it ends, and for a first try, Lay-Duce do alright here, but I think I’m going to remember Classroom Crisis as a half-fun, half-taxing journey that doesn’t reward as much as it feels like it should.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

Harubro:
Very fittingly, Classroom Crisis has proven to be a most organized clusterfuck of a show, yet it’s managed to stay relatively enjoyable despite the messy direction.

The messes this show has made are at the very least, neatly organized into 4 or so separate corners, yet the entire mess is still confined to a single room, that room figuratively being this show. In one corner, we have the mess that is our group of misfits at A-TEC scuffling for the survival of their beloved program by any means necessary. In another corner is the mess that is the corporate political gamesmanship going on with the Kirishina Corporation and its affiliated factions. In the next corner, we have this convoluted backstory developing between both Nagisa and the amnesiac Shirasaki, who thankfully isn’t just another monotone juggernaut mech pilot… *coughInahocough* Hell, Nagisa’s development into something resembling a likable human being is a mess deserving a corner of the room all by itself. The show thus far has done a passable job keeping all these messes confined to their respective corners for the time being, but in the end, all these organized messes in a room still make the room a messy one. I’m hoping this show can tidy up once these messes all coalesce into a single grand clusterfuck, because it sure looks like the story’s going that way.

I am aware that was a god awful metaphor, but I tried my best to make some sense of it.

tl; dr: Classroom Crisis is a show suffocating itself under the weight of its own ambition. It wants to somehow cover all the ground it can with its miserly single cour, and it’s stretching itself way too thin in the process.

Despite the extreme scatterbrain direction of the story, I do feel the show’s art direction is deserving of some praise. While it’s not the best overall by a long shot, the show has shown steady consistency with the quality of its backgrounds, animation quality, and shot framing, in contrast to the rollercoaster quality some other shows have displayed this season. The dialogue still flows fairly well, considering the nature of story that it has to follow.

You do have to take in to account that this is a studio’s big debut, and you know what? Despite my downer-ish lament, I’ll still insist that Classroom Crisis is a likable and adequately entertaining show.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

DRRR!!x2 TEN

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…but…if you’re here…then who’s driving the car(nage)?

Yatahaze:
If there’s one constant in my anime life, it’s that when there’s Durarara around, I am a happy, albeit very confused man. I constantly refer to this show as a clusterfuck and I stand by that. Ten started low-key, with episodes devoted entirely to one or two characters to establish backstory and connections. Normally I wouldn’t be fond of this, but after Shou, we needed room to breathe and learn more about who we were dealing with. This pattern slightly continued at the start of this month, but as the episode count ticked on, we’ve gotten stuffed right back in the thick of things.

The Ruri-stalker arc wasn’t actually about Ruri or her stalker. The two most important things we got out of it is confirmation that Yodogiri Jinnai is an asshole and Mikado is slowly losing his mind. The former is pretty self-explanatory, but Mikado’s situation is a bit more complicated. Taking on the challenge of selectively combing through the Dollars to only keep its best individuals who share his same ideals of justice, Mikado enlisted the help of Aoba and his Blue Squares split-off to go bring vigilante justice to his own organization. The no-rules, anything goes attitude of the Dollars suddenly shifts to one of persecution, a change that can’t possibly end well. The group is successful at putting a stop to the stalker (who used secret areas within the Dollars site to communicate), but only at the cost of some uncontrolled gangbanging, Mikado’s smashed-in face, and a stunned Masaomi witnessing the unbelievable upon his return to Ikebukuro.

And then episode 8 comes out of nowhere like “lol Izaya’s still in charge bitcheeeeees”. I’m going to have to dissect this episode again in retrospect after a few more weeks, but the big deal is he’s got a ragtag group of followers now, ready to unleash hell whenever. Just as Durarara’s fucked city should be. Love it.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

Harubro:
Need I remind you guys that Izaya Orihara is a dislikable psychopath?

Because these last couple of episodes should serve as a stark reminder of that, if any of you had forgotten. Izaya’s announced his return to Ikebukuro with a bang after his cozy little meeting with the Amphisbaena. Oh, and he’s got his own rag-tag gang of Ikebukuro badasses to further his own causes, and he seems hellbent on lighting off another huge conflagration. Fun stuff.

We also have Aoba’s goons meting out some vigilante punishment against some of the lowlife elements in a the Dollars, all at Mikado’s behest. Hell, Mikado himself has been in on some of the vigilante action, although he’s gotten yet another royal ass-kicking after a run-in with Ruri’s stalker. Present for the gangland-vigilante-justice-turned-royal-asskicking is Masaomi, who is in utter shock after realizing the mess his best friend is mixed up in.

