Spring 2014 – First Impressions, Part One

A new season is upon us! That’s always pretty exciting, and this season in particularly looks extremely strong. So let’s start with that wonderful seasonal ritual of finding petty reasons to drop shows so our lives aren’t consumed by anime altogether. Hurray!

Incidentally, in light of my recent Samurai Flamenco essayMr. Justice will be handling all final assessments of this season’s new shows. PREPARE FOR JUSTICE.

Bokura wa Minna Kowaisou: The first of the two Brain’s Base shows I was looking forward to, and the one I had more reservations about. The premise seemed pretty mundane, and what I skimmed of the manga didn’t seem too promising, and… well, the first episode kinda bore that out. The visual design was excellent – I loved the rich color palettes of the backgrounds, there were tons of great character expressions, lots of dynamic shots, and all the little visual gags added a lot of creative energy to the production. Unfortunately, all this visual excitement was working in service of a boilerplate narrative and a bunch of stale, simplistic gags. The protagonist was Every Protagonist, the love interest had some funny expressions but otherwise didn’t stand out, every other character was basically a platform for standard, self-aware anime gags, and the writing overall was just bleh. If you’re not tired of default anime romcoms, this one’s got a lot of visual energy going for it – personally, I’m checking out for now. Your thoughts, Mr. Justice?

That’s what I figured.

Bokura wa Minna Kowaisou

Nagi no Asukara 26: Even when Okada shows kinda cheat, the endings still tend to get to me. This one was no exception, and I think that as an isolated episode, it was excellent. The story resolved pretty much the only way it could at this point – “feelings feelings feelings” – but that actually kinda worked, and bringing back the focus on change at least gave some purpose to the stasis of this second half, even if it didn’t actually justify it. I liked pretty much everybody’s final character bits, it was nice to see Hikari’s dad again, and Tsumugu is still the best. Nagi no Asukara went on maybe eight or so episodes too many, and it didn’t really strive for anything too profound, but it was an endearing and in some ways impressive show all the same. I’m glad I watched it. 7/10.

Nagi no Asukara

Selector Infected WIXOSS 1: I had pretty minimal expectations for this, what just having finished a mediocre Okada show and this being a glorified card game commercial, but DAMN! Pretty solid work! I really liked the background designs here – they reminded me of KyoAni’s better backgrounds, where it looks like scribbled pencil drawings done over in watercolor. But here the palettes were much more subdued, which made sense, and a lot of the shots seemed designed to evoke that urban alienation of shows like Serial Experiments Lain. I’ve been told the art director is from the studio that did the backgrounds for Aku no Hana and Penguindrum, so that makes sense. The writing was also pretty great – there were a lot of small, very genuine character moments, and it all flowed extremely well. The Madoka influence seems extremely strong here, with a few moments (“I don’t even have a wish yet!” etc) almost functioning as direct callouts. But of course, a lot of this is just standard for what smart writers do with the raw materials of magical girl shows, from Utena and Madoka on down. Either way, I was very pleasantly surprised by this first episode, and look forward to seeing what terrible things happen to all these endearing characters. How about you, Mr. Justice?

Less optimistic, I see.

Selector Infected WIXOSS

Mahouka 1: Considering I’m actively going back and subjecting myself to Sword Art Online, you’d think I’d be able to survive one episode of this season’s flavorless power fantasy. But oh my god just kill me now. This main character is actually a living version of the overtly badass smart tortured calculating chiseled Kirito-parody I invented for the SAO writeups. I generally find otaku-aimed self-awareness in these shows more aggravating than funny – drawing attention to the fact your story is a jumble of inert cliches doesn’t actually make them any better. But here we get the opposite case, where a story is just blatantly poorly written and yet still convinced of its own seriousness, leading to profundities like this one being played entirely straight by our calculating, broad-shouldered young hero. How have we retreated to this? I figured the self-aware, self-parodying nature of most light novels meant they were at least aware that “oh onii-chan, it’s so unfair that you’re discriminated against even though you’re the smartest, most tough and handsome boy at our tediously convoluted magical high school” is an overtly awful place to start your narrative. Apparently I was deeply, terribly mistaken. Mr. Justice, how do I make the hurting stop.

Alright we’ll go with that.


