Management: Sequel to this post. My general thoughts so far on the winners, losers, and casualties of my summer season.
This has been a very good season, and though there hasn’t been anything I enjoy as much as I enjoyed OreGairu in the spring, I think the top show is technically better this time. But the top tier is really good all around. In descending order:
#1: Uchouten Kazoku
Still easily my pick for best show of the season, and still trending for my pick of best show of the year. It’s outstanding in nearly every category. The art design is absolutely gorgeous, and constantly leads to moments of ridiculous, staggering beauty . The writing is incredibly naturalistic, and every character is both distinctive and bounces well off the others. The storytelling is slow-building and absolutely natural, and the themes are both poignant and emerge naturally from the circumstances of the protagonist. It’s well-written, personal, and incredibly charming. It’s just a wonderful show.
#2: Gatchaman Crowds
Definitely the most discussion-friendly show of the year. Gatchaman Crowds is also quite pretty, but its strengths are much more based in its smart and tremendously ambitious writing. It basically uses the sentai genre as a platform to question the value of heroes, the meaning of leadership, and the pursuit of a better society, throwing in a bunch of interesting ideas about gamification and social networking along the way. Additionally, its plotting and character work are normally quite smart as well, and basically take for granted that the audience will keep up if it fast-forwards through every unnecessary detail, lets characters’ personalities be revealed through their actions, and constantly raises ideas it will just as quickly skewer and discard. This ends up making it feel incredibly breezy in spite of its compelling and omnipresent ideas, which is a very rare trick.
#3: Monogatari S2
The last show in my top tier. Monogatari has always been unique, polished, and full of great ideas, but I think this season might be the first time I’d also call it cohesive. It feels like Isin’s storytelling and Shinbo’s direction have finally made peace, and that each is actually informing the other, so that all the information the show conveys visually is critical to the emotional thrust of the narrative, and all the monologues reflect themselves in the visual presentation. And it still hasn’t given up any of its own strengths, of course – it’s witty and distinctive and ambitious and beautiful and smutty all at once, as it’s always been. Monogatari is Monogatari.
#4: The World God Only Knows S3
It kinda feels weird to put a silly comedy after those three, but TWGOK is a pretty good silly comedy. And this season has definitely far surpassed the first two, with an actual central plot leading to both more dynamic and fast-paced episodes, as well as the transition of Keima from begrudging slacker to Lelouch Except With Dating. It’s a pretty funny show.
#5: Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan has really picked it up in the second half, juggling more narrative material, pushing forward at a faster pace, and taking a lot of focus off the frankly boring Eren. Trost is long behind us, and this recent arc has been full of that occasional creeping dread which I personally think is Titan’s greatest strength. A couple episodes have been hit or miss, but in general Titan has succeeded in being the high-budget popcorn blockbuster it’s always wanted to be.
Yeah, it really does start to fall apart after the prize-winning positions. C3-bu has occasionally shown sparks of great craft or crazy ambition, but it’s mainly just regularly funny and peppered with distinctive genre parody setpieces. Not much else to it.
Free! is… something. Some episodes have been quite funny, and the animation is obviously great, but it’s mainly just K-On with abs. Which is fine, I guess. It is what it is.
Survived Four Episodes: Watamote
Watamote is doing what it wants to do – be a pretty well-directed cringe comedy based on dumping on Tomoko for a variety of valid reasons. That just doesn’t really do much for me – the humor started to feel the same after a while, and without any actual thematic point or character progression, there’s nothing for me to hold on to.
Survived Two Episodes: Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi
Nothing in particular prompted me to drop this, but nothing in particular was prompting me to continue watching, either. The writing was okay and the backgrounds were nice and the characters seemed pretty simple, but it still could go to interesting places. This is probably the most likely show to get checked out again after the season, when I can see what other people thought about it overall.
Survived One Point Five Episodes: Danganronpa
Everything I saw was a much more stilted and compressed version of the game’s material, with the best bits coming directly from the game itself, and the worst bits continuously reminding me I was watching a videogame. Plus it had to cut out most of the funny conversations, which were a large part of what made the game interesting in the first place.
Survived One Episode: Silver Spoon
Also nothing technically wrong with this, but nothing grabbed me either. The jokes just didn’t work for me, and there wasn’t really much else to go on.
Survived Point Seven Episodes: Blood Lad/Servant x Service
Might as well group these together, since my complaint for both was basically that the humor was extremely lazy and repetitive.
We Do Not Speak Its Name: Neptunia
Surely just one episode wouldn’t hurt, right? Wrong.
An extremely strong top tier of three shows, an enjoyable middle tier of three more, and Free! Not bad at all.