[previous update]

Very close to just giving four #1s. These shows keep trading god-tier episodes week to week and distinguishing between them becomes more about “which was more amazing this week?” rather than which is better overall. I’ve just lost any ability to make that call anymore! For now, I’ve compromised as 1/1/2/2.

NOTE: I get very spoilery this update! I was in the mood to be much more specifi, and this far into the season it’s hard to stay high-level without being (extra) repetitive. I especially recommend making sure you’re caught up with Yama no Susume before reading my comments. And Free. And… all of them I suppose.

Full Series
1. Futsuu no Joshikousei ga Locodol Yattemita [▲0▼] – 11 eps, 9/10 – [IMPORTED] Episode 9 gave us Yukari’s vulnerable side, setting Nanako up to tend to her, which was endearing. Episode 10-11 were preparation for and day one of the Locodol Festa, and it’s exciting to see the focus on the Locodols this time. This show is always strong at sticking to its themes. Nanako summed it up perfectly in episode 10. She’s a Locodol, and she truly believes in the “local”. It drives home her tremendously satisfying character growth so far.

Episode 11 did a brilliant job with all that. Nagarekawa Girls are contrasted to Awa2 Girls, but without condemning the latter’s more commercial profile. Yeah it’s all slightly simplistic in its message (e.g. the obvious symbolism of Awa2 selling out their idol merch but very few of their town’s local specialties) but I think the depiction of Awa2 Girls when they met Nanako’s group was very good. Rather than one-dimensional antagonists, we see mutual admiration between the teams. After some culture shock the Awa2 Girls see the upsides of Nagarekawa Girls’ lower profile, and recognize something of their older selves in them. I’m interested in seeing how it plays out in the final episode.

Special mention to this and this. Yukari’s faces there were gold.

1. Yama no Susume Season 2 [▲3] – 10 eps, 9/10 – [IMPORTED] I can’t do the last two weeks justice. Beautiful, subtle, executed with absolute mastery of mood and pacing, visually stunning, perfectly acted. The Fuji arc is among the best of Summer’s offerings, no question.

I’d been wondering how they could tackle Mount Fuji before the half-way point. Short of going overseas to challenge even larger mountains (which seems a bit extravagant!), Fuji is the holy grail. When it became apparent they really were taking on Fuji I figured fog would obscure the sunrise, or a landslide would make the trails inaccessible and force them to try again later. Something like that would work, but at the risk of being a rather thin development, narratively. But that’s fine for this show, right?

I should not have underestimated it. Instead of some external obstacle, everything breaks down on Aoi’s own physical limitations. She’s initially feeling optimistic, but gradually comes down with altitude sickness. Kaede stays with her while Hinata and Kokona reluctantly carry on, and it looks like this is where the Fuji trip ends. Bitter disappointment, above all towards herself. And a very strong motivation to have them attempt it again in the second cour!

Allowing the story to take a weightier tone is all well and good but the execution is what floored me. Episode 9 was visually stunning in its colors and environmental detail, but episode 10’s appeal was its beautifully understated emotional impact. Aoi’s sickness comes on gradually and when it really hits her it’s not an especially dramatic scene – after some dizziness on the way up, she nods off at a rest stop. Kaede shows us how indispensable she is at this point, tending to Aoi with skill and concern, and not a hint of condemnation. It’s not only Aoi she needs to guide either – she manages to keep Hinata and Kokona together as well. I have such, such immense respect for Kaede as a character. And so we end with Hinata and Kokona viewing the sunrise without half their group, while Aoi tries to sleep, disappointed in herself, wanting only to run away. Rough stuff!

Ahhhhhh, honestly, anyone who wasn’t sure about watching this show, please please do so. I can’t possibly do these recent episodes justice.

2. Hanayamata [▼1] – 10 eps, 9/10 – [IMPORTED] I really appreciated how episode 8 addressed the “girls who are clearly in perfectly good shape fret over their weight” trope. It seems like that’s where we’re going, before the episode tosses it out in this scene, which I found really charming. Episode 9 was the Machi episode, and I honestly love how it was handled. Healing a decade of feelings of betrayal in an episode or two is always going to feel hasty, but I found the certification test a great vehicle for proving Sally’s dedication and washing away Machi’s resenement. And then episode 10, Machi get! The last scene before the ED was adorable (and showed off Machi’s strengths!), as was the post-ED scene. Of course you didn’t think we’d get character arcs for everyone except Hana, right?