Captain Earth 1: All sorts of bits and pieces I liked in this episode. The crisp color palette, beautiful backgrounds, and solid animation, for one thing. The little tidbits of coming-of-age dialogue, for another – this show’s writing pedigree seems pretty clear. The strong dual-narrative flashback structure. The confidence in its clear edge of inherent silliness – something that can be pretty hard to own, but is apparent in all of Yoji Enokido’s productions. The music. The slow burn of its pacing, coupled with the excellent jump-cuts as soon as just enough information or tone is established. I can’t help but see small echoes of basically everything Enokido’s worked on in this, and pretty much every element of this first episode breathed confidence and excellence. Most importantly, I was just grinning like a fool the whole time – it all worked, it all came together, it was all there. Nothing was terribly surprising, but nothing had to be – good execution makes for good anime, and this show could turn out to be very, very good. Any last thoughts, Mr. Justice?

Glad to hear it.

Captain Earth

One Week Friends 1: It’s kind of funny that my main reason for being excited about this show was it sharing a series composer with OreGairu, because the shows really couldn’t be any more different. And that’s a good thing – OreGairu did what it did very well, and so far One Week Friends is doing what it does very well, too. The warm aesthetic and lightly defined context work very well with the earnest, heartwarming tone – this is a small story about a few people, and so the sets are small, the dialogue is simple, human, and precise, and the scenes play out in earnest fashion. And the male MC does a lot of good work here, too – after all these distant audience-inserts, perverts, and monologue-lovers, it’s refreshing to see an upbeat, heart-on-his-sleeve guy who doesn’t really fit into standard masculine archetypes. In fact, he seems more like the kind of character who’d normally be the energetic best friend – but put him in the protagonist spot and the story moves. The PVs promised more drama to come, so I’m hoping the show will handle that tone as well as it did the lightness of this first episode. Think we’ll get out of this one with no tears, Mr. Justice?

Ho ho ho that’s our Justice.

One Week Friends

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii 1: It’s almost inconvenient how solid this first episode was. It wasn’t really on my list, though the premise seemed reasonable enough – I had no creator-related reason to expect it to be good, and I’ve got too many shows already. But I watched it kind of on a whim, and it turned out to be actually pretty charming – not incredible, and the aesthetics are only serviceable outside of some silly reaction faces, but the protagonist seems totally great. In a lesser season, I’d be happy to have a show like this bolstering my schedule – here, I might just have to drop it and feel guilty about it. But this was a fine first episode for an understated fantasy/drama/romance thing. You gonna keep up with it, Mr. Justice?

Yeah, agreed.

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 1: Oh JoJo. It is so very lovely to have you back. If you’ve seen the first season, you know what to expect here – hot-blooded, broad-shouldered, totally absurd and self-indulgent masculinity with a side of self-effacing humor and a whole lot of visual flare. JoJo is about as pure fun as a show can be, and this new season doesn’t disappoint – in fact, it’s clear that David Productions are a far more well-equipped studio than they were last time, because JoJo has evolved from a beautifully colored slide show to a vividly animated buffet. Not only is there exponentially more character animation on display, there are also all kinds of great, dynamic tricks of direction – the first season proved this team could squeeze coal into diamonds, but this time they’re squeezing diamonds into even shinier diamonds. Couple that with a few new color-scheme ideas and the introduction of a whole new set of powers, and this first episode sets the stage for what is sure to be an exhilarating season to come. The world is brighter for JoJo’s presence in it. How does JoJo being back make you feel, Mr. Justice?

Right back atcha.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

And that concludes my first week of previews. I’ve still got a few stragglers coming, though – I’m on board for Ping PongMekaku City ActorsM3, and Knights of Sidonia, along with Mushishi Season Two once I catch up to it. But for now, I’d say I’m already pretty satisfied with the lineup – a few great episodes, a lot of show potential, and the promise of a much better season than the last. Any last thoughts for our readers, Mr. Justice?

Don’t forget, kids.