Yata mentioned that Mikado seems to be losing his mind, but let me clue you in on a little something. What if Mikado isn’t losing his mind at all? What if he’s actually beginning to show his true colors, or what if he was like this the whole time? Aoba quickly catches on and alludes to this after his unfortunate run-in with the writing utensil that occurred at the end of Shou, but that allusion was something that was glossed over at first, and that was one of the glaring faults I had to pick with how Shou adapted that part of the novels.

It seems like my standard Durarara-ism to tell y’all in each writeup that you’re in for a wild ride, but shit’s about to get wild again in Ikebukuro, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

FOOD WARS (SHOKUGEKI NO SOUMA)

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“…zzz…I control the spice…zzz…”

Yatahaze:
Each time I come back to cover Food Wars, I want to say the show’s still strongly powering along. This is the first time I’m not so sure that’s true.

On one hand, the karaage roll battle mini-arc was fucking hilarious. Nikumi, Souma, a boring girl I already don’t remember the name of, and an adult from Souma’s home shopping district take on a challenge from the snobby manager of a new fast food restaurant that opened a location nearby and is stealing all the customers away from the small businesses. Their goal: make karaage (basically fried chicken) that takes advantage of the shop’s location and its street traffic demographics to stick it to big business and revitalize the local shopping district. They not only succeeded, but also managed to create what I’d claim as the most mouthwatering dish in all of Food Wars to date. This show’s foodporn often looks good, but it’s usually a silly good. The group’s karaage roll was more of a “If this wasn’t on a screen, I would put this in my mouth right now” good, and I’m not exaggerating at all. And while this arc was set away from the school, to say it was filler isn’t entirely true either; the manager the kiddos beat has a Totsuki connection in the form of the ninth seat of the Elite Ten, some kid named Eizan.

This also gives Food Wars a quick and easy transition back to Totsuki for the Autumn Elections, a process that allows the best of the best to rise to the top and potentially even give them the recognition they need to gain a seat in the Elite Ten. The students’ first task: create a dish revolving around curry.

It was around now that I realized just how large Food Wars’ cast was getting. In this new arc alone, we’re either introduced to or have a new emphasis placed on Ryo (Alice’s tag-along friend), Hisako (Erina’s tag-along friend), Nao (the creep featured cooking black magic broth in the show’s new ED), Jun (a short professor who specializes in spices and hates the Yukihiras), Akira (her primary student), and Miyoko (a girl who wants to prove her worth in the kitchen to some condescending men…counter-productively introduced mostly with cleavage shots).

And Food Wars spends a lot of time on non-cooking scenes with these peeps. The curry dish preparation and cooking portion of the first Autumn Elections test is skimmed over in the back half of the latest episode with no room to breathe. In addition, J.C. Staff’s ambitious undertaking of two other shows airing at the same time is starting to catch up. There are more chibi cuts lately than before, almost used as a default reaction, and while I don’t necessarily mind that every so often, it is starting to get old. My guess is this season of Food Wars will end right after the Autumn Elections. Before then and we probably won’t get it all in, after then and it’ll be too rushed. That leaves it in what I presume will be a precarious spot, because if the Autumn Elections are supposed to be the students’ chance at making it to the unofficial top for their chance to actually claim an Elite Ten seat, an abrupt end and no confirmed second season will leave me unsatisfied. But that’s a future prediction. In the here and now, Food Wars is Food Wars. Take it or leave it.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 20 episodes.

Harubro:
Shokugeki is now as it always has been, the solidly entertaining two-cour offering that is always a nice morsel to look forward to towards the end of a long week.

That little karaage arc was the first time this show actually had me craving food. Shokugeki did one hell of a job making that stuff look mighty appetizing. It was also a nice breather after that Summer Camp from Hell arc that leads into the Autumn Elections arc that it looks like the show will wrap up with, at least for the time being.

Yet again, all of our usual characters (plus some new faces) are placed into a relative must-win situation, but this time, not all will walk away victorious. At least, that’s what the set-up has me anticipating. No more cheap victories like Tadokoro and Soma’s tie with Shinomiya a few weeks back. Should be fun, especially with Soma having fallen asleep at the stove during the big showdown, because of course he would fall asleep!

Might I mention that I still to this day find the grandiose scale of the locales, venues, and events of this show the most entertaining constant of this show. They’re having these competitions in the sort of venues you’d see professional sporting events take place in! I never fail to get a kick out of the vast size and breadth of the Totsuki campus. This show absolutely savors its utter ridiculousness and love it it for that.

