Spring 2014 – First Impressions, Part Two

This season is way too good. The shows I was hesitant about are great, the shows I was confident about are fantastic, and pretty much every genre I like is being represented. I haven’t even gotten to Mushishi yet, either! I’ve fortunately found a couple shows I can actually drop, but honestly, it’s looking like it’ll be really tough to maintain my cynical hipster cred this season. Damn you, anime.

Incidentally, I’m also heading off on vacation starting tomorrow, so this will likely be my last post until next week. I’ll also be kind of limited in my ability to respond to comments in that time, but don’t worry, I will get to them when I can. Anyway, on with the shows!

No Game, No Life 1: Not even really sure why I checked this one out – slow night, I suppose. It turned out to be a hell of a lot smarter than Mahouka, though – basically every issue of escapism I assigned to Mahouka, this show actively addressed as a component of its narrative. That’s not to say it was good, either – it moved well enough and I like the visual design, but the vaunted games were all pretty empty, the characters were standard, and it was fanservicey as all hell. I’ll maybe check out another episode, but I get the feeling this one’s going to sink into light novel mediocrity fairly shortly.

No Game, No Life

Hitsugi no Chaika 1Damnit! Why did I even check out this show?! I knew my schedule was already too packed… and now I’ve got this confident, fast-paced, deftly written fantasy-action show to keep up with, too? This is a god damn mess.

Yeah, this first episode was great. Basically everything was established as efficiently as humanly possible while still leaving room to let the characters breath. No unnecessary exposition whatsoever – instead of worldbuilding, we get characters who obviously live in the world in they inhabit, meaning things we don’t know just organically become clear as the narrative progresses. Punchy, exciting, endearing… this episode was the whole package, and I really hope this show keeps it up. It’s just competent, well-written fantasy, which is a rarity in anime… in fact, it’s a rarity everywhere. Fantasy sure loves its tedious worldbuilding.

Hitsugi no Chaika

Ping Pong 1: Ermahgerd. Ermahgerd. ERMAHGERD. It’s here. It’s here, and it’s beautiful, and everything is fantastic. Yuasa’s back, and his new show matches all of his substantial directorial talents with a story full of energy and fully articulated characters and fun. Compared to stuff like Mind Game or Tatami Galaxy, Ping Pong’s first episode was quite reserved in visual experimentation – instead, it stuck to fundamentally great shots, an outstanding visual aesthetic, and a well-chosen selection of animation and windowed-screen highlights. The writing was sharp as well – the two protagonists pretty much already seem like fully living people, and play off each other in a way that seems guaranteed to cause great tension down the line. Their first antagonist, Wenge, had a great energy of his own, and the scene where he and his coach called out the play-by-play of a match purely by the sound of the rackets was a delight. And the episode overall had a tremendous momentum and an excellent structure – much was introduced to us, but it all felt like both a driving narrative and a collection of days in the lives of a few young people. My most-anticipated show has handed in the most-impressive first episode, and I couldn’t be happier.

Ping Pong

Knights of Sidonia 1: The writing and characters seemed kinda mecha-standard, but I definitely like the world they’re presenting here. And though some of it seemed kinda blunt or unintentionally campy (the protesters, the Menacing Council), there were also nice details throughout, like their energy system, the apparent clone-classmates, and the aside about photosynthesis. The CG is unfortunately a real sticking point for me, though – the character’s faces just seem incredibly artificial, so I can’t really buy into their emotions in the way I normally can. My disbelief is not suspended.

That said, I may keep watching just on the strength of one scene – the protagonist’s first voyage out into space. The entire episode kept the tension on a pretty low simmer, and the way that final emergence into space felt more Space Odyssey than Space Marines, which is fantastic. There was a real sense of wonder and majesty as he looked back on Sidonia – if the show can keep throwing out moments like that, I might stick around long enough for the CG to become less of a problem.

Knights of Sidonia

Selector Infected WIXOSS 2: Fortunately for my viewing sanity, this episode focused pretty seriously on the boring card game at the center of this show, meaning I feel fairly safe dropping this one for now and picking it up again if people say it gets impressive.

