Summer 2014 – First Impressions, Part Two

And with the second week complete, all our new challengers have appeared! I’m very happy with this week’s performance – though none of my speculative picks really impressed me, the two shows I was most excited for either picked up the slack (in Aldnoah’s case) or started off with a bang (Zankyou no Terror). The roster isn’t looking deep this season, but if the highlights can keep up this level of quality, I’ll be content either way.

Glasslip 2: Remarkably, Glasslip managed to make itself about ten times less interesting through the introduction of supernatural events. With basically no warning, this episode promptly introduced the fact that our heroine and mysterious new guy can apparently see/hear “fragments of the future,” which, uh, cool, I guess. That could actually be pretty interesting, but holy shit was the scene used to reveal this anything but – instead of actually having either of them discover their powers, or illustrating it through the natural progression of the narrative, the dude just called our MC out to a porch where they blankly explained to each other how their powers work. “Oh huh I can see the future that’s pretty cool. Wait is that your phone number UWAAAAH.” Nothing about this show is actually distinctive, so it basically all comes down to the execution – and dang, that was some terrible execution.

Then there were a bunch of scenes of the characters all feeling pensive about their love polygon, then one of MC’s friends said she was going to confess and “might have to leave the group” and I actually shouted WHAT out loud and man P.A. Works I am tired of this show let me know when you come up with a new one. Dropped.


Persona 4 Golden: Every single person I know on twitter said “wow, screw this, just watch the original,” so, uh, I guess that’s what I’ll maybe eventually do!

Tokyo ESP 1: This was a very confident first episode! It’s a classic structure, but not one I see that often in anime – dropping us into the action, giving us secondhand evidence of the hero’s legacy, and building the whole episode around raising anticipation for their arrival. The show didn’t overexplain anything, but it didn’t really have any reason to – this is a world where “espers” just seem to mean general superpowers, and “world where people with superpowers exist” isn’t that hard to explain. It actually felt much more like a western superhero comic than an anime, which honestly isn’t really my kind of thing – I tend to prefer my pulpy action with a lighter tone, like Yozakura Quartet. But this was a well done first episode, and it’s quite possible this tone will dissipate once we get past this first conflict hook, so I’ll stick around for now.

Tokyo ESP

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 15: Alright, can this just be Polnareff’s Bizarre Adventure from now on? Polnareff unintentionally trolling Enyaba is clearly the best thing in this show, and pretty much every Polnareff scene has more energy and absurdity than any non-Polnareff one. The actual resolution to this Stand battle wasn’t that exciting, but that really doesn’t matter – the road to that battle was paved with absurd Polnareff actions and enraged Enyaba faces, and that is something to be celebrated. This was some top tier JoJo material.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

Tokyo Ghoul 2: This episode was much less visually impressive than the first, relying pretty significantly on the hook of the story itself. And that story… eh, I dunno. As I said regarding the first episode, I’m not really into B-movie action/horror stuff, so I’m indifferent to a fair amount of what the show’s excited to show me. They’re undoubtedly going to go somewhere with the racism/parallel societies stuff, and there seems to be a compellingly weird sexual component to the “urge to feed” stuff, but none of it is articulated gracefully enough that I feel inclined to really engage with it. And again, the action/horror really doesn’t grab me unless it’s executed really well, like the first episode managed, and so informing me that there are more bad guys to come doesn’t really push me to continue. I think I’ll give this show one more episode, but it’s likely that, in spite of it being fair enough at what it does, it’s just not a show for me.

Tokyo Ghoul

Aldnoah.Zero 2: I like how this episode starts with the earthlings being completely outgunned and wiped out militarily, and then immediately switches to the students idly wondering if they’ll be drafted, and complaining about being forced to help with the evacuation. It’s certainly a grim disconnect to dwell on, but it’s a key one, and it seems likely our earthling protagonist’s journey will center on that in particular. He reacts to everything that happens this episode with a kind of numb indifference – it opens with him actually cooking the eggs that were a sign of his disconnect in the first episode, and then goes on to show him react to basically everything that happens with a dull, methodical acceptance. It’s all a scene on TV to him so far – he transitions from indifference to shock, and now has decided the next thing one does in this position is play the hero.


Basically every adult featured in this episode offered commentary on ‘what one does in this situation’ – the main character’s older sister, the drunk teacher, the cackling aristocrat. How to deal with impossible circumstances – who you think you are versus who you turn out to be when the moment comes. “Tolerating the intolerable” seems key, as does the counterpoint that in the middle of a warzone, everyone’s just trying to survive. This episode was a long sequence of desperate people losing quickly or losing slowly, and the chase sequence at the end exemplified that even as it acted as a great action setpiece in its own right. If we’re not fast enough to get away, we give the monster our legs. If any of us make it out, we call that a win.

I really loved this episode, if that’s not clear. The first episode felt stilted, but this was breathless and engaging and rife with ideas worth digging into. I’m very excited to see where we go next.


Barakamon 2: This episode was a lot weaker than the first, unfortunately. It seemed clear it was trying to smash two manga chapters into one anime episode, to the detriment of both – instead of either giving the son’s reflection on talent or the MC’s stay at the hospital time to breathe, both were just rushed through, and a show like this does not benefit from rushed pacing. Additionally, the humor of this episode felt a fair deal more samey and anime-style than the first episode – that one had more fundamental character humor and animation-focused gags, whereas this one had a bunch of anime sex jokes. The whole episode seemed kind of… nervous? Like it was too eager to please, and thus unable to slow down and let its characters do the work. Hopefully this doesn’t become a trend.


Zankyou no Terror 1: Holy confident premiers, Batman! This was an episode. From the cold open bomb heist through the final phone-call rescue, this episode knew what it was about and never let up. It offered lots of questions both on a narrative and thematic front, and already seems like its overall construction is very precisely considered – everything here serves a purpose. The show’s visual style is pretty fantastic, with special attention seemingly paid to the lighting and perspective – daylight scenes are washed out by the heat, nighttime scenes are ghosts in the darkness. The direction in general is dynamic as well – the action scenes flow well, and the characters are often framed in just slightly off-putting ways. And the story itself promises all sorts of interesting possibilities. Could this be a story like Gatchaman Crowds, preoccupied with society in the internet age? Could it be about fear and society in more general ways? What sort of conclusion might they be drawing from the equating of Lisa’s bullying and the children of our boy-terrorists’ pasts? What should we think of Twelve’s strangely giddy personality in general – what made him this way, what does he represent?

We’ll obviously have to wait and see what cards Terror is actually playing with, but the confidence with which this episode laid out its first hand leaves me eager for more. A stellar premier.

Zankyou no Terror


43 thoughts on “Summer 2014 – First Impressions, Part Two

  1. Persona 4 the Golden does have two things the original didn’t have: Marie, and a much stronger visual aesthetic. However, it’s more or a less an NG+ of P4, so… yeah, it’s better to just watch the original. If you want the story, that is.

    I actually find the Aldnoah.Zero’s second episode to be painfully boring. Mostly because there’s too much mecha series tropes played straight, easily predictable events, and the characters are quite… uninteresting. The series of event feels like a mix of Gundam SEED, Muv-Luv and Evangelion to me. The most interesting character for me, Slaine, got so little screentime here while the one that I am interested the least in, Inaho, got a lot. It was so painful for me, that I found myself agreeing with Greek philosophers that hope is an extension of suffering.

    I actually rewatched Barakamon 2 just to wash off the bad taste it left me. I find it to be just as good as the first one, perhaps because I can really, really empathize with the new character. Well, I could pretty much empathize with nearly all of the characters, the anime felt like a trip down the memory lane to me, so perhaps I’m just biased in that regards.

    As for Zankyou no Terror, I agree that it is good. Perhaps even the best action series premiere of this season. I also noted that a trend with the anime of the season that I actually liked, most of them seems to introduce the characters little by little, and did it mostly by using actions. Then again, I have so little interest in animes of this season, it’s probably just a coincidence.

    Also, two animes that you didn’t put on the list was Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance and Rokujyouma no Shinryakusha. The former is almost like Akame ga Kill to me, a lot of recommendations, saying that the LN was good, but I find it to be barely tolerable. The latter… I’m actually comparing it to Saints Row; it’s a mess, but it’s a fun mess. It might just be me, but it’ll probably be a guilty pleasure for me at the very least.

    Damn, this was pretty long.

    • Aren’t those last two this season’s harems? Not much chance I’ll be checking those out.

      And yeah, I heard the same NG+ comment about Persona, so I’ll either watch the original or maybe check out a Let’s Play of the game or something.

      • Yes… in retrospect, I should have known. Just that this one guy I knew said that Seirei Tsukai was so good he re-read the LN a dozen time or so, and he writes decent fanfics. I should have remember how people’s taste can be very… different. As for Rokujyouma, I heard and known nothing about it, and simply taken it on a whim. As I said, it’s kind of like Saints Row, though not on the same level in the “fun mess” rank.

        I think an LP would be better, the original anime is… kind of a base-breaker. Thematically and generally, it follows the game pretty nicely. Just that there are some differences between it and the game. After being so long on the internet, you should know how people react to differences in adaptation.

      • This guy has a stellar LP of Persona 3, and he’s doing every single social link. Persona 4 Golden is probably a superior game to the original because of the extra social links, months, and dungeon. Won’t beat playing the game yourself, but the next best thing.

  2. Zankyou no Terror felt more like a thriller film than any anime I can remember seeing

    • Yeah, it felt very filmic in general. You can tell its creators are drawing from a broader pool of influences than a lot of anime.

      • That’s always fascinated me. How many animators/directors/storyboarders go to film school? Do they learn “animation-only cinematography,” and what