Yes, it does seem like the plot is sprinting for the finish at full chat at the expense of the overall consistency and quality of the show, but to this point, Shokugeki has done so much right that I couldn’t really care less at this point how shallow the approach to the Autumn Elections was, as long as this show wraps up on a somewhat satisfying note, I’m sure this show will be one I can remember fondly in the future. Let the glorious final struggle begin!
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 20 episodes.

GANGSTA.

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Hey Handymen, I think Manglobe needs some assistance.

Yatahaze:
Gangsta is trying pretty hard to be entertaining. It really is. For me, it’s just not fun to watch anymore. I don’t look forward to it, and when I do get to it, it’s a very passive experience. A lot of this has to do with the constant and kind of pointless interweaving of backstory for Nic and Worick the last few weeks. In a show set in a firmly established present, backstory’s only really good for bonus information and worldbuilding, the former of which could’ve been inferred or casually mentioned with greater poignancy some other way than full flashbacks, and the latter of which is virtually nonexistent anyway.

Like, great, Nic and Worick were each abused by their parents, Nic killed Worick’s asshole father and the two ran away. Fantastic. I get it. What does that change for the present? The Arcangelo family has no established correlation with the four ruling families of Ergastulum, which Manglobe took more than half the series to actually comment on with any solidity. The Gates on the various sides of the city were referenced time and time again, but they’re still frustratingly vague as far as what goes on there and their history. The dialogue is growing less natural and more exposition heavy, the characters are increasingly off-model, and the visual aesthetic is still pathetically dull.

I’m hard on this because Gangsta…at least from what I can tell…has good ideas. It’s just representing them in a sloppy, unintriguing way, to the point that the few positives (themes like Celebrer usage and scenes like Ally’s song in episode 8 with the hooded kid, maybe her brother, trying to get into Bastard and yes that’s what they actually call the bar what the fuck) aren’t worth discussing in-depth because they’re so greatly overshadowed. At first I simply thought Gangsta was biding its time and would let us in on the specifics at scenes where they would make a greater impact, but as a result of stalling, poor direction, and utterly uninteresting visuals, I’ve decided it’s not worth my time to wait for them anymore.
Final score: 4.75/10
Dropped after 8 episodes.

GATCHAMAN CROWDS INSIGHT

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“…we’re fucked.”

Yatahaze:
In a world where it genuinely looks like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be the two frontrunners of ‘Murica’s 2016 presidential election (shudder), Gatchaman Crowds Insight and its thoughts on political media couldn’t have come at a better time. Sugayama loses his election because of popular trends and minor gaffes. In his place is a now-male, now-tall Gelsadra, Earth’s first alien prime minister. His agenda: make everyone happy. But Gelsadra doesn’t come from a place with bickering political figures or real concerns about the economy, budgets, and social media. Gelsadra wants a collective happiness. If everyone thinks the same things, no one will fight, right?

And this, my friends, is where Gatchaman Crowds Insight is starting to get really fucking terrifying.

Half of the terror comes from Sadra’s biggest source of encouragement, Tsubasa. I’ve seen a lot of hate dished out to her character for “ruining Gatchaman”, and that’s a pretty bold (and in my opinion, misdirected) claim. She’s a terrible person, yeah, but that makes her a fantastic character for this part of the show: she rarely thinks for herself, she has a stupendously vague sense of justice, and she’s hopelessly naïve. Almost everyone’s noticed it by now; Rui constantly calls her out on it, Hajime’s annoyed with her hive mind mentality, and back home, her good ol’ great-grandpa reaches his wits end and tells her enough is enough, what she’s supporting is wrong. “What would you know about it?” she retaliates…to the WWII veteran. Bad justice, Tsubasa. Bad justice.

From a human perspective, Gelsadra’s idealism is dangerous enough, but coupled with a disbandment of the Diet and National Assembly, he’s essentially turned Japan into a democratic dictatorship. The power is his, but his decisions are directly reflective of the people; he does what the uninformed populace whimsically votes for from their smart phones…at first. But soon enough, they decide they don’t want to think too hard about it, so they can choose to “just let Sadra handle it!” If Berg-Katze in season 1 represented chaotic individuality and pessimism, Insight flips its idea of evil on its head and has Sadra represent chaotic uniformity and optimism. That would help to explain why Katze, O.D., and Pai-Pai all have at least some ounce of wariness towards their red-skinned alien prime minister. A summons from J.J. who warns of the “red angel” certainly isn’t referring to VAPE and their red CROWDS anymore, and it’s not hard to guess who the real threat is now.

