Summer 2014 – First Impressions, Part One

Summer is here! A wonderful time to hide on your computer and watch cartoons so other people don’t have to. This first week has had some hits and some misses, but overall it’s looking like I’ll have a healthy mix of genres to replace our dear departed Ping Pong. Let’s run down some first episodes!

Glasslip 1: It feels difficult for me to be entirely fair to Glasslip. It’s not the show’s fault at all, and I actually liked a lot of what was going on here. I like that the show drops you into a group of friends without feeling the need to explain what all their relationships are. I like that the characters don’t seem quite so simplistic that this isn’t a meaningless gesture – yeah, the various members of the group map to some pretty common archetypes, but they still mainly talk like people. I like that this takes place near the end of high school – if we’re going to be sitting through another nostalgic high school show, it’s nice to at least be watching one that acknowledges things end. And P.A. Works always make beautiful things, with Glasslip in particular portraying a looseness in its style that allows for both great beauty and very emotive animation. It’s just…

Well, it’s NagiAsu. Every time this show reminds me of NagiAsu (and it reminds me of it pretty constantly), the cynical part of my brain starts imagining love polygons with too many sides and no ends in sight, episodes dedicated to characters sighing heavily for twenty-three minutes, light drama given a narrative weight it never really earns. Glasslip is walking on a tightrope for reasons entirely beyond its control, and it may be best for both me and the show to take a little more time off before returning to a P.A. Works show that seems so firmly situated in their light drama wheelhouse.


Tokyo Ghoul 1: I was pretty on the fence about this one, given the plot seems like exactly the kind of schlocky action-horror I have pretty much no interest in, but this show’s aesthetic strengths can’t be denied. The shot framing, the lighting, the color work – Tokyo Ghoul has a vibrant and evocative visual vocabulary, and really leaps off the screen. Every scene is a visual gift.

That said, it actually does seem like all this visual niceness is working in support of a schlocky action-horror that I’d generally have no interest in. There are a bunch of wince-worthy one-liners, the characters all seem to be playing it up for the crowd, and the sense of underlying horror the backgrounds and lighting create is kind of overwhelmed by the dialogue’s Always-At-11 THIS IS HORROR-ness. I’m definitely going to give it another episode, but I remain on the fence for now.

Tokyo Ghoul

Aldnoah.Zero 1: It’s a little awkward to say it, but the Urobuchi show this first episode most strongly reminded me of was easily Fate/Zero. Like that one, this episode was dense, packed with exposition the show was too focused on getting through to make particularly graceful. All the pieces are certainly here – we’ve got our child soldiers, we’ve got the princess (a Madoka if I’ve ever seen one) being used to spark a new war, we’ve got the disillusioned older generation and a greater racial context. But given that Fate/Zero tone, I’m hesitant to feel immediately on board with this.

I initially read Fate/Zero’s choices as ones born in a need to immediately push the story forward, and that show ended up squandering its first half in meaningless conflict. I like the pieces much more here, of course – Urobuchi had his work cut out for him to elevate something as arbitrary and worldbuilding-for-its-own-sake as the Grail War, whereas this is just straight up a story about generations and races and governments and war. And I like a bunch of the details, like the empire’s knights all competing with each other, which should hopefully lead to some fun conflicts down the line. But I can’t say I’m sold quite yet – I’m intrigued, but not yet impressed. We’ll have to see where it goes.


JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure 14: This week’s Most Ridiculous Thing would have been the fact that the JoJo Crew spends the entire first half of this episode poking a dead body, but holy shit Enyaba and Polnareff. Enyaba and Polnareff. ENYABA AND POLNAREFF.

Yeah, you can’t really top that. Nice work, JoJo. Even if you forget what dogs look like, I still love you.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

Akame ga Kill 1: After Tokyo Ghoul, I was a little worried this season’s action shows would all demand a second look… well, fortunately Akame ga Kill is happy to demonstrate that’s not the case. This first episode was basically a string of classic shounen cliches with occasional grimdark interludes, making it just the kind of thing I feel comfortable dropping immediately. Although this guy’s ability to appreciate the irony of his own death was pretty hilarious in a “what the fuck am I watching” kind of way, that stuff doesn’t actually make the show worth watching. Plus it just dips into childish grossness with the torture stuff near the end, which was frankly unpleasant to watch. Easily dropped.

Akame ga Kill

Barakamon 1: This one wasn’t on my preseason list because I was worried it would be one of those “non-joke comedies” like Servant x Service or whatnot. I am extremely happy to be wrong! So far, it’s a very endearing, gently funny slice of life/drama, with a central character dynamic that already seems confident and lived-in. I’m obviously a little biased towards stories about the art instinct, but this one doesn’t really overplay its hand, and is content to just meander through scenes of very natural dialogue, reveling in its own character dynamics.

Slice of life shows often put me off due to a distance I perceive in them, a very idealized/heightened version of reality, and I didn’t have that problem here at all – possibly because the protagonist is actually a fairly immature jerk, and also because his childlike counterpoint is an actual child, brought to life through great voice acting and stellar animation. That animation deserves special mention – there are a few specific highlights throughout, but pretty much all of Naru’s movements have tremendous energy and personality to them. It’s a very warm show, and a welcome counterpoint to what I assume will be weekly doses of capital-D Drama from Aldnoah.Zero and Zankyou no Terror.


Sailor Moon Crystal 1: I’ve never seen the original, and wasn’t really expecting to click with this show, but this first episode was pretty entertaining! I dislike the style of the faces here – I know they’re trying to go for adherence to the manga, but the eyes come off as too ornate and unchanging to feel really emotive, or at least did so this episode. Which is a shame, because from what I’ve seen, the original actually had very expressive faces. The visual aesthetic was also pretty bland, and the animation stiff – aesthetically, this just didn’t feel that strong. Which leaves me to hang on the narrative itself, which… well, there’s good and bad.

I don’t really care about the dramatic stuff happening, but I kind of loved that Usagi didn’t really seem to either – all my favorite parts of this episode where Usagi derping around and failing to be heroic in every way possible. Even her dreams of being like Sailor V are focused more on stuff like avoiding school and bopping bad guys than actually accomplishing anything – she only becomes Sailor Moon because she likes shiny things, and her immediate reaction to being chased is to run in circles around the kitchen counter. I like that. I can relate to this kind of hero. Whether that actually keeps me invested in a story that seems pretty simple and isn’t really being expressed with any great flair, I can’t yet say. But yeah, Usagi’s great.

Sailor Moon Crystal

33 thoughts on “Summer 2014 – First Impressions, Part One

  1. Barakamon is more like the actual manga slice-of-life comedies, ala Gin no Saji, Gingitsune, etc, than the 4-koma no-nothing. Yeah.

    The main thing giving Glasslip a shot in my book is, well, more comedy, more charm. NagiAsu took itself seriously all the time. Glasslip has a ditzy heroine, funny anime-faces, and some non-jokes and physical gags that at least keep things light, and not “non-heavy light”.

    • Well… Tari Tari is the only other PA Works show I watched, but Glassip seems pretty similar. Especially with the weird humour, and low-key drama.

      If it follow the same road, it may be an enjoyable experience.

      I don’t expect it to be great but I have no reason to drop it now.

    • Yeah, I like actual slice of life, it’s just the “comfy padded room” 4-koma stuff I have no interest in.

      Glasslip being 1-cour helps for me, too.

  2. I am actually really tempted to drop Glasslip. It reminded me, who have bad long term memory, with Nagi no Asukara too which I only watched the first episode of. But still, I have an opposite opinion on the festival scene, I wish they could have made us care about the character first, flipping the cafe sequence to the start of the episode instead. And also actually explaining what’s with the David guy instead of making cliffhanger of nothing. I’m really tempted to but it’s just so beautiful.

    You’re not watching Rail Wars? It’s pretty absurd and cliched but… the first episode was really good, it would have been an awesome story had they actually expanded it… not skimming it to reach what I believe to be boring episodic train-themed story. But it was pretty interesting so… three episode rule.

    I wrote a longer review on both here btw: Is there anything you have different opinions of?

    • Rail Wars PV was reaaally determined to kill any interest I might have in that show (and I didn’t really have any to begin with), and I haven’t been hearing good things about it since.

      • I’ve stopped watching PV ever since I watched Mahou Sensou. That was a big disappointment. Still, I hate Rail Wars because it could have been good, for all its ridiculousness. I could just see the cracks that could have been filled to make it good. The idea, from my perspective, can be really interesting if explored carefully. It’s basically a school with rigorous curriculum, but not exactly a military one, thus having a balance between physical and discipline hardships and general high school drama. And they skipped it in the first episode. I have never been so disappointed since Mahou Sensou and SAO (where they skipped SAO arc in favor Bizarre Adventure Online).

        Also, thank you for the Barakamon review. I so, so nearly missed it. That was simply beautiful, especially as looking at the MC is like looking at myself while looking at the kid is like looking at the me from when I was a child. I can really, really sympathize with both, and did so in one episode (that’s a record time for me). I hope it will continue to be good.

  3. It’s a shame Toei made the design choices with Re: Sailor Moon Arise: Brotherhood Kai/Unlimited Remake Works that they did. If they handled it just like any of their recent precure seasons it would assuredly have a lot more visual pop.

  4. You nailed why so many people loved Usagi in the first place (going by all of the posts I’ve seen on the internet for years anyway ^^;), she’s a heroine in a distinctly non-traditional way and that’s okay, you can be capable of saving the world and not a badass and somehow instead of making her frustrating that makes her fun. I felt like I was laughing with the show, not at it, the entire time and looking forward to the next episodes more than I expected!

    • Totally agree, Usagi is just like a girl teenage version of Nobita. Oversleeping, getting bad grade, daydreaming,… Is there anyone who doesn’t experience those things?

      • Problem is that Nobita is a friggin badass, and a completely different character in the movies. In fact all the cast has significant character shift when in movie mode. Whereas here they would have to convince me that it aren’t just convenient wish fulfillment self insert for young girls

      • Crying, being scared, and then deciding to do the right thing because of the people counting on you is convenient wish fulfillment self insert? Man I WISH that was the case because then maybe we’d get even more young girls growing up who are prepared to take whatever the world throws at them, usually wish fulfillment just means lots of people of your preferred gender(s) throwing themselves at you!

      • “right thing” as in do no wrong. They wish they are that competent even with all the personal failings. It’s even worse than shows that features “ordinary” MC saving the world. There’s more to wish fulfilment than the sexual/romantic aspects.

    • The love for Usagi seems to be a secondary development over time, though. Most of the “original” generation of fans either were more into the destined romance aspect than Usagi herself, preferred one of the other Inner senshi, or made up their own senshi characters, when they were that age. It’s only once they’d grown up a little that they could look back on childhood with nostalgia that they started pointing to Usagi’s fail as to why they were fond of her.
      See also the burning hatred for Chibiusa/Rini back in the day.

    • Yeah, I’m also looking forward to it more than I expected. I really do hope they put a little more energy into those faces, though – I keep seeing awesome silly faces from the original on my twitter feed.

  5. you shouldn’t drop akame ga kill it’s not “the cliche” story and all the “cliche” stuff … the manga gets better and better and the anime will be the same , the author of this manga does not hesitate to kill one of the main characters and the plot is realy strong so give it a chance :3 it’s like the game of throne “but anime version”

    • Counterpoint: Game of Thrones doesn’t get to the ‘Myrish swamp’ until four books in. This, meanwhile, had “A fitting fate for one such as I, whose true nature is rotten” (delivered through a slashed throat, no less), “That girl tortured Sayo to death!”/”AND WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT?”, and the hero watching as his best friend dies tragically being immediately followed by a wacky slapstick scene as he’s dragged off by his new friends. All of that’s in the first episode.

      Unintentional comedy of the season, right here.

    • “The author doesn’t hesitate to kill main characters” doesn’t really do anything for me, and the writing of that first episode was really bad. I’ll keep an eye on it through twitter and whatnot, but “people die” isn’t inherently any better than people not dying – it’s its own cliche, really.

  6. Not surprised by the verdict on Akame. The violence gets over-the-top, and sometimes it’s as subtle as a flashing neon sign that is also on fire. Still, it’s one of my favorite manga because the writer has a surprisingly deft hand for making you care about the characters… including the antagonists who aren’t cackling baby-eating scenery chewers, which makes it doubly baffling that they exist. It’s also one of the few stories I’ve seen with frequent character deaths where said deaths feel adequately paid-for by the story before and after.

    It’s not especially suited for an anime, though, because the problems are front-and-center and the merits take time. I’m a little sad to see the drop, but I’m not surprised.

  7. Good God, Akame ga Kill’s handling of mood is terrible. Childhood friend died in a tragic way? Literally 5 seconds later the main character goes back to his comedic shouting routine as the entire scene switches the light. I really hope it can handle itself better, or else it’s out to the trash bin for me too.

    As much as I want to like Glasslip, the first episode turned out far too confusing for me. Fireworks, chickens, the statue of David, more fireworks, more chickens…I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be seeing in all this.

    And yeah, I’m usually not a fan of gory horror, but Tokyo Ghoul’s directing hits it out the park for me. Hopefully it keeps up the good work.

    • I actually liked that Glasslip’s first episode was all over the place! It seemed confident, and given this is 1-cour, I can at least hope things might fall into place over time. Not sure I’ll be there for that, but either way.

  8. Barakamon did an awesome job of making me like a loud noisy kid. That’s… counts as “rather impressive” in my book. That and I also can relate to that neurotic jerk.

  9. Am I the only person who just really liked NagiAsu and am perfectly happy watching a remake of it?

  10. Akame ga Kill took a pretty bad first half of an episode and turned it into a “HAHAHAH Look at me I’m a cackling EVIL villain who tortures people because I’m EVIL! Just look at how EVIL I am! …Wait, what do you mean you want to kill me? Do you just want to look like a hero?” kind of show. It’s always nice when a season with a bunch of hopefuls hands you some free drops.

    That being said, I was blown away by Barakamon. I mean, I like my share of slice of life, but this one really understands what it takes to elevate it to something beautiful. Naru and Kate are the only children characters (that I can think of right now) that I’ve really liked having on screen and it really comes back to what you’ve said here; their childish natures allow them to press their innocent worldviews upon people who have forgotten what it means to simply enjoy what you do. Pretty great stuff!

  11. Akame ga Kill… I actually think that it (the manga) is so bad, it’s good. I was laughing my ass off at all the contrivances in the plot and the extremely poor narrative. Unfortunately, the anime tries to shore that up, so it no longer becomes funny to me.

    That being said, I’ll still watch it, because it gets to “meh!” quality later on, but that’s a longgggggggg ways off, so dropping it is a completely reasonable decision.

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