As mentioned in the imports post, sometimes I’ll post on non-sales related topics. Besides the import list, I may also post very occasionally on what I’m watching.

In general I watch much much less anime than I used to. There are various reasons for this but that’s really another discussion; the end result is that I’ve cut back to watching the shows closest to my core interests.

This tends to be iyashi-kei/slice of life/kuuki-kei anime, preferably with all-female casts. Yet at the same time I’m also generally following at least one long-running generally-more-mainstream show when I can find a really good one. I’ll watch shows outside of this sometimes but starting from Fall 2013, there either needs to be some exceptional circumstance, or it needs to be grandfathered in for being a direct or spiritual sequel to something I liked before the apocalypse.

All this also makes my scores for shows a bit unhelpful because most of the time I’m only going to watch something I’m pretty certain I know I’ll love – a lot. And I’ll drop anything 6/10 or below (even 7/10 or below) very very quickly. But I’ll score anyway.

Oh and there could be very minor spoilers in here, but I’ll try to avoid them and definitely don’t want any spoilers in comments!

This Winter I’m watching the following:

Full Series – Imports
1. Sakura Trick10/10 – Exactly zero surprise that this was going to be my favorite show of the season, and it’s almost certainly a lock for favorite of the year and one of my favorite of all time and a 10/10 rating. I have waited for years for this show. We’ve had a small number of significant yet secondary canon side couples (e.g. Kanamemo, Horizon, Mouretsu), and a few actual yuri manga adaptations that ended before even confirming the lead relationship (Aoi Hana, Sasameki Koto). You have to go back some years more for the last time a lesbian couple was the focus, and it’s not like examples were plentiful then either (and many were… flawed in various ways).

So while it’s true Sakura Trick didn’t spend time on the build-up, I personally interpret it at a more meta level. We have had build up. Years of it. I’ve sat through years of aborted attempts, teases, disappointments, gender-bent loopholes and, yes, small signs of progress too amidst all that. So when when Haruka and Yuu get to kissing with minimal backstory or drama in episode one, I had zero complaints. I’ve waited long enough. I can’t possibly view this show in a vacuum and demand it start from scratch.

All that aside it’s just a hilariously funny and incredibly cute show that does a great job depicting the emotions between Haruka and Yuu now that they’ve started being intimate.

Haruka and Yuu’s relationship really grabs me because they’re not tied down to their archetypes. Haruka is jealous and lacks confidence in whether Yuu will always be there for her, but also teasing and mischievous and good at getting under Yuu’s skin. Yuu would probably be categorized as the tsundere, Iguchi Yuka and all, but unlike so many tsundere characters she actually shifts back and forth between the two sides quite a bit (and doesn’t go overboard on either), which is a lot more fun than a tsundere character that’s tsun for 12.5 episodes and dere at the end. Shes more like a normal person whose mood shifts based on the situation but who is still pretty coherent as a personality. I guess it’s the way they turn the tables on each other so often that really sells me. Relationships like that are great to watch.

I won’t go through every other character since I love them all, but I will mention that Mitsuki is a fantastic addition that really helps pull it all together by giving an outside perspective without the usual progress-killing downsides of a typical love triangle.

Production quality has varied with episode 2 looking pretty cheap, but episodes 3 and 4 looking very good – a lot of really nice subtle character animation. The director’s Hidamari experience serves the show well more often than not. And that OP is deadly catchy. KISS KISS KISS MOU MUCHUU NANO!

2. Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren9/10 – Even if it’s looking likely to join the ranks of comedies with precipitous sequel sales drops, I adore the second season so far. Shichimiya is an interesting addition to the cast. While throwing a third wheel into an established relationship at this point usually invites disaster, she already seems different; more complex, more thoughtful in how she views the situation. Like she’s taking stock of the situation before acting rather than just charging in as the disruptor. (Well she physically charges in a lot but I mean on an emotional level!)