It’s vital they get a move on before anything worse happens, because Sadra’s started to reach his breaking point, his swallowed emotion bubbles projected back out into the world right before the end of the latest episode. The creatures they form are an immediate danger, and I can only imagine what the fallout will be between the Gatchaman and the stubborn Tsubasa-Sadra duo. After all, Sadra still holds the power, and in Gatchaman Crowds, power is always dangerous, regardless of who holds it and how good their intentions are. GCI has been phenomenal thus far, and I can’t picture that changing anytime soon. In fact, the real fun is only just beginning.

also this Tsuritama cameo lol. Thank you, Kenji Nakamura.
Current score: 9.5/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

Harubro:
This post not brought to you because Harubro chose the third option, “Let Yata handle it!”
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

HIMOUTO! UMARU-CHAN

Christmas in August, yo.

It’s like 100 degrees outside, and they pick now as the time to unleash the Christmas episode. bruh.

Harubro:
I just got done ranting about dropping a show due to its incessant childishness, but this show is about to receive some light praise from me for just that very thing. Yay for hypocrisy~!

This show actually has showed some poise in its recent episodes, a good example being the bit with our salaryman Taihei as he was returning home from work, until he absentmindedly follows a stray cat into an unfamiliar neighborhood, only to serendipitously be reminded that it was the neighborhood he lived in when he was young. Another scene of note is the one where he attempts and fails to throw a surprise party for Umaru’s birthday after initially fooling his younger sister into believing he forgot the date. I also enjoyed the most recent episode, the gratuitous Christmas/New Year’s episode, which was a very cozy episode that featured some retelling of the same scene from a different characters’ perspective, which is a thing I tend to enjoy when done well.

At this point, I can confidently state that Himouto doesn’t measure up to its Dogakobo 4-koma bretheren, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that this is a bad show. Not at all. Love Lab and Nozaki are both high standards to judge this show off of. I think it just comes down to this show not having any significant rewatch value to it. Himouto’s characters lack the oomph of the characters of the other 4-koma shows, so there’s not much to really latch on to with Himouto. I mean, the character the show has gone to its greatest lengths to develop in any way is the neighbor Ebina with her countryside upbringing being the focus of a segment of an episode. This is a series you can watch once, have a couple of hearty laughs at, and not really miss at all once its over, and that’s okay! Even if it’s only good for some laughs once, it’s still a worthwhile watch in my book if it can elicit that much from me.

Have I mentioned I love this show’s OP? It never fails to put a grin on my face. That’s probably the one thing with this show that holds any rewatch value.

Himouto’s antics keep it as an endearing watch to me, even if it lacks the substance of its predecessors.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

OVERLORD

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He’s the overlord. The show’s not overboard. I’m over this.

Summary: Yggdrasil, a popular DMMORPG (the D prefix meaning “Dive”), is closing its servers after 12 mostly successful years. Momonga, the guildmaster of Ainz Ooal Gown, is the final member of his guild still around, as everyone else had real-life commitments that made gaming a low priority. Making his peace, he sits in the throne as the clock winds down, waiting for the forced logout…but it never comes. Instead, the NPCs suddenly behave like real people, and he can’t find a way out of the game. Not wanting to confuse them, he acts the part as their leader and meets the Floor Guardians and servants of his land, Nazarick, afterwards embarking on a search to figure out what’s changed since the transition of Yggdrasil from game to real world.

Yatahaze:
As you can tell by the inclusion of a summary, Overlord was a late pickup I just got around to. Tuesdays were dull, I needed something to watch, and the rumors I’d heard made it sound like the show was exceeding expectations and wasn’t your standard MMORPG otaku power fantasy show. Part of this is true, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

Momonga, also referred to as Momon, is a strategic guy. From the outset, it’s clear he’s not completely comfortable with suddenly being in a position of power with a world full of people who, as far as he knew, weren’t sentient before now. He has to toe a thin line, finding out information without making himself look completely ignorant, and he’s calm and collected enough to mostly succeed at doing that. Because in real life he was human, he also has to find ways to cope with the fact that he’s not now, as his demon comrades commonly look down on this world’s humans. It puts him in awkward spot time and time again, especially when he’s outside Nazarick, forced to hide his appearance with full body armor and constantly reminding his followers to not kill any humans. Momon himself is the strongest element of Overlord.

