Management: My writeups will still obviously all be on the test, but here are my overall initial impressions of this season’s lineup.
This week sure was summer. I caught the first episode of a whole tidal wave of shows, dropped several, clung to a few more, and was actually impressed by exactly two. Let’s get those out of the way first.
Uchouten Kazoku 1: Easily the best episode this week, and a very strong early contender for best show of the season. The writing was sharp and naturalistic, the character animation was full of life and personality to a degree I seriously just don’t associate with anime, the world and background designs were full and lush, it seems to be going in a more mature direction storytelling-wise than we pretty much ever earn, it… well, it was just actually completely good. No asterisk at all. That’s honestly a pretty rare thing.
Monogatari S2 1: And then at the other end of the spectrum we have Monogatari, which is unfocused and self-indulgent and occasionally offensive and sneers at the very idea of pacing, but still so full of interesting, purposeful direction, beautiful design, and interesting storytelling that it’s always worth paying attention to anyway. Monogatari has always been a glorious mess, and this season looks to be combining the best of Shinbou’s strengths (character-focused direction) with the best of Isin’s strengths (character-based, focused, and thematically holistic writing) for frankly the first time.
Then we drop down to the “solid/watchable” category, which is comprised of
C3-bu 1: This one was a pretty massive upset. I checked this out for two specific reasons: I wish the Gainax of ten years ago still existed, and Girls und Panzer proved this concept isn’t entirely worthless. The show turned out to be energetic, actually funny, full of animation flourishes that remind me of the old days, and capped off with a standout well-directed, fantastically scored action setpiece. It was a bit uneven and not good enough to actively impress me, but it was also a solid episode of television that left me ready for more.
The World God Only Knows S3 1: TWGOK has always been pretty much “perfectly watchable” in my books, with some snappy jokes and genre awareness helping make up for its fundamentally unambitious, episodic nature. This season promises to change that, with an actual central conflict pushing the plot forward and reintroducing old flames. This episode attempted to consolidate what apparently required close to a hundred chapters of manga into about five or six minutes, but hey, we got there, and the story already seems to be moving. This is basically my fluff series, and it’s still doing its job admirably.
Free! 2: This show is riding on a combination of KyoAni’s beautiful animation and sheer silliness alone. The plot is a mashup of KyoAni’s usual SoL nonsense and some incredibly generic sports genre tropes, and a great deal of it plays like an unintentional comment on its own genres… so basically it’s Crime Edge all over again. Something about these resolutely silly shows makes me try really hard in my writeups, though, so I’m at least enjoying challenging myself on that front.
Watamote 1: Another surprise. I figured this would just be obvious and mean-spirited, but the director has a great sense of comedic timing and the lead VA is killing it. I normally can’t stand cringe humor, but this is far enough over the top to just be farcical, even if it’s sprinkled with a few brief and appreciated moments of believable awkwardness. It’s still not really my thing (unless it decides to have our lead undergo some actual development or something crazy like that), but it seems pretty close to the best version of this show that could exist.
From here we move into the “questionable/borderline” category, starting with
Danganronpa 1: Definitely a disappointment here, only because my expectations were pretty high. I really enjoyed what I read of the game, but this episode felt extremely rushed, and its adherence to both the game’s arcade-style template and actual shot-for-shot direction worked to its detriment. Videogames have the advantage of trapping you in a place by actually trapping you in that place – if you directly transfer those tricks to an anime, it ends up feeling, well, like a videogame. Which I guess is what they’re going for – I just don’t think it’s a particularly good thing to be going for in the first place.
Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi 1: The visual design, humor, and some of the ideas were pretty interesting, but I’m still wary of these nonsensical grimdark fantasies, particularly when they star the Dark Flame Master. I enjoyed this first episode well enough (particularly the decent writing, which is something you can’t fake), but it hasn’t won me over yet.
Finally, we get the shows that sank with a heavy thud
Blood Lad 1: People have for some reason been comparing this to Hataraku Maou-sama, which I guess makes sense, as it’s a lot like Maou-sama if you replaced the actual humor with anime humor and great direction with tits. Cya next season, Brain’s Base.
Servant x Service 1: Another show aptly demonstrating the vast variety of anime humor that isn’t actually funny. Scamp pretty much sums up the fundamental failing of most 4-komas more succinctly than I ever could. Big fat pass.
Dog and Scissors 2: I’ll admit it, I actually watched this second episode purely because the idea of a dog harem amuses me. And it was actually significantly better than the first episode, and didn’t lean on violence=funny and boob jokes=funny the way the first one failed to. But it’s still pretty terrible. I dunno. I might end up dropping this every week – it comes out on a pretty slow day.
Gen’ei o Kakeiru Taiyou 1: This was moderately interesting and I like the visual style, but all the hints at the larger plot (“the prophecy is now fulfilled!” “she is young, we will teach her”) were pretty profoundly uninteresting. That might be an unfair assessment though, so if there’s buzz down the line I’d be perfectly willing to pick it back up.
So! Two shows I think are actually good, four shows I enjoy well enough, and a couple that might still rise. It’s not as strong a top tier as last season, but Gatchaman Crowds and Silver Spoon have yet to come out, and people keep saying Love Lab is a real show. Overall I’d say I’m reasonably satisfied.