Also, if you have one ability that lets you throw away a card if it’s of a given level and another that lets you throw away all cards of a given level, you should probably use the second one before the first one. Just sayin’.

Selector Infected WIXOSS

Mekakucity Actors 1: Man, it was almost hard to watch this. It was basically all the Shaft house tricks thrown at the screen one after another in as quick succession as possible, with no actual purpose or thought put into them. This accompanied a pretty standard narrative of generic NEET being harassed by his incredibly obnoxious AI first in his room and then in a mall. It’s really, really strange to see so many of the techniques that are used to elevate Monogatari being used to… well… just fill the screen with stuff happening? The direction lacks any purpose or restraint, the shots just aren’t pretty the way Monogatari’s generally are, and it lacks the writing backbone needed to even aim at purpose. It’s like someone watched Monogatari, said “I can do that!”, and then took all the various legos used to construct the Monogatari aesthetic and just smashed them together into a giant blob. Style doesn’t do much in the abstract – style is just the means through which you create tone, meaning, or beauty. This episode managed none of those.

Mekakucity Actors

The World is Still Beautiful 2: Hm. This episode.

On the one hand, I think I will come to like the dynamic between Nike and the King. They’re both fine characters, they bounce off each other well, there’s a real energy there.

On the other hand, this episode basically blew through an entire season’s worth of character interactions, conflict-development, character-conflict, and then conflict-resolution in about 23 minutes, to the serious detriment of any of this stuff having much weight. I wasn’t sold on Nike’s attitude, because it wasn’t given enough time to develop beyond “hug a tree, kiss a flower.” I wasn’t sold on the King’s acceptance of it and then immediate reversal, because neither of these things were given enough narrative significance to become status quos. And then the ending just flew by all that and got us back to the two of them kinda liking each other.

This episode was messy, but given the fact that its choices all seemed to be in service of fast-forwarding a specific segment of the narrative, I’ve still got a fair amount of interest in this show. I like these characters and I like this concept – hopefully the coming episodes will let that stuff actually breathe a little.

The World is Still Beautiful

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 2: What am I supposed to say about friggin’ JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure? This episode was certainly JoJo – we had our noble hero whining about his mom and then getting mad at some schoolgirls, a dramatic confrontation with a new rival who has possibly the most ridiculous hair we’ve seen yet (wait no I forgot JoJo’s hair is a hat), and the school nurse totally stabbing a dude right in the eye. Personally, I’m really, really loving what Scamp remarked on in his first episode comments – this JoJo is totally a brooding, rebellious teenager, and everything he does just seems inherently silly because of it. Considering I’ve also been writing about Mahouka and SAO recently, it’s refreshing to get a show where instead of the dorky teenager being represented as some godlike uberman, here he’s stuck in this absurd, hilariously muscled body… and still acts like an immature twerp. Dude, you don’t have to impress people by being mean to your mom – you’re like seven hundred pounds of muscle and hair-hat.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

Captain Earth 2: Listening to the meaningless technobabble interspersed between the few lines that point to what this series is really about (“I seized it with my own will – the gun only helped me,” “Your father died with a smile on his face,” etc), I almost wonder if writers include that stuff specifically to annoy the people who care about it. I can certainly imagine Anno conceiving it as a deliberate act of aggression towards people trying to retreat into scifi minutia, at least. Making that stuff overtly meaningless in order to force people to engage with a show’s message and not just its packaging.

Anyway, this episode was solid, more in what it promised than what it actually included. Last week was the big hook, so this week slowed down and gave us some context on what’s actually happening – but that context was constantly laced with hints at the coming-of-age story to come. Our protagonist has entered a new world he doesn’t understand and isn’t necessarily ready for, symbolized through the gun that just suddenly appeared in his hand. There’s adolescence and sexuality and the fear and necessity of engagement with the world, all wrapped up in the little details elevating this scifi narrative. It’s always a pleasure to find a show that’s so obviously carefully written, and I’m excited to see where this one goes.

Captain Earth

Mahouka 2: This episode wasn’t really any better than the first – more transparent teen fantasy, more tiresome exposition, more flimsy characters, more nothing really happening. But in spite of that, I actually ended up doing a full writeup for it, which turned out to be pretty scathing. So yeah, I guess Mahouka does inspire me to think about themes, but not really in the way it was intended.


One Week Friends 2: Jesus christ. I had to check my blood-sugar level after this one – I can’t remember the last time I watched such a concentrated dose of fuzzy feelings. Both of these characters are just absurdly endearing, and their interactions are an absolute joy – it’s rare that a show understands chemistry so well, and even more rare that a show manages to create chemistry between two people who are actually just totally earnest and kindhearted. Normally chemistry is based on snark or something – here, they’re just great kids being incredibly cute together. The visual aesthetic works perfectly, the inherent tension of the premise adds a bit of melancholy and drills in the “connecting with people is kinda scary” theme, and the dialogue is all very natural. It’s just a joy to watch – few shows are this sincerely and convincingly optimistic about people.

One Week Friends

54 thoughts on “Spring 2014 – First Impressions, Part Two

  1. Yea I agree on the new Jojo being hilarious has the kid playing cool.

    Captain planet sexual imagerie made me laugh which earned me weird looks from my sister watching the show with me. The show seem good though I’m curious about the sexual themed villains.

    I’m curious how did you find Sidonia direction? It seemed so odd to me like transitions were really weird and some exposition felt cheap like that beggar being the one explaining everything to know about the council. And the jump before the space sequence was strange.

    • I didn’t really notice the direction specifically in Sidonia – honestly, the problem of the CG made it hard to engage with the show on an aesthetic level. It kept doing classic anime beats that seemed jarringly artificial with the CG models.

  2. I’d actually like to see a mecha series starring a teenage protagonist that wasn’t a “coming of age” story.

    Or at least more that involve a /girl/ coming of age. I’ve seen it with boys. A lot. Can we please have some variety? (to be fair, this is more or less what Rinne no Lagrange was, but more please)

    • I haven’t seen it, but isn’t Simoun also vaguely this?

      Either way, I agree, I would love to see more female main characters in roles like this.

      • Well you should see it, but Simoun’s a bit more…high concept than that.

        If for no other reason than that “coming of age” in that world has enormous ramifications that don’t exist in ours. There’s some allegory for what goes on in “reality” but its pretty abstract.

        And as regards to Captain Earth, the “giant robot as explicit penis metaphor” is also starting to get old.

    • I’m watching Gunbuster right now, I’m at episode 3, and the MC’s a girl. The whole thing is pretty much “Top Gun IN SPACE! with girls” but it’s got a ridiculous amount of thought put into its science, which is what I am enjoying the most for now. It’s also kind of coming-of-age-y, but really, pretty much by the books.

      • I didn’t say they /don’t/ exist, just that they are very, very uncommon. In fact I can probably list most of them off the top of my head.

        Rinne no Lagrange
        Simoun (sorta)
        Kannaduki no Miko (sorta)
        Idolmaster Xenoglossia
        Sora wo Kakeru Shoujo

  3. Regarding Mekakucity Actors, I think you are being a bit overly harsh on it. I mean, if I look back to Bakemonogatari, the first episode didn’t really have much more backbone than the first episode of Mekakucity Actors. I’ll agree that the dialogue isn’t quite what I was expecting, in fact it’s quite boring, but I don’t think you can easily dismiss it as “style for the sole purpose of style” yet (the key word is yet). I’ll wait a bit to see if they can improve the characters, and if they do, I think it could actually be good.

    • It honestly wasn’t a bad episode – I think it might have just been that the combination of all these visual techniques being used so aggressively, along with the very abrasive personality of the AI, just made it kind of unpleasant for me to watch. If it calms down a bit, I’ll be more willing to see where it goes.

  4. Isshuukan Friends is such a great show. We all knew Mushishi would be great, but man, I’m so happy the last few seasons had given me a “Heart-warming bitter-sweet” show. Two seasons ago it was Gingitsune, which had quite a few emotional moments, then Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha which was more focused on the story, and now this, which is all feels.

    I gave episode 1 2nd place on my APR, and episode 2 was even better. Mushishi is going to have a tough time next Sundy :p If it keeps at it, I don’t see it going below my top 3 on APR, it and Mushishi. Everything else shifts.

    • It gave me the same fuzzy warm feelings that Non Non Biyori did. Just still unsure if it will turn more serious…

    • It’s weird – being “pleasant” isn’t generally the first thing I look for in a show, but when it works, goddamn does it work. It’s just a joy to watch, and it’s also great to see Brain’s Base working on something like this again.

      • It’s nice when a show gives you a show, which is not what you’ve been looking for, but it’s exactly what you needed, or just surprised you in general.

        It’s why we do more than just check “our shows”.

  5. I kinda like Shaft in general so I didn’t mind Mekaku City Actors that much. It didn’t make much sense but I didn’t think it was particularly harmful in any way. Much more excited for that Kanbaru OVA though, Second Season was my favorite season of Monogatari so far and I’m excited to see more of it.

    I’m sad to say that Ping Pong is my first Yuasa anime despite both Tatami Galaxy and Kaiba being on my plan to watch list for a while. Really excited to see where this goes.

    Pretty much agree with everything else, at least with what I’m watching. Isshuukan is too adorable for me to handle, Captain Earth has me interested, and I still love JoJo.

    • Unsurprisingly, I’m also pretty damn excited for that Kanbaru OVA. It’s pretty great for me that one of anime’s most reliable cash cow franchises is also one of my favorite shows!

      And don’t feel sad about having more Yuasa to watch, feel happy! I’m certainly looking forward to starting Kaiba myself.

  6. The source material for Hitsugi no Chaika’s written by an author who has something to say, if Scrapped Princess is anything to go by on when it approached the issue of religion, or, more specifically, religious dogmatism, which I think is rarely discussed in anime. What exactly will be the point of future episodes, but it’s certainly a show I’m keeping an eye on, so long as it shores up its characters and keeps its world-building impulses in check.

    • Oooh, I’d definitely be interested in that. We tend to only get churches as monolithic Forces of Evil in anime – it’d be nice to see something approach religion from a more nuanced perspective.

      And I agree, excess worldbuilding is basically the easiest way to sink a fantasy story.

      • I think excess worldbuilding is only a sinker if the worldbuilding is discrete and independent of the other elements of the show, a la Nagi no Asukara. With a show like Gundam Unicorn, or Shingeki no Kyojin, or Shinsekai Yori, which selects its characters such that they appear to be products of the setting, a work can characterize through worldbuilding(e.g. Magi S2), and worldbuild through characterization(e.g. Mushishi). Its why fantasy (western, at least) is so fond of huge casts with multiple POVs.

        Generally, I agree with your assessment of Chaika, though I have to say that the magic system could use a bit of visual tweaking. The show’s visuals are nice, but a bit generic, and a genre like fantasy cannot roll with generic visuals like, say, a romance can, because the setting needs to feel alien somehow.

        • I dunno. I feel like worldbuilding is a thing, and storytelling is a thing, and that balanced storytelling describes its world about as often as it describes its characters’ faces – in light, offhand details, included where they’re the most graceful articulation of what’s already happening and a natural extension of the voice currently driving the narrative. I feel like it’s the very rare narrative that actually benefits from a true focus on worldbuilding – Shinsekai Yori is pretty much the premier example, and in most of my reflections on Shinsekai Yori, I’ve specifically noted that it’s a story that will appeal to fans of fantasy/scifi fiction because it is so invested in worldbuilding, something far less common outside of those genres.

          Of course, it is perfectly possible to integrate worldbuilding as a natural extension of the narrative – Mushishi’s a great example of this, though I think it’s also something of a unique case, because one of Mushishi’s premier narrative draws is the “mystery” of explaining some new aspect of the world each episode. I think worldbuilding draws focus in the same way a driving narrative or a central romance will draw focus, and you can’t really have it all.

      • From a more political perspective, which is, to say, still not the most flattering portrayal of organized religion.

        I’m a huge fan of world-building myself, but I like world-building that is revealed pieces at a time or implied based on what is relevant to the direction of the narrative.So yes, world-building for the sake of world-building’s bad.

      • I don’t see why people view worldbuilding as any different from telling a normal story. Hell, most historical accounts are just that – stories, and most worldbuilding is done through flashback or ‘historical infodump’.

        To me it just looks like anime is just too inundated with shows that mistake wanton infodump for worldbuilding, like the Railgun or Nasuverse, which is flooded with random concepts with no, or only loose, tying threads, and shows which just have poor worldbulding, like the Kyoukai no Kanata adaptation. I don’t even consider the former worldbuilding; it’s more like making a pile of world-bricks, and the latter is true for stories without worldbuilding as well.

  7. I’m not so sure about WIXOSS, I didn’t feel as though they focused on the card game much more than they did for the first episode.

    I’m personally choosing to view the card game as a metaphor for the teenage girl social structure, because in the first episode, it initially felt jarring to me to see girls being so into card games on such a wide scale, when in anime and in real life card games such as this are stereotypically ‘for boys’. Then I remembered that in the first episode, that WIXOSS became a popular card game because a popular female celebrity began to endorse it, turning the game into a popular fad. When I think of the game as being a competition the same way fashion trends and other such pursuits are a competition, the show became a much more comfortable watch for me. I have no idea what any of that adds up to yet or what the show will choose to do with those ideas, but if I had to guess, I imagine that it might end up discussing the morality of using something as meaningless as a fleeting fad to crush others in pursuit of your own desires.

    Akira seems to directly engage this (as two dimensional as she appears to be right now) as do those visions of Tama going nuts in the first episode.

    I’m watching it right now because of the heavy amounts of Madoka vibes it gives me, which right now is tricking me into believing that the series is going to build up to something spectacular. Right now however the character designs don’t stand out to me, nor does the writing, but I’m hopeful. Right now I’m personally disappointed by the fact that they actually haven’t gone into the rules of the game. As you said, it seems weird for Akira to discard one card before discarding all of them, and on top of that, she seems to be taking multiple turns at once whilst her opponent is having a mental breakdown and not taking her turn. The show seems to be going for thematic based conflicts rather than rules based conflicts, but they’re choosing to present the conflicts in a way that requires the most exposition possible so that viewers can get invested. Madoka (and even Kill La Kill, to reference a more recent show) knew that their conflicts made inherent sense, the ‘rules’ are simply ‘hit the opponent until you win’ with those rules they can go for more visual flair. Madoka didn’t go into the science of how Mami is able to summon hundreds of flintlocks in midair, but it didn’t need to, because the word ‘magic’ is enough. WIXOSS, on the other hand, is a show that I wish would just explain the rules and stick to them (unless the viewer knows that a character is purposefully cheating, which is perfectly possible since there don’t seem to be any referees upholding the rules) so that it can more organically get to the central themes that it may or may not want to discuss.

    So right now, I feel as though WIXOSS wants to have its cake and eat it, so to speak. It simultaneously wants to be a Madoka style show that didn’t need to explain its own rules in terms of the actual battles (as the actual important parts of that series focused on the parts which revolved around those conflicts) and also a commercial tie in for the real life card game. (which is pretty bad, since shows like this tend to be tools which explain the product to its viewers. Right now I have little interest in playing a real life version of WIXOSS because right now I have no idea what the rules are)

    Sorry, that was long for my first comment here. WIXOSS just interests me, and I find this blog to be pretty great, so I felt like sharing some of my thoughts.

    • I find the comparison of WIXOSS to Madoka a continually interesting phenomenon, since two episodes in the shows don’t actually share much other than some really vague thematic and visual stuff.

      WIXOSS is much more like, for example, My~HiME or perhaps a much, much darker Angelic Layer.

      The main thing WIXOSS has in common with Madoka is that it hits approximately the same target audience, but thats hardly saying anything.

      • I personally just get a lot of Madoka vibes from WIXOSS. The structure of the plot so far, some of the characters, (Ruko/Madoka, Tama/Kyubey, Yuzuki/Sayaka, Kazuki/Kyosuke, Akira/Kyoko) and the direction and writing in general I suppose, not to mention the theme of wishes and the visuals as you mentioned. I would find it difficult to argue one way or the other.

        I will admit that for the time being, such comparisons seem superficial and may ultimately be worthless. But I do find it believable that a studio would look at a recent success such as Madoka and decide that they want to try creating some variation of it, and employing talent from other popular shows of recent years to make money off of Madoka’s target audience. I hope it’s merely a coincidence (or me seeing connections that don’t exist) and not quite that cynical, however, not that that would really say anything about the quality of the actual show.

      • Man I can’t really agree with most of those at all. In fact I outright disagree with basically every single one of them.

        Ruko and Madoka might be the best comparison, and even that is a huge, enormous stretch. The others don’t really work at all, especially Tama/Kyubey, which is like what.

        There are shows you can legit say probably took at least a bit of inspiration from Madoka Magica, (GeneiTaiyou from a couple seasons back is a good example, though ultimately it was entirely different in plot and theme, almost diametrically so) but there are actual existing shows that WIXOSS bears shocking similarities to so reaching for Madoka comparisons just seems completely bizarre.

        The only reason I think people do it is because they feel any ‘dark’ show with a female cast must be influenced by Madoka, which is a very shaky position to stake out.

        I don’t know if its just people having a dearth of the proper references, or Madoka looming so large they can’t see past it. But seriously guys, stop trying to force it.

      • Yeah, especially since my final impression of Mai Hime was like a trashier version of Madoka, which by chronology is that Madoka is Mai Hime trimmed of its fat. (Both deal with the same themes, and even resolve them in with similar conclusions, plot-wise and thematically. The characterization in both shows reach similar heights, as well, but aforementioned trashy elements of Mai Hime means that its lows are so much lower, tarnishing some of its heights.)

        Mai Hime was also kind of terrible through the first half, (let’s not even get into Mai Otome) so WIXOSS may also take its time to start shining.

        • Don’t get me wrong, I love Mai Hime, and sincerely. I mean it when I said the show’s heights match that of Madoka’s.

          But it also involves that time the Chupacapra Alien swarm ate Natsuki’s rare lingerie collection before TENTACLES. I have Panty and Stocking for that kind of thing, thank you very much.

    • Thanks for your comment! I agree, Wixoss is straddling a strange line with its conflict-juggling here. It seems to want the game to sound complex and exciting on its own terms, but if any time dedicated to explaining the game is to be meaningfully dramatic, it has to actually make sense and be followable as a real conflict. But outside of specific scenes, this clearly seems to be much more of a character story… and then there’s the tone, which hints at larger, darker things brewing. Making all three of these elements work together isn’t impossible (man, HxH makes this stuff look so easy…), but I don’t think the show has managed it yet.

      • I guess we’ve been spoiled by other shows which makes this kind of writing look effortless. Still, since WIXOSS is trying very hard to be an intelligent show, (and not totally failing) so for me it will be interesting to see where it goes even if it doesn’t manage to get its act together.

        The third episode just aired and I don’t want to say too much about it, suffice to say that most of the same problems from previous episodes were still present. It actually did something towards the end of the episode which I found reasonably interesting, however, so I’m still not ready to write it off.

  8. Fantastic write up. I’m glad you’re following so many this season. It gives me more people to talk to haha. I definitely agree on how surprisingly well-written Chaika was, and I was also iffy on the same parts of Sidonia as you were. But most importantly, HOW THE HELL IS ONE WEEK FRIENDS SO DAMN GOOD?! That shouldn’t be possible!
    Anyways, I hope to see your thoughts on the latest Hunter X Hunter episodes as well. And of course, being a Mushishi fan, you definitely are in for a treat this season. 😀 Episode 2 was absurdly good.

    • Yeah, I’m getting a lot of hype for this new Mushishi. Now I feel silly planning an essay on the first season, but eh, what can you do.

      And One Week Friends is indeed the best. That’s already the show I have the hardest time waiting for.

      • Definitely still do an essay on the first season. It’s episodic anyways so it’s not like it’s the “older” part of a plot. And the anime is full of interesting moments to reflect on.
        Yes One week friends definitely does that for me too. It makesme think it’s this year’s Usagi Drop. Similar aesthetics and character charm with a simple, yet well executed story!

  9. I’m curious about your evaluation of No Game No Life since I thought it was a much more blatant teenage power-trip/wish-fulfillment scenario than Mahouka. (although I do agree with your take on Mahouka for what it’s worth) The whole premise just seemed like an excuse to take a teenage shut-in that has no direction and life and hand him a world where the only skill that matters is the one he already has thus freeing him from any responsibility to actually, you know, improve himself. There’s nothing wrong with escapism in and of itself and that premise on its own wouldn’t make No Game No Life bad but I have a hard time seeing it as better in that regard than Mahouka.

    • The bad thing about No Game No Life is that it just takes cheating as a given. Everybody does it, so its ok if I do it. It’s also a bit weird that they actually addressed that it itself indeed is wish-fulfillment and that the normal world is an unfair place. I can’t decide if it really is pure power fantasy or maybe tries to parody the concept of one.

    • I don’t know for Bobduh, but personally I felt like No Game No Life’s 1st episode, for all its power-trippyness (and… well… trippyness, in general) was very competently done at least; it hit the right pacing, had some nice ideas (I especially liked the concept of the God of Games who got to rule the world because he didn’t bother with the fuss the other gods were making) and was rather self-aware. It did have its bad moments too of course (seeing the guy who was a NEET five minutes before haggling like a pro was hard to believe, and all those panty shots…), but overall it was enjoyable and rife with nice touches – like when Sora spins in midair to protect Shiro from the fall even though it’s pretty much pointless. So I guess its saving grace at the moment was being more creative, while still being of course an obvious wish fulfilment show.

    • I would say that its so blatantly, obviously so that it wraps itself around and kinda becomes awesome because of it.

      The real problem with No Game, No Life is that they already did this show, better, last year with Mondaiji.

      • I actually prefer No Game Non Life to Mondaji.
        Mondaji just has the characters as badass jerk (the main slightly more than the other. Honnestly, he has tons of knowledge, is both incredibly powerfull and a great fighter).
        It has absolutely no issues, and no identification possible.
        No Game No Life… It’s such an overt wish-fulfilling fantasy that it feels almost like a critic of the genre, and its target audience. The lead is the one we’re supposed to identify to, but he has… no redeeming quality.

        I’m not sure how to feel about it.

    • I can definitely agree with Bobduh’s issue on No Game No Life. If it really goes heavy power fantasy and emphasizes the characters being NEETs it could become an issue.

      However, based on the first episode, it seems much more like this is a show about games, competitions, and gambits. That sort of show set in this environment sounds very fun and seems like it will be well done because the elements of that show were very well done.

      • Well after watching the second episodes things look much bleaker, but maaaaybe it will turn out okay.

    • It being blatant is actually why I preferred it – I feel like Mahouka is being kind of disingenuous about its philosophy, whereas No Game No Life directly admits that this is a story meant to appeal to people who feel the real world doesn’t value their talents. That doesn’t actually mean it’ll be any better in the long run, but I feel it does give it the potential to actually address something real.

  10. Agree with you on all fronts. Jojo keeps being hilarious, Isshuukan friends is all kinds of beautiful and so damn sweet it’s going to give me diabetes before this is over (also make me cry a few times), Captain Earth is interesting enough.
    The world is still beautiful was indeed rushed, though I came to realize, maybe we perceived it that way because the synopsis in the Spring Chart made it sound like the Nike vs. Livius conflict over whether she would perform the rain magic for him WAS the core conflict of the show? Then again, it would have worked perfectly, and it would also have had a nice symbolic value underlying to it – Livius, male, sun, fire, conquest and destruction, vs. Nike, female, rain, water, nurturing and creation. I thought this show had a nice set up for something that could have come out of some ancient mythology, too bad it doesn’t seem like it’s headed that way. Also that insert song, eurgh.
    I liked No Game No Life because I’m a games nerd and if they game me a show centred around game psychology like Kaiji but with some fantasy sprinkled in I could only be happy; true, the games weren’t delved much into but it was only the first episode and that little remark about the chess match was at least smart enough to give me a faint hope. Which will likely be crushed by the mess of underage panty shots, siscon, and wish-fulfilment NEET power fantasy that is probably coming, but a man can dream.
    WIXOSS is a total mess. Your observation about the effects could be right, UNLESS there’s some other condition to be fulfilled for the activation of the second power (example: it activates upon making your adversary discard a card). And that’s the problem, WIXOSS is shying away from explaining the rules of its card game, making its card game make as much sense as magical girls bashing each other with random flashes of light, except much cheaper to animate and not as compelling to watch. It tries to focus on the drama instead, but that’s not very good either (are we supposed to sympathize with the sister who wants to use her magical wish to have her brother fall in love with her? Isn’t that both incest AND rape?). And it still stops occasionally to spout its odd “kids, remember to buy the game!” moment, being unable to escape from its nature of glorified toy commercial.

    • Ugh, that song was so bad. The show was doing a fairly respectable job of trying to create a specific world and atmosphere, and then BAM – JPOP WITH ENGRISH CHORUS. Goddamnit, anime.

      And Wixoss definitely has a serious uphill battle ahead of it. If it tries to explain the card game, it’ll draw focus from the drama. If it focuses on the drama, all the time spent to make the card game look sweet will be dead air. It seems to be compromising by using conflicts that are kind of prefabricated, which is… not the best.

      • Yup. It doesn’t help that WIXOSS has that one girl who basically wants to win the game in order to do exactly what Sora did to Steph in No Game No Life. Except that here they’re trying to make it look serious. And the other person is her brother.

  11. No game no life is even more cynical than Mahouka, actually. It’s not the delusion of thinking you are superior. It’s about a whole world bending to the only thing the character is good at (game).
    It even has rules that allows him to have every girls at his feet, without doing any effort at all.

    Its message is disgusting, but it’s also really fascinating on a weird way.

    • I think the fun thing is that you get to read it depending from your POV. I watch it and I think the lead is an unlikeable asshole and a moron, and episode 2 certainly did a lot in the direction of making him look so and even making fun of him for it (though the humour was certainly raunchy enough). But maybe the typical audience this is pandering to could actually find him relatable? I don’t know, I think there always is a tinge of self-deprecation in this mentality – no matter what, you DO know in a corner of your mind that most of your problems are brought up by yourself. The show both panders at the power fantasies and mocks its lead (and the viewer) for still not being to live up to them. It’s not something too purposeful imho (I think that, like with Mahouka, the author of this is part of his own target audience) but it happens to be occasionally insightful, at the very least.

  12. I was surprised to see your comment about NGNL actively addressing stuff that you talked about for Mahouka, because those kinds of things are basically what was a big turn-off for me. It seems like it’s just being even more blunt in servicing those desires. Guy is super good at computer games and has a doting little sister, both of which ‘3D world suuuuuuxors’ shut-ins, who then get whisked off to a world basically custom designed for them. Here the entire world runs by a strict set of rules and all conficts are settled by games.

    The end of the 2nd episode at least sets up a way for them to be the underdogs going forward, but he engages in some pretty ridiculous manipulation and reading of a character for a game. I suppose at least in NGNL, there’s a ‘reason’ for the first character to fall in love with him (which leads to most or all of the episode’s funny moments).

    • It’s not that NGNL subverts the fantasy that makes me like it more – it’s that it at least admits that’s what the fantasy is, and that the fantasy exists for specific real-world reasons. It may not actually end up engaging with those reasons in a meaningful way (in which case you’re right, it’ll just end up being another lame articulation of those fantasies), but I do appreciate the frankness.

      • Adding to that, the incest subtext actually works here. I can believe that these two would have that sort of relationship.

        Like, its still blatant fetishism, but its a blatant fetishism that works with the characters and their circumstances.

  13. And you still have to catch onHunter X Hunter, including the fantastic last week episode.
    This season has at least three excellent show (H x H, Mushishi and JoJo), so it can be bad;

    • When I get back I’m just gonna have to sit down and watch shows for twelve hours straight. AND I WILL FORCE MYSELF TO ENJOY IT, GODDAMNIT.

  14. One Week Friends might just be the anime that gives me a fatal, feels-and-fuzz induced heart attack after all. Second episode and I was shedding manly tears.

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