Hanayamata is not “just” a lighthearted slice of life series, it’s much more fundamentally a story of how five girls meet, bond, and work out deep emotional and relationship issues through yosakoi and the friendship it nurtures. Naru’s feelings of self-worthlessness, Yaya’s inner emotional fragility conflicting with her desire to maintain a cool exterior, Tami’s opposing desires to please her father and find her own dreams, and Machi’s strained relationship with her sister and deep-seated feelings of betrayal. Together they’ve overcome so much, and arrived on the other side happier people, individually and as a group.

Now it’s Hana’s turn.

(P.S. Aniki is such an Aniki.)

2. Free! Eternal Summer [▲1] – 8 eps, 9/10 – [IMPORTED] I’m pretty confident in saying episode 10 was the best of either season. The outpouring of emotions between Rin and Sousuke capped off a character arc for Sousuke that was so, so much better than I could have expected. It would have been zero effort to go on autopilot and write Sousuke as a more one-dimensional rival, and it would have worked well enough if not been very engaging. But instead, Sousuke is a fleshed-out addition to the cast, and I love his place in the story, both as an essential part of Samezuka and a motivation for Haru.

Haruka’s episode 9 collapse in the freestyle could have been a more subtle, but it did clearly show how poorly he was dealing with the accumulating pressure. And it made the triumphant relay all the better. What set the mood for me was that moment when team Samezuka in the audience notice Sousuke’s shoulder and their cheers die down into worried mumbling, until Mikoshiba SCREAMS at them to FOCUS – I really appreciated him right then! Then it happens again when Rin screams for Sousuke and gives him the second wind to finish his leg. Exciting as all hell the whole way through, and so, so well animated.

Then episode 11. Now that did not end at all where I thought it would. Either time, before or after the ED! I really like seeing Makoto and Haru just yell at each other, because there’s loads of tension there that needed to be let out. It doesn’t end nicely, but that sets up Rin’s bombshell after the ED. Hah! On the one hand I do want the final reconciliation to be between Makoto and Haru, but, it makes perfect sense that Rin would be the one to help Haru out of this. After all, Rin has already been through it. Nobody understands it better. And I mean, Rin has basically ascended to godhood in this season, so if anyone can do it…

5. Barakamon [▲0▼] – 10 eps, 8/10 – A show I enjoy but find myself not having a lot to say about. It’s really really solid though. Episode 10 was pretty great but I do have a small complaint about how Seishuu just up and leaves without telling anyone. That’s really at odds with his growth as a person, which has been depicted with exacting nuance and attention to detail thus far. For him to simply disappear just feels off. Like it’s done purely for purposes of time, to set up some drama, not because it’s what he’d actually do. If they resolve it well in the end, all well and good, (and I’m confident they will!) but it was slightly jarring.

Short Series
Just Mahou Shoujo Taisen from Spring. I’ll finish it eventually.

Dropped Series
Sabagebu!6 eps – Just not feeling it, and lost the will to go back and catch up.
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei!2.5 eps
Momokyun Sword1 ep

3+ Cour Series
Fairy Tail24 eps, 7/10 – The wind-down episode after the Eclipse 2 arc was a lot of fun, but oh Fairy Tail the amount you tease me with perfect ships I know can never sail… ;_;

Hunter x Hunter146 eps, 7/10 – With two episodes left, Yorkshin remains the climax of the series. But this last arc impressed the hell out of me. Initially I felt like it hit the brakes too hard with the Killua/Illumi confrontation, but subsequent episodes have made clear Illumi is playing a long-term game here, and we’ve got some very interesting material coming up. The Alluka/Killua/Illumi conflict is what interests me the most by far of all HxH plot threads right now. Only Kurapika’s current whereabouts come close. Of course, this being HxH, I doubt we’ll see material for another season any time soon.

THAT KILLUA THOUGH. I love Killua. I love Alluka. When they’re together you get among the best scenes of the whole show. I didn’t think I could love Killua any more than I did, and then this arc happened. Still zero doubt that he is among my favorite male characters ever (…a list I should really think hard about one day).

Jojo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders24 eps / complete, 6.5/10 – And done (until Winter)! 24 episodes to arrive in Egypt… Well despite a rough start, it ended up being a consistently decent ride in the latter half. I still don’t think very much of Joutarou as a character (a bit bland?) but everyone around him made up for it. I hope the second half of Stardust Crusaders comes off less “Stand of the Week” and plays out more like the original 2012 season.

Current 2014 Top 10
1. Sakura Trick (Winter)
2. Akuma no Riddle (Spring)
3. Saki Zenkoku-hen (Winter)
3. Futsuu no Joshikousei ga Locodol Yatte Mita (Summer)
3. Yama no Susume (Summer)
6. Hanayamata (Summer)
6. Free! Eternal Summer (Summer)
6. Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka? (Spring)
9. No Game No Life (Spring)
10. Hitsugi no Chaika (Spring)


17 Responses to “Summer 2014 viewing update #4”

  1. musouka says:

    Episode 11 of Free! was basically everything I wanted for Makoto, Haru and their relationship. Their bond was always very strongly delineated in High Speed, making it clear that both of them were mutually invested to the same degree, but it could come across as one-sided at times in the anime. I never believed it was, but it just wonderful to get clear confirmation on just HOW much Haru cares about his best friend, from his wounded look when Makoto started their discussion, to the moment you could see his heart breaking near the end. It’s patently obvious that whatever thought Haru has given to his future, the idea of Makoto not being right at his side has never been a consideration. (Him being so upset that he forwent a bath that evening was just icing on the cake.)

    In that respect, I’m fine with him going to Australia with Rin. Even if Rin is ultimately the one that helps Haru find what he wants to do, I feel like Makoto did the difficult job of making Haru receptive to what Rin had to say. That might seem thankless in the face of things, but I imagine it’ll have its own rewards in the final episode.

    As for Hanayamata, I’m not really sure why people have been blasting it for having interpersonal drama. Those moments are probably the reason I haven’t dropped it, to be honest, as I like the sort of narrative texture of the contrast between almost teeth-rottingly sweet and traces of sour. Allowing the girls to have negative feelings as well as positive just makes them feel more human, and also makes them feel closer when they manage to overcome it. (Well, regardless of how I feel, it doesn’t seem like Japan is really taking notice, so ultimately it doesn’t matter…)

    • something says:

      I feel really bad for Hanayamata, it’s suffering from people expecting the next Kinmosa or Gochiusa – very very good shows, but ones where drama is non-existent or heavily minimized. Hanayamata has more in common with… well, with I’m not sure what. Series like Manabi Straight, K-ON!, and Aria all went there but the latter two spread it across much longer series (3 and 4 cour, respectively) while Manabi’s equivalent was primarily in Mei’s story. Hanayamata makes it a central part of the experience from start to finish for every one of its characters, and unapologetically so. And that’s just different from how everything usually plays out in these shows.

      Actually if anything, maybe Marimite or even Free! are better comparisons.

      I think this sort of drama generally comes up more – and is more easily digested by viewers because it’s expected – when romance is involved, and since it’s nearly impossible to find actual romance in all-female casts, this is just not a dynamic people are used to.

      • hpulley says:

        Was on the fence on a Hanayamata import but unfortunately episode 11 has made it almost certainly a no unless 12 is so good it makes me forget all about this one. Just… Won’t spoil but… Ugh. Killing me, this show. So much I wanted to love this show. So, so much. It hurts this time, it really does with how they made it play out. Episodes I don’t want to see again kill imports for me. Kill them dead. Damn.

        • something says:

          Wow, don’t think we could have reacted more differently! Thoughts here: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sb0pro

          Might be the best episode of the show, and in a way, one of the most positive! Absolutely sealed the show as one of the best of the year for me. Flawlessly executed.

          Edit: Damn, wish I could edit twitlongers… what I wanted to add re: it being such a positive episode is… If the central premise of Hanayamata is “finding peace with and confidence in who you are as a person through friendship, love, and yosakoi”, this episode was especially beautiful in that it ends with the girls still able to stand on their own two feet and smile through hardship. It’s proof they truly have grown, and will find a way to keep moving forward. I really, really love that about this episode.

      • anson says:

        I always wondered what would be a decent gender distaff counterpart for Free, and it seems Hanayamata fits the bill rather solidly yet it fell into deaf ears among the otaku.

    • anson says:

      And Gou-chan sits there having no idea what’s happening to the guys!

  2. rederoin says:

    Also recently updated my top 10. Chances are this will be my final top 10. A lot of series only have 1 or 2 episodes remaining, so I doubt much will change.

    Half/full length shows
    1. Sabagebu! (AotY materiaal)
    2. Yama no Susume: Second Season. (AotY materiaal)
    3. Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yatte Mita.
    4. Hanyamata +2
    Episode 11 was amazing, if summer wasen’t this amazing, it’d be ranked higher.
    5. Barakamon -1
    6. Akame ga Kill! -1
    7. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
    8. Majimoji Rurumo
    9. Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus new
    10. Zankyou no Terror new

    1. Himegoto
    Depending on the last 2 episodes, this will my favourite short of all time.
    2. Strange+ S2
    3. Ai Mai Mi S2

    1. Diamond No ace
    2. Fairy Tail
    3. Jojo P3
    4. HxH
    5. Haikyuu!!
    6. Space Dandy
    7. Baby steps

  3. DiabloCthulhu says:

    Seriously, something? You’re just gonna keep quietly deleting my comments because… why exactly? What you didn’t liked about my comment about Hanayamata? I didn’t insulted you, or said something offensive, or something like that, I just said why I think Hanayamata is suffering and why people have been bashing it. It’s your site so you of course can do whatever the hell you want, but you could at least give me a reason why you don’t let my comments pass the moderation.