63 thoughts on “Spring 2014 – First Impressions, Part One

  1. The Mr. Justice pictures were fantastic.

    Aside from that I’m a little less optimistic than you about Selector Infected. The first episode seemed a bit rushed. The main character’s avatar thing annoyed me, and the way the little bit of the battle we saw played out leaves me worried. The MC did not know the rules, but was somehow winning due to being stronger? If they were going to have the battle be interrupted anyway it would have made more sense to have the other girl be thrashing her and the MC be saved by the interruption. As it is it seems like they are only using the game aspects to serve their plot as they see fit, instead of actually using them intelligently, and that could end up hurting the show in the long run. Of course if well executed it could still be great, but that episode left me worried.

    Also how many weeks behind are you on HxH by now?

    • There’s definitely plenty of ways it could spiral into nothing, but I’m staying optimistic for now. The battle thing in particular really didn’t bother me – frankly, shows that care about in-universe fighting mechanics and shows I personally really care about don’t line up very often, so the show not stressing the rules is kind of a bonus for me. But of course, considering this is actually based on a real card game, I’d assume the game system will be kind of inescapable.

      I am a bunch of weeks behind on HxH, but I regret nothing! I’ll probably burn through them all in one go on vacation or something.

      • I actually would be fine with them completely ignoring the card game aspect rather than going in depth with the mechanics. My issue is when they do somewhere in between, which is what the show is looking like it’s going to do. If you are going to make the game aspects important then you should do it properly and stress the rules. When you kinda just half-ass it it feels like a cancer attached the the story.

  2. Mahouka seems to be everything that is wrong with the world from yours and others previews. Don’t plan on watching any of it.

    Jojo first episode surprised me so much with its character actually moving. And moving a lot at that. Why is he so mean to his mom.

    WIXOSS was good enough but I tend to have problem with card shows. They often over explain rules that they end up never following. My interest did raise when the wish thing came into play. But also incest?

    Captain Hearth surprised me the most. Didn’t expected much by the title alone but it has a lot of room to become something memorable.

    One week friend was good has expected.

    Also saw Akuma no Riddle, lesbians psychos. Was fun reminded me of the good old 90’s everything must be X-treme trend. (and that witch bone show that was meh)

    And why do people care about M3 ? Haven’t heard anything about it myself.

  3. Only one of these I really disagree with is Captain Earth for reasons I’ve stated on my own blog, so I won’t elaborate here. As for the rest – Mahouka aside because I can’t be assed to get to Mr. Perfect – there’s some promising stuff, but sequels aside, I haven’t found that “one” anime that makes me remember a season from what’s come out yet. We’ll see what the future brings though.

  4. Holy shit, Mister Justice is the best. I’m laughing just thinking about that episode.

    One Week Friends might be my favorite so far if we’re not including sequels. The main characters are adorable and I think there’s room for some genuinely good drama.

    I also really enjoyed Captain Earth and I’m excited to see where it goes. Definitely is a BONES show though.

    Counting sequels however, JoJo blows everything out of the water on fun factor. Helps that motherfucking DIO is back. I liked the pillar men in Battle Tendency, but no kind of evil can compare to Dio evil. Can’t wait to see what kinds of awful things he’ll do this time.

    • I kind of already just want to burn through One Week Friends. I get the feeling that one’s gonna get harder and harder to wait for every week.

      And yes, having Dio back is the absolute best. Dio is JoJo’s not-so-secret weapon.

  5. My primary motivation for continuing to watch Mahouka is simply the world-building.

    It’s quite clear to me, you, and many other reviewers / commentors that the characters (as of now) appear extremely generic and their personalities, intentions, and purpose simple to understand (although the siscon-(kind of)brocon combo is pretty interesting imo), which strikes out one of the two biggest reason why I watch anything: characters & character development. However, I am extremely excited by this show because of the other reason I watch anything: world-building. For the longest time I’ve had a desire for an anime, manga, novel, etc. that does not treat magic as a fantastical “you can do anything you want” tool for internally inconsistent power-ups and ability granting/enhancing (cough every mahou shoujo series ever), but almost like electricity: capable of being studied, understood, manipulated, and applied under certain (meta-)physical laws and rules. The closest anything has come to that has been To Aru Kagaku no Railgun, but that wasn’t magic (which is its own separate thing), but ESP…

    Having read your review/essay on Shinsekai Yori, I can completely understand why Mahouka turned you off. Correct me if I’m horribly wrong, but you seem to prefer good characters over good world-building any day, with respect to personal entertainment and your set of standards for reviewing/critiquing a show. I’m kind of 50-50 on that though; I can forgive (mildly) terrible characters if the world-building is done well enough and the plot is not a complete disaster (SAO didn’t even have decent world-building; it was just an interesting premise that was near-entirely abandoned), so I placed Shinsekai Yori among the best in my personal list of completed anime. I don’t expect Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei to place as high, but the show’s treatment of magic is a huge incentive for me to at least stay and see how far they delve into that unique concept.