The rest of the show doesn’t fare so well. From light novel-classic harem arguments early on to cringeworthy exposition-dialogue in its middle portion, and what looks like it will be a terrible closing fight with some of the most cartoony villains of pure eeeevilllll in recent memory, Overlord is stuck between a rock and a hard place, a show with a great central idea and a lot of poor surrounding ones. On the visual side, the show opts for dark coloring most of the time, and besides from the occasional off-putting CG (some of which manages to actually not look terrible, I’ll give it that), there isn’t anything remarkable for or against it. This indifference doesn’t just stop at the visuals; Overlord’s main arc with Momon and his maid Nabe traveling along with some human adventurers for various missions and to spread Momon’s name is just really…dull. Like, where’s its soul? Where’s its heart?

And because MMORPG anime can’t help but be compared to the top of the heap and literal garbage, Overlord is in a really shitty average position. It doesn’t have the gracefulness, charm, or solidified worldbuilding of Log Horizon, nor is it as comically bad and entertainingly idiotic as SAO. It’s just kind of…there. Wasted potential. I will say this; if you like MMORPG anime, you’ll probably like Overlord, but for everyone else, it’s just not successful enough with its ideas for me to feel compelled to recommend it. Though my Tuesdays will be dull again, I’m not getting enough out of the show to justify watching it anymore.
Final score: 5/10
Dropped after 8 episodes.

PRISON SCHOOL (KANGOKU GAKUEN)

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Yours truly is indeed enjoying this.

Yatahaze:
Alas, Kiyoshi’s prison break was successful! A string of bad luck and plan Bs couldn’t stop our oppressed hero from getting his date with Chiyo! If only his triumph could last more than an episode, because Chiyo ended up ruining the whole escape for him, posting a picture off school grounds to social media and freaking out when she discovered her uniform in Kiyoshi’s bag, an unlucky coincidence.

And thus he’s exposed, outcast, and the Underground Student Council realizes if they can manipulate the boys against each other, they might do more stupid stuff that would actually warrant getting them expelled. So begins another chapter of Prison School: DTO, the USC’s plan to rid Hachimitsu of boys once and for all.

Part of why I love this show now (despite the obvious reasons like how this is such a serious take on such an absurd premise) is how hypocritical everyone is and how their thoughts and actions don’t align. Chiyo later fights for Kiyoshi’s right to stay and even threatens to leave herself if Mari doesn’t stop assuming he’s a total pervert…while Kiyoshi, head held to Chiyo’s chest at that exact moment can’t help but think of how pleasant Chiyo’s tits are. And Shingo desperately tries to get everyone to pick on Kiyoshi (and later Gakuto) to mask the fact that he’s in cahoots with Meiko, earning time outside the prison to visit an upperclasswoman he’s crushing on in exchange for information that could help DTO. Joe also loses it in one episode, only restrained by Kiyoshi, who gets a stick up his ass (literally) in order to prevent Joe from going to actual prison for attempted assault. Gakuto’s figure gets discovered and he has to sacrifice it in a scene that shouldn’t be anywhere near as emotional as it is…or work as well as it does. Next week, Andre’s up for harassment (or lack thereof). The whole cast is used to perfection. My only complaint right now is that Meiko’s rampant oversexualization makes her too easy of a go-to joke sometimes, unlike Hana and Mari.

Prison School’s stakes somehow keep increasing. I don’t know it pulls it off, but by golly, it does. If this were another, better season, I may not have bothered to try Prison School in the first place, but I’m glad I did. At this point I’m helplessly sucked in by the ai no prizoon. There’s no going back now.
Current score: 7.75/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

ROKKA: BRAVES OF THE SIX FLOWERS

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Why is six afraid of seven?

Yatahaze:
I’ll say one thing: Rokka may not be up there with the best shows this season, but it’s trying. The seven Braves arguing to weed out the fake is extremely entertaining. It’s everything else before now (and the fact that I don’t know if the show will end without breaking its own continuity) that has me hesitant to give it more praise.

Upon describing how he got into the temple, Adlet is understandably pinned as the seventh Brave. Had we not seen him get the mark in the first episode, I’d be convinced too. Nachetanya pleads that the others listen, but with a tag team of Hans and Maura leading the charge to jump to the plausible conclusion and off Adlet here, our Strongest Man in the World freaks the fuck out, stuns Flamie and takes her hostage, and escapes.

That didn’t really help his case at all.

When Flamie wakes up, the two have a chit-chat about their pasts. Previously, Flamie told the other six that she was born half-fiend, half-human, raised by fiends, and only switched sides once her mother abandoned her. Adlet was raised in a human village that was visited by a hilariously dumb looking fiend (Rokka isn’t exactly great with fiend design) and afterward went into a witch hunt, the inhabitants killing anyone who refused to convert to the Demon King’s side. Adlet was supposedly the only survivor, and afterwards desperately showed up at the feet of Atro Spiker, the man who trained him and gave him physical strength, emotional hardiness, and knowledge of weaponry. Adlet lets Flamie go back to the others, and the six split up to search for him and finish him off, Hans staying at the temple to kill Adlet if he comes back to get his left-behind gear.

Sure enough, he does, and he should be lucky Hans was the one who was there, because after a quick scuffle, the two confirm each other’s behavior would make no rational sense if either of them were the fake. Adlet gathers his stuff, Hans takes another look around the temple’s interior to sniff out possible escape routes (of which he insists there are none), and the two are suddenly attacked by an impatient Chamot, who summons vomit monsters out of her swamp stomach and-

yeah, that’s where we’re at now. Didn’t think I’d ever say the above phrase. Chamot’s also a fucking idiot, because all the Braves need to be present to defeat the Demon King. Granted she’s young and arrogant and thinks she can beat him by herself, and that may be the only reason she’s acting as she is, not necessarily because she’s the seventh, though the odds won’t be in her favor after this.

At its core, Rokka’s mystery works because it wasn’t and still isn’t obvious who’s behind this and who the seventh brave is. At this point, almost everyone has an alibi. We know Hans and Adlet aren’t the fakes. If Goldov or Nashetanya were fakes, one of them surely would’ve exposed the other by now. Maura and Chamot arrived together, which should clear their names, and Chamot’s established to be an insensible person, forgiving her insensible action. Flamie is the most suspicious still, having tried to kill the other Braves before the big meetup, but she also didn’t kill Adlet when the two had their escape in the forest, nor did she continue trying to attack anyone once the seven had gathered at the temple.

I have two theories as to how this could play out: one of the Braves has been brainwashed into honestly believing they’re a real Brave, a trick used from the demon side to have the Braves target one another and kill off one of the necessary “real” six without getting their hands dirty. The other option could be as Adlet hypothesized a few episodes back; there are really two false Braves who could back each other up, the real sixth not having made it there. It’s weird to think at this point, eight episodes in, we’re still in the midst of trying to figure out who the fake is. I’m having a hell of a time, and if the series ends once that’s resolved, I’d be content with that. What I’m worried about is Rokka then trying to stuff in an actual end to the Braves’ mission as well. The wasted exposition time earlier is hardly important now, and we’re rapidly approaching the end of the show. At its best, Rokka is a great mystery show with a fun setting bolstering the intrigue. At its worst, it’s a poorly-animated action show that doesn’t understand what it’s doing and runs into pacing issues. Which way this will ultimately play out, I don’t know, but at the moment, I’m having fun and Rokka hasn’t committed mystery suicide yet.
Current score: 6.75/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

Harubro:
Well, shit.

I never would’ve anticipated that I’d stick around for Rokka as long as I have, but hot damn, this show is pretty good fun! I like the mystery turn the show has taken, because the action bits had started to really turn stale. So much for living up to your name, eh, “Passione?”

Back to business. Rokka is playing its cards well with the mystery of the false seventh Brave. This show did a fantastic job building up the suspense in that interrogation sequence at the temple leading up to Adlet having to hastily make an escape by using Flamie as a hostage, heaping on all the suspicion of the other Braves, aside from Nachetanya, who insists that Adlet isn’t the impostor.

That was a well executed sequence that leads us to where we are now.

Through strange circumstances, (my favorite lazy explanation phrase, btw) eventually we get a much-anticipated faceoff between Adlet and Hans where some blows are exchanged, but eventually the two use their brains to eventually come to the conclusion that neither of them are the impostor. Good thing, too, because I dig the fairly constructive dynamic that these two have. They go back to the temple to try and see if there was something they could’ve overlooked, and subsequently run into Chamot, who decides that she can fight the Demon King alone and that Adlet and Hans should die, promptly fucking everything up with her vomit fiends.

I could’ve gone without watching that, but whatever, yo. I have a feeling that somehow, this is gonna end up looking bad on Adlet and Hans. I already found Chamot to be an insufferable pest from the moment she was introduced, so this just makes her look all the more suspicious from my perspective.

…and that’s the best thing Rokka has going for it! The mystery is still pretty wide open to interpretation by the viewers, whom are able to decide for themselves who the think the impostor is. I like it when shows intentionally (at least I hope it’s intentional) leave room for interpretation by the viewers, which can lead to some pretty fun theories. Personally, I think it’s either Maura, or some yet to be introduced big bad. I’ll bet you I’m probably wrong, though.