The last two weeks have been episodic stories but they’ve also been really enjoyable so that’s fine by me. Episode 5 was one of the more amusing ones of the franchise. Episode 4 was better in some ways, as Sanae and Shinka are my two favorites, but the show is rather determined to just tease with those two.

3. Saki Zenkoku-hen9/10 – So far no surprises in my top 3, as this is exactly what I expected when the season began, in this order. The mahjong is starting in earnest now, and I love it as much as I always have.

This season does have the franchise’s recurring issue though: because there are so many schools, each with five players, “strong” players tend to get built up quite a bit only to have minimal impact on their games. Special abilities are hyped as terribly fearsome, and then if they even get triggered at all they affect maybe one or two hands, and not often pivotal ones. Entire matches can go by off screen. The powers are somewhat hobbled by the need to keep most of the games relatively close in points – you can’t stage a comeback from a 90k point deficit all the time. And you can’t let all four players at the table shine when points always come at other players’ expense.

That said it’s not like I’d prefer they cut back on the crazy supernatural powers and bring things down to earth. Not at all. If not remembering 80% of the characters’ names and having most of them be more bark than bite is the price to pay, I’ll pay it.

Full Series – Others
4. Super Sonico the Animation8/10 – If the first three were expected, this most certainly was not! An anime about the hypersexualized mascot character of Nitro+ is not at all where I expected to get one of the sweetest, most sentimental slice of life anime lately. Sure, there’s still scenes that exist purely for fanservice purposes, sure there’s still the occasional creeper character trying to exploit Sonico (though it gets very little focus). But the real meat of the show is clearly in Sonico’s relationships with the people she meets and how she affects them and they affect her.

I like to describe Super Sonico the Animation as Tamako Market with boobs. It’s about a girl who loves the people around her and makes wonderful memories with them. It’s really surprisingly good. If I still imported as much as I used to, this would be on my list for sure.

4. Wake Up, Girls!6.5/10 – Ehhh… I could go on at length about how mixed my feelings are with this show but I don’t feel like it right now. Suffice to say there are things I like about it and would like to see explored, but the approach is heavy-handed and awkward. He wants to pan the idol industry while raising his own idols. He wants to be taken seriously while creating comic book villains (DONT REST DONT COMPLAIN DONT THINK). He wants to, I presume, comment on fanservice while exploiting it. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll stick with it. I’m not sure if can overcome its contradictions enough to speak with clarity.

Go! Go! 575 – Four episodes, barely 12 minutes of show in total. Hell I’m not even sure it’s getting an individual disc release, instead I expect it’ll just be bundled with the game it’s advertising. How sad… but it was a lot of fun while it lasted. I can only hope that it’s a success and we get a full series.

Robot Girls Z – Full length episodes, yes, but it’s broken into three 9-minute segments and is only airing once a month for 3 episodes (9 segments). Which is a shame because it’s really fun. Episode two wasn’t as good as episode one (Doublas-chan #1 forever) for the most part but the last segment was just brilliant. And yes you can watch this without knowing a damn thing about the mecha anime involved. I sure didn’t.

Dropped Winter shows
Seitokai Yakuindomo * – I enjoyed the first season, but one episode of the sequel told me the humor has just worn off for me. I guess I can only take toilet/sexual humor once in a while.

Tonari no Seki-kun – Also dropped after one episode. I loved HanaKana but wasn’t really feeling it. Since I’m cutting back on how much I follow, I put this one to the side. At least neither of the shows I dropped this season is bad, they just didn’t make the cut.

Ongoing shows from past seasons
Log Horizon – I was determined to keep to only 2 imports in Fall, my least ever, but after episode 19 I caved and had to get this show too. It’s absolutely brilliant because it does not forget that stories are usually best when everyone in the cast matters. The protagonist is a support class, which is already unusual, and wins via strategic thinking and ruthless cunning rather than just charging in and blindly expecting the world’s mechanics to open plot holes for him to pierce through. And he can’t do any of it alone. The cast around him is delightful, and despite the size of the cast everyone important is a great character.

The world-building is also absolute top notch and shows the attention to detail that I hoped to get from the author’s Maoyuu, but didn’t quite. And the plot strikes a perfect balance of seriousness and fun,

Hunter x Hunter – This is seriously challenging Fairy Tail as my favorite shounen battle manga adaptation (not that I’ve seen loads of those, but whatever). That said, after one of the best buildups of tension I’ve ever seen (build-up to the infiltration in the Chimera Ant arc) the climax has been one of the most disappointing parts of the show. Instead of the characters and action speaking for itself, the narrator has been droning non-stop for the past month. I grudgingly understood it in the first episode, because an immense amount of information had to be conveyed in what lasted mere seconds in real time.

But it’s still going. Stop! I don’t need to hear you talk for three minutes about the security system on the elevator! I don’t know if the adaptation is just stumbling or if Togashi started phoning in more than just the art at this point. But I hope that we’ve gotten through the clumsier parts of the climax and that the next episode, which should begin an incredibly important battle, gets things permanently back on track. This show is way, way too good to get derailed now.

Uchuu Kyoudai – Approaching 100 episodes! This will be only the fourth continuous series I’ve reached 100 episodes of, after Naruto (up to 130 or so), Fairy Tail (all 175), and Hunter x Hunter (ongoing, 115). This has been enjoyable, if not entirely consistently so, for two years now. There are moments of brilliance (the moon arc, Sharon’s condition, basically anything with Serika) and also stretches of watchable yet somewhat dull training arcs that seem to outstay their welcome, though not always. Episodes also tend to be over rather quickly because OP/ED/Recap take up probably more time than they did in Shingeki. Still I tend to get far behind on this and catch up in bursts, so that speeds things up a bit. But I’ll be happy to stick with this for another 100 episodes without a doubt.

This went on about 5x longer than intended but it’s the first time I’ve done an update in quite a while, so I imagine any others for Winter will be much much shorter. I blame Sakura Trick!

4 Responses to “Currently Watching: 2014 Winter (#1)”

  1. Endiem says:

    I totally agree with your top three and they’re going to be my imports this season too. Chuunibyo and Saki are both sequels to series I bought previously, and I love the Sakura Trick manga so it was always a given unless they somehow dropped the ball, which of course they haven’t. I also caved and preordered Log Horizon too since it’s been consistently great to watch, though I’ve ordered them to come all at once the end of the series rather than disc by disc. My own honourable mentions go to D-Frag (far more amusing than I expected going in) and Witch Craft Works (entertaining plus the best ending sequence in a while). I also recommend watching at least episode 2 of Seki-kun – anyone who’s ever played chess or shogi can get a kick out of it. I normally skip short episode series but Seki-kun has made it onto my watch list.

  2. musouka says:

    If you have the time, I’d give Tonari no Seki-kun one more ep. I also thought the first one was really weak, but found the second incredibly charming and haven’t looked back since.

  3. You make a good point about Sasameki Koto. More than a few romance anime either end at or before the confession, and that limits the directions they can go in; many meaningful parts of a romantic relationship happen after that point, after all. Romances where the characters develop as a result of the relationship are a lot of fun, and that (aside from Mitsuki and the tweaky-cute visuals) has been one of the really nice aspects of that show.

    I checked out of Wake Up Girls after the second episode. The core cast was nice enough, but it felt a lot like a bad tragedy in that it was forcing a lot of rapidfire misfortune on the characters rather than exploring one issue in depth.

    The thing about HxH isn’t so much that the author checked out at this point as that he took a bunch of Liar Game-tier hiatuses to write the story, so it’s a text-heavy one. The series through the end of the Ants arc leaned towards an illustrated novel at times. I think that sort of expository text comes off as a problem most when adapting from manga to anime, because it’s easier for viewers to skip over it when they control the pace. It’s sort of a devil’s fork to adapt a series with that much exposition; keep it and you’re overly talkative, toss it and you risk skipping a setup for something that happens later.

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