  4. DiabloCthulhu says:

    > but you could at least give me a reason why you don’t let my comments pass the moderation

    And even going as far as blacklisting my email.

    • something says:

      I didn’t blacklist it, Akismet (spam checker plugin) picked it up as spam after the other one was deleted, and I guess that blocks the email address.

      I rejected the original comment because when someone’s very first comment is worded like they’re only posting to shit on a show, that’s not a first comment I’m going to approve. I’ve had enough experience with really awful anime forums to be pretty rigid on what I’ll accept here. (Thankfully I’ve only had to reject maybe 6 out of ~2200 comments so far on this site).

      Since you say you weren’t intending purely to shit on it (Hanayamata for those wondering), your IP is approved for commenting now. Not sure if I can find and reapprove the previous email address since I emptied my spam folder yesterday (I get approximately ~200 spam comments a day).

      • DiabloCthulhu says:

        > I didn’t blacklist it, Akismet (spam checker plugin) picked it up as spam after the other one was deleted, and I guess that blocks the email address.

        Oh. I’m sorry for the accusations then.

        Yeah, I wasn’t shitting on Hanayamata (as I’ve said, was just sharing an observation regarding people’s opinions; for those wondering: I don’t think Hanayamata is suffering from people expecting the next Kinmosa or Gochiusa (I didn’t even saw people that said something like “Drama? In my cute girls doing cute things show?! DROPPED.”, and even if there are people like that, they are certainly in the minority); as far as I’ve seen, people have been blasting it not for simply having the drama but because they think that that drama is melodramatic and badly written). But I can see why you thought that way, the wording was indeed a bit poor. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how Gakkou Gurashi (which is really good and everyone should read it) will sell and what people will think about it. It’s not exactly the case of “Is it gonna suffer from people expecting the next Kinmosa or Gochiusa?” because just after reading a synopsis you’re already expect lots of drama, but it’s definitely the case of “Is it gonna suffer just because it’s very different from the usual CGDCT shows?” (has there even been a show(s) similar to Gakkou Gurashi?). Though if they screw up the adaptation (I really hope they don’t) and general viewers opinion regarding the drama will be that it’s melodramatic fest (though of course that could be the case without them screwing up the adaptation, but general readers opinion is that drama is well done) then it’s gonna be question of whether it will suffer from this or from simply being very different (or, indeed, both).

        > Not sure if I can find and reapprove the previous email address

        Well, I can comment using it, but if it’s a bother to reapprove, then, well, don’t bother, it’s no biggie.

  5. hpulley says:

    I agree absolutely that they have handled the Fuji-san arc well in the anime! I loved it in the manga (won’t spoil further, I have read all 55 chapters so far, 7 books plus) and love it even more in the anime.

    I was worried for sales what something NOT just cute girls doing cute things would do to sales but I know that YnS has a strong mountaineering fanbase. I just hope they buy Blurays in addition to boots and stoves as so far I haven’t seen as much product placement and advertising as the first season which had a huge page of sponsors at the end of the credits while in s2 the product names are changed, “Colewoman” which implies that Coleman is not a sponsor.

    Wonderful stuff and CDJapan has finally, after my request added disc 2 to their catalog. I had to request disc 1 as well. I requested all the discs but it seems like I may need to bug them about disc 3 later… sigh.

    • something says:

      Actually, regarding the production committee, it appears that the committee is a lot bigger this time (aka more investors), which is presumably why Crunchyroll is having such a hell of a time getting rights finalized. One of the new committee members is probably making things difficult, bleh. If it were all just the season one committee members they’d probably have all the eps up already.

      (Or maybe they’re just asking for a whole lot more money)

      • hpulley says:

        How some money for streaming is ever better than no money I don’t think I will ever understand but… ah well… I’ve read it and don’t need subs but even the HD versions of it come up slowly which is too bad.

        Jinsei never got a stream either which is probably too bad for them. With such low disc sales they probably could have used a little streaming money to cut the losses. Have no idea what would have stopped that one from getting streamed.

  6. lesterpox says:

    I miss Gou-chan’s presence!

    • something says:

      I can never have enough Gou but ohmygoddddddd episode 12 had me trying so hard not to squeal like a little girl. I was absofuckinlutely losing my goddamned shit The Entire Episode.

      Rin may officially be my #1 all time favorite male character at this point. In any show, ever. I seriously do not know how much better they could possibly make him.

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