Congrats, Passione. I intend to stick around to see how this game of Mesoamerican Clue will play out.
Current score: 6.5/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

SNOW WHITE WITH THE RED HAIR (AKAGAMI NO SHIRAYUKI-HIME)

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Still not sure what to make of almost all the characters having Japanese first names and very un-Japanese surnames.

Yatahaze:
Oh no! A mysterious disease is spreading at Fort Laxdo, an area under Zen’s jurisdiction! Whatever will they d- oh yeah Shirayuki knows medical stuff. She’ll just help them out and make everything happy again. Joking aside, it was a sensible episode, but one where Snow White with the Red Hair’s aesthetic consistency dropped. There were occasionally off-model characters, and by this point in the show, Shirayuki’s single-episode escapades were starting to wear me down a little. Give me something more, show.

And it actually answered my request! The Fort Laxdo incident is enough of an event to convince First Prince Izana (cause Zen’s the second, ye) to come back home for a bit. Izana’s a great character that the series really needs right now; someone who’s experienced and calculated but very much still human. When word got out that Shirayuki, a foreign commoner, was routinely meeting up with Zen and the two are on chummy terms, he’s rightfully a little curious and wary. Obviously he has the tendency to show himself up during appearances, but his concern with this relationship is a real one that will affect his kingdom. It’s not that he doesn’t want Zen to be happy, but Zen’s happiness in this particular instance isn’t his primary concern. He has a kingdom’s reputation to uphold. To that end, he decides to see if by any chance, a visit from Prince Raj will get Shirayuki to take her eyes off Zen for a bit.

But of course they wouldn’t. We’re talking Prince Raj here. Dude’s an eternally awkward klutz. And his awkwardness isn’t confined to himself; he blurts out misinformation that Zen and Shirayuki are engaged during his tour of Clarines. Cue the palace gossip.

Thankfully it reaches its way to Shirayuki herself, and she finally starts to realize she likes Zen more than she first thought. Zen’s been pretty obvious about it this whole time, but Shirayuki’s work ethic has drawn her attention away from him, and it’s due to this accidental slip from Raj that the two knowingly display some feelings of love for the first time. This series ain’t labelled shoujo for nothing, so it’s nice to see the cast start moving the romance plot thread along.

Episode 8 is mostly flashback material; Izana instructed Mitsuhide (who I didn’t notice was older until now) to become Zen’s bodyguard and report back to him if anything seemed suspicious. This ultimately saves him from a group attack just outside the castle wall which teaches Zen to be cautious of other people’s social status, something he’s not doing (and doesn’t have to, but Izana doesn’t know that for sure) with Shirayuki. Outside the flashback, Zen actually makes this move himself, instructing the sneaky Obi to be Shirayuki’s bodyguard from this point onward.

Where Snow White with the Red Hair was starting to lose traction at the start of this month, it’s comfortably regaining some grip now. The art itself has been beautiful the whole way through, the minor character key frame issues are fixed more often than not, and there’s enough semblance of an overarching plot to feel like I’ll be rewarded if I continue. As far as storybook castle romances go, there are still some issues with originality, and after this season, I’m not sure how much of an impression Snow White with the Red Hair will leave on me, but at the moment, it’s doing what it’s doing well enough to silence any little gripes I may have. There’s a confirmed second cour coming up in 2016 too, which I’ll probably pick up…

…as long as Bones gives us the BBB finale before then. I’m still waiting. Jenny Battlefront when?
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

Harubro:
Needless to say, I’m pretty happy with how the last couple of weeks have gone with this one. Out of the cluster of shows this season that were lacking a direction, this was one of of the more glaring examples. As much as I like Snow White with the Red Hair, I was ready for the show to move on from the stand alone episodic approach it set out with.

Leave it to the arrival of Zen’s older brother, the first prince Izana, to give this show some focus, and to start on something resembling an arc, at last. This show has done a pretty good job with the events that take place around him, spending a good portion of the show building him up like he was going to be an insufferable big bad, but he actually turns out to be a pretty affable king-in-the-making, resolute in undertaking what he believes is best for his kingdom, whether it’s undermining some corrupt nobles, or simply investigating the foreign girl that his younger brother seems to have taken a liking to.

The show has also taken steps towards advancing the romance a little, as it seems as though both Zen and Shirayuki are aware of the budding romantic feelings between them. Zen was always an open book on that note, but it looks as though Shirayuki is just now contemplating just what her relationship with Zen really is. But of course, this wouldn’t be a proper shoujo without some sort of challenger in the wings, and it’s openly hinted at least a couple times thus far that Obi, the seemingly carefree attendant/bodyguard might unwittingly be developing an interest Shirayuki. All glory to shoujo romance!

Speaking of Obi, this show has a pretty likable cast of supporting characters, with him, Ryuu, Mitsuhide, Kiki and others rounding out the roster pretty well. The voice acting in this show is still fantastic, and this shows visuals have stayed fairly consistent throughout. The color palettes used in this show might be my favorite of anything airing this season, aside from Charlotte perhaps, for they’re not oversaturated, nor too dull. The lighting and shot framing are what you’d expect from a good Bones show, so I have no qualms there, either. Aside from the Fort Laxdo sequence, the character animation is pretty clean and crisp. Add all that up, and that makes Snow White with the Red Hair one of the easier shows on the eyes this season.

Yep, this show is still a refreshing watch.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

WORKING!!! (SEASON 3)

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This is what hell looks like.

Yatahaze:
If there’s one thing I feel like I don’t see often in 4-koma adapted anime, it’s long, steady, traceable arcs. These shows tend to be great at quick, snappy moments, and one way to adapt them well is to spread out arcs over several episodes, with the major points coming in these small, easily digestible chunks.

But this month Working was like “haha, fuck that, it’s Yamada Month.”

I don’t like Yamada. I didn’t when she first came around. I don’t now. I probably won’t in the future. But for a second there, I almost did. Episode 6 was a standout episode for Working, juggling several plot threads that one-upped each other in hilarity and strangeness with ease. It contained a solid mix of Working classics and bizarre new things. The shot framing was more thoughtful, the direction was elevated, and the laughs just kept coming. It was awesome.

And then episode 7 hit, and Kirio Yamada’s discovery of Aoi Yamada (the two will now be addressed by first name for your convenience) was the first sign of the arc’s downhill slope. Aoi’s mission to find herself a new family at Working stems from the fact that her mother is extremely poor at communication and Kirio’s an unwitting asshole. It’d be sweet if I liked Aoi at all, but I don’t, and the siblings’ mom was used for joke after joke about her bad communication. The arc’s serious drama ends with Aoi deciding she can go home if she wants, and occasionally will, but would still like to stay at the restaurant and keep her relationships as they are. That’s right, folks. In the season of Working finally getting off its ass and moving relationships along (see Satou giving Yachiyo four years worth of birthday presents, Souta trying to come to terms with liking Inami, and Ooto finally meeting his wife again), the one perpetually annoying constant that is Aoi gets almost two, maybe two and a half-ish episodes mostly to herself…and then doesn’t use the opportunity to change. This takeaway would be less frustrating if the characters introduced and emphasized (in this case the Yamada family as a whole) could provide material for more jokes going forward, but I fail to see how they might.

Working is a show of hits and misses, and this month included both one of its best episodes, and two of my least favorite, though maybe just because I don’t like the Yamadas. As such, your mileage will vary, but as a whole this season of Working remains steady.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

Harubro:
Had this aired any other season, I bet that I’d be astonished if this show cracked my top 3 for a season. Fortunately for all of us, Working returned to us to provide some pop to an otherwise lackluster summer.

In all honesty, this show might actually have a good chance of cracking my top five shows of the year. The third season of Working has taken all the previous seasons’ experiences, running gags and jokes we’ve come to love and capitalized on them. We’ve been treated to the highly anticipated Satou/Todoroki date, and in the weeks that followed, the Yamada siblings were finally reunited in a hilarious series of events! Well, I say “reunited,” but in typical Working (and Yamada) fashion, Aoi wants nothing to do with her actual brother, pettily disowning him over some stolen sweets. The Yamada family’s strangely dysfunctional circumstances come to light, revealing that Aoi’s reason for running away from home was all just one big misunderstanding between her and her mother, (along with Kirio stealing her sweets) because of fucking course it was a misunderstanding! Unlike Yata, I adore the Yamada family for their total disconnection with any sort of realistic or logical thought processes.

Oh, and in all the commotion, Mr. Otoo finally found his wife!

Yata may not dig the glory that is Yamada month, but one of the bonuses of the extra screen time Kirio’s been getting lately is that he’s inadvertently been egging Takanashi on concerning his relationship with Inami. At least Kirio seems to be able to read that situation, right? Now the show seems to be “working” towards this adorable romantic thing between Takanashi and Inami, and that could definitely be a comedic gold mine in the making.

Almost everything about this show is just endearing itself to me, and at this point, Working seems likely to cruise to the finish line with a nice comfy 8 rating from me.
Current score: A very cozy 8/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

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