Because evaluating shows before they even reach their halfway point is obviously an intelligent idea, let’s check in on the season so far. Heroes have risen, villains have fallen, and a couple shows have pretty much just done exactly what I expected them to do. It’s time for the
Summer 2013 First Quarter Anime Roundup
This season is actually kinda crazy-good. I was originally skeptical it could even begin to compare to last season, but a couple wild card hits have set it up as an extremely strong lineup. This is particularly exciting because it’s implying there are some great lesser-known creators out there – last season I knew Urobuchi and Brain’s Base made good things, but my two favorite shows this season were basically shots in the dark. Let’s do it in order…
#1: Uchouten Kazoku
In a season with a number of strong contenders, Kazoku is easily, far away, kind of laughably the absolute best show. It’s incredibly beautiful, the storytelling is understated and personal, the animation is extremely subtle and reflective of the characters, the characters themselves are thoughtfully written and basically obliterate the idea of “anime archetypes,” and the ideas are personal and well-elaborated. I think it’s building towards greater ideas about family and identity, but it’s constructed out of a series of absolutely gorgeous vignettes in the lives of its characters. It’s a crazy artifact from a world where anime is actually a mature art form, and it’s on track to become one of the half-dozen or so perfect shows I’ve seen.
#2: Gatchaman Crowds
Anything is gonna seem kinda shortchanged after that hyperbolic word vomit, but Gatchaman Crowds really is a great show so far. It’s rushed confidently and hilariously through the necessary setup of its genre, and its’ protagonist is pretty much a wrecking ball, questioning and destroying and solving and scrapbooking. The writing is light but intelligent, the visual design is crazy-ecstatic, and the soundtrack is campy in exactly the right way. Gatchaman is sugar injected intravenously, but it’s also smarter than it looks.
#3: Monogatari S2
Monogatari’s only in number three because those two wild cards above just happened to blow me away – it’s still a very good show, and I actually think this is shaping up to be the best Monogatari yet. The visual design is fantastic as always and both the direction and writing are obviously distinctive, but this is probably the first time I think Isin and Shinbou are actually complementing each other – Shinbou’s visual storytelling is reflecting extremely neatly off Isin’s narrative themes. Additionally, the show is pushing character relationships in new directions and telling a story that blurs the lines between the spiritual and the personal in a sharper way than ever before. This is some high-quality smut we’re talking about.
It’s actually funny! Yeah, we’ve dropped down a pretty significant tier from #3, but this show is still pretty solid. The jokes are paced well and the balance between “that’s kind of legitimately sad” and “could she be more awful?” is managed in a way that keeps me from ever feeling all that sorry for our hero. I’m particularly impressed by the excellent direction and above-average visual design – they’ve clearly committed to this show to a degree I really wasn’t expecting. It’s just a comedy, but it’s pretty good at being that.
This show is also pretty successful as a comedy, but so damn much of it is cliche genre fare that I can’t really call it a “good show.” It is an entertaining show, if only because it’s funny seeing KyoAni’s mastery of animation and timing so fully committed to Cute Boys Doing Cute Things. There is definitely more central narrative than their usual SoLs, but what we’ve seen of that central narrative seems pretty bad, so… well, it certainly is pretty.
#6: The World God Only Knows S3
I feel bad putting this below Free!, since most of my Free! enjoyment is not based on the show’s actual merits – I definitely think TWGOK is telling a better story and doing more interesting things with genre. This season’s easily the most entertaining one so far, since it has actual stakes and the old character relationships are finally being made relevant. It’s nothing remarkable, but it’s enjoyable entertainment.
#7/8: C3-bu/Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi
Combined because they’re both on the edge of enjoyment. I haven’t yet dropped either, but I also haven’t been incredibly compelled to stick with them. We’ll see what happens.
Inu to Hasami: I knew it’d be stupid, but not this stupid! I mainly checked it out because the title was funny, and after two episodes I can confirm that the title is funny.
Silver Spoon: I feel bad, because I really prefer this actual slice of life to the “five girls exist in a world with no conflict, also yuri undertones” genre which has somehow become correlated with slice of life. But the characters seemed typical and none of the jokes worked for me, so I think it’s just not my show.
Servant x Service: Even Dog Scissors had better jokes than this. One-note-joke bobblehead characters continuously bobbling into each other makes my brain tired. And stop explaining your jokes!
Danganronpa: All my worst fears were realized, and the absolute laziest path was taken – an adaptation that directly cribs every single shot directly from the game, making it feel like a flavorless Let’s Play. Nope!
Blood Lad: “Things that are not jokes” for 200: What is, “Simply referencing a thing the audience knows about?” See also: Nyaruko.
So overall I’ve got one show I think is incredible, two more I think are really good, three more I find generally enjoyable, and two I could take or leave. I’m definitely calling that a win.