    On another note, I’m glad we share an enthusiasm for One Week Friends: I was really looking forwards to that one, and I knew it would definitely be up your alley. 😉

    Everybody’s been saying that Wixoss is covered in Madoka-esque vibes; satisfying to know you felt them too. This could be a very fun anime if they don’t botch it up somehow.

    I’m using this season as an opportunity for entry into to particular genre of anime I’ve either been avoiding or just haven’t taken the energy into watching up till now: (primarily) mecha and sports. Captain Earth looks very interesting to me (again, the world-building thing; plus it has some interesting characters), I wonder if they can maintain that somewhat serious atmosphere?

    Any thoughts on the sports anime such as Baby Steps and Haikyuu? Not watching Akuma no Riddle or Gokukoku no Brynhildr? Ah, No Game, No LIfe looks like another one I might enjoy a lot but you might hate… 😛

    • Of course one COULD point out that the line Bobduh ridicules in Mahouka is simply a mistranslation of Crunchysubs (in fact, what Tatsuya points out is the fact that the Weeds are purposely sitting away from the Blooms by their own volition). And one COULD point out that declaring characters and plot of a show “generic” and the likes after one third of the first book of a 2-volume LN arc may be just a WEE bit premature, but I kinda do remember that Bobduh had this show all figured out before it even aired (in the Spring Preview discussion), so I’ll just defer to his superior clairvoyance.

      Those among us who are less insightful, but with worse taste will be in for quite a treat over time 🙂

    • I’m sorry to say it, but Mahouka’s world-building never steps beyond mediocrity. It does some stuff, but it’s mostly a watered-down version of Harry Potter in that regard. It never comes close to what Shinsekai Yori achieves.

      Also, don’t expect character development. It has basically none.

    • Yep, worldbuilding does virtually nothing for me. My own two priorities are characters and themes – though I can still appreciate a fun narrative if it’s done well (like JoJo or Baccano), all my favorites have compelling characters and/or really interesting ideas at their center.

      Not really much of a sports fan, and Riddle/Brynhildr didn’t appeal to me (Riddle didn’t get great reactions and I really dislike Elfen Lied). I actually did check out No Game, No Life – that’ll show up in Part Two!

  6. Can’t wait until Mahouka’s introduction is over and the real plot opens up to see how many people change their opinions of it lol. Of course, not everyone will enjoy it even when it begins to unfold but I’m sure there will be a lot of people who will be surprised that such a generic start ended up the way it does.

  7. Oh man, I take it you haven’t watched No game, No life? It is the epitome of the awful otaku power fantasy, the whole package with the extremely “intelligent” NEET that has an implied incestual relationship with his eleven fucking years old sister.

    Other than that, we seem to have pretty much the same opinion regarding shows this season, except that I’m not nearly as optimistic as you are! And is it just me, or are there really like 5 different series based on card/iOS games?

    Also, you mentioned in WIXOSS that you just finished a mediocre Okada Mari show, were you referring to Nagi no Asukara? I know I liked it a lot more than you did, but even then I thought it was objectively more than mediocre!

    Anyway, I hope you’ll continue doing the SAO writeups, they crack me up, and if you feel like continuing the torture, you should definitely watch the first episode of No Game, No Life

    • Agreed on No Game No Life. It was downright toxic. Tedious Bro-Sis-con with the first shot of imouto being explicit shimapan, the championing of NEET lifestyles, exhortations that the real world is rotten and that an online world with clear rules is better. Total wish-fulfillment. Well-made though.

      • I actually liked No Game No Life. Mostly for the game aspect that I find intriguing. And there was no explicit bro-sis-con stuff or sexual tension (luckily, since he’s 18 and she’s 11…), though yeah, the panty shots… could have cut a bit on that. I think the whole real world vs. game-based parallel dimension contrast though is revealing. What’s the big difference between the two? Basically, predictability. The game-based world has rigid rules in whose rails everything proceeds, while the real one has many more choices. In general, the two brothers made me think more of Keima from TWGOK than Kirito from SAO. I don’t know whether the anime is going to make a point about this of course, but I’d be fine with it if it only stayed a sort of psychological battle story like Kaiji or Liar Game. Of course the risk of it degenerating into stupid fluff peppered with panty shots and boob jigglings is always there.

      • Is it worse than Black Bullet ?
        Because this show was absolutely an awfull pandemic shockfest. It’s like Hidan no Aria meets Kokoro Connect (for the awfull comedic timing).

    • I actually thought No Game, No Life was kinda significantly better than Mahouka – it at least directly addressed the power-fantasy nature of these stories, and the writing was a lot less embarrassingly stilted. Still not good, of course, but definitely an improvement over Mahouka.

      Regarding NagiAsu, again, if it had lost maybe eight or so episodes I’d probably have liked it a lot more. That show reaaally stretched out some reaaally simple conflicts, and its characters didn’t actually do enough to justify that.

      I should hopefully get an SAO post done this weekend, along with my Kill la Kill review!

      • Mahouka at least pretends to have relevance to real life issues like long-term career planning and international diplomacy. NGNL is well-made. But its initial message is pretty blatant – the appeal of divorcing oneself from the caprice and complexities of real life. Maybe it will argue against such a mindset later on, but that’s not present at all in the first episode.

  8. Pretty much agreed on everything.

    WIXOSS was a pleasant surprise. I’m not sure how I feel skimming over the actual battle. On one hand, I like it. On the other, I do wish they’d at least explain the basics. Hopefully it doesn’t trainwreck.

    I kind of get the appeal in Mahouka. I don’t think it’s just a power fantasy, though it has plenty of that. For the longest time I felt like shounen anime protagonists tended to be blatantly incompetent. Not just bad at what they do, but worse than the average human would do in that position given the same powers/technology/magic/relationships. Sometimes it feels good to just watch someone not suck at everything they do. That being said, dropped. I read some of the manga, and I really couldn’t care less about any of the characters. The MC is unintentionally hilarious. The only thing that would make watch it is if the sister went full yandere.

    • Don’t most battle shounens have very competent protagonists? And SAO/Titan both did, too… normally I figured we got the really incompetent protagonists more in romcoms and harems.

      • Well if you can turn into a giant ass kicking monster slashing necks seem kind of inefficient. Also you can think if it as shounen protags being able to do something that no one else can (the chosen one! special, etc etc).

  9. I recommend giving Akuma no Riddle a try. Didn’t know what to expect from it but it had a very consistent tone and awesome color palette.

  10. I was enjoying Captain Earth until the robots appeared. First, having breasts on a robot piloted by a woman has got to be one of the dumbest tropes ever. It was dumb in the seventies, and it’s dumb today. Second, I found the transition from a realistic, multi-stage rocket launch to an extended Gattai sequence way too jarring for my sensibilities. The breaking point was when rocket engines retracted and human-proportioned hands appeared. I’m all for different degrees of realism with my mecha, but when it changed from one to another over a single sequence, my suspension of disbelief got broken and I was taken totally out of the story.

    • Eh, everything I’ve seen Enokido involved in has had a veeery loose sense of reality. You kind of have to accept the absurdist, occasionally melodramatic flourishes.

      • It may be absolutely unrealistic, but it seems to nail the most important aspect : The characters. The MC, at least, is a totally believable teenager.

      • I dunno. It just seems to me that works like Top2 and FLCL benefit from a greater sense of play, energy and elasticity. Also, you need to pick your spots, knowing where to break the laws of physics, and where to maintain an illusion of plausibility. It’s a fine-balancing act, and I’m sure that my own personal preferences have a lot to do with it. I guess I just prefer Tsurumaki’s instincts for these kinds of things. For example, Dix-Neuf’s rocket cape just worked for me in a way that this launch didn’t.

        • It could also be a tonal disconnect thing – Top2 and FLCL pretty much always exist in a heightened reality, but Captain Earth varies in tone. I pretty much accept ridiculousness as natural at this point, but I can see the issue.

      • P.S. I guess I’m just trying to say that the direction can make a difference even if the writing is the same, which is such a self-evident thing to say when you think about it.

    • Her robot isn’t entirely mechanical, she referred to it as her “Avatar”. It might even seem it took its shape specific to her. Which would then make sense for it to have breasts.

  11. I really want to be able to watch Nisekoi because I love to drink in all that playful Shaft direction and animation, but it was so tropey and predictable that I couldn’t cope and gave up after 2 episodes. I tried watching it without subtitles but it was too late, it just wrote itself in my head. Fortunately I’ve not made the same mistake for Bokura wa Minna Kowaisou and just tried watching the raw footage. The show I’m imagining that I’m watching is pretty entertaining! I probably won’t keep it up but it’ll probably keep me going for another couple of episodes.

  12. I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed One Week Friends, considering I wasn’t originally planning on picking up the show at all – I can’t even remember why that was, but possibly because the artwork reminded me a bit of Saikano (which I had some serious issues with). Now that the first episode’s done though, I think this might just become my favourite spring season title after Mushishi; it looks like it’s going to be adorable, but thankfully not in a sickly-sweet/roll-my-eyes kind of way. I’m also betting that it’s going to have a few interesting things to say about the nature of day-to-day social isolation and loneliness in general – a topic that, especially in Japan, is a pretty damn relevant one.

    • It kinda remembered me of Kimi to Boku, for the simple graphism, and mostly the general tenderness. This is a show where the characters genuinely care about each other, and the show itself cares about them.
      Not sure how the story can evolve withoiut being repetitive, but I feels optimistic.
      This is something that could have easily be absolutely awfull if not handled correctly, which is why I was kinda worried about it.

    • If One Week Friends can balance its great tone with some actual social-issue bite, I’ll be ecstatic. I have great faith in the series composer, and Brain’s Base have made many of my favorite shows, so I’m hopeful.

    • Not usure about Baby Steps, but Haikyuu positively surprised me.
      It’s extremely well done, at least, and is probably a must see for any Sports Anime fan.

        • The mc is bland and boring, the comedy is off, it didn’t make the sport exciting nor appealing other than external praise, and there’s a severe lack of emotion. Granted I don’t play tennis, but it’s not making it look interesting either.

      • Hm, I actually find the main MC of Baby Steps refreshing. He’s not your stock shounen male lead who is constantly yelling & challenging everyone but I don’t that makes him bland. I kinda like how he’s going to be a newbie & would have to work from ground up. Ei-chan’s a nerd but he’s got a great attitude towards everything so it makes it real easy to root for him imo. I like him 😀

        As for comedy, they have it spliced here & there. They weren’t LOL worthy but I had a smile plastered across my face most of the time. And that’s good enough for me.

        And well… they haven’t played a lot of tennis yet. But I liked what I saw from the first few minutes of the show? Not as pretty & flashy as Haikyuu’s (far from that) but pretty decent. I do love watching tennis though so I may have a certain bias.

        Looks like we have completely different views haha.

        • I watched Haikyuu immediately prior, so in BS I am just annoyed that I can’t feel any drive nor motivation from the MC. A good attitude means nothing if it’s soulless.

      • He hasn’t found his passion in tennis yet but you can see that he’s starting to think about what he really wants to do. I’ll give him some time. It’s only the first episode.

      • Well, it’s not twenty-three dismembered corpses in the first 5 minutes(there’s no dismembered corpses at all yet, in fact), so it’s manageable. For now.

        (Oh god, those times when I watched EL because I watched every anime I stumbled upon =_=)

  13. In a way, Mahouka reminds me of Nisekoi.
    It’s competently done, at least, but is in a genre that at best bore me to death, and at worst really irks me.
    The characters are just barely more articulated, and slightly more sympathetic than in Akuma no Riddle, too.

  14. Ping Pong was amazing! I personally think I’ll still like Tatami Galaxy better but it looks to be a really solid work, and a sports series I’ll actually enjoy(the only other being cross game). go watch it 😀

  15. Whhhaaattt no Mushishi Zoku Shou??? T.T I thought you liked the first season of Mushishi so I figured you would give Mushishi Zoku Shou a go too. Plus the op, so good. Few that uses English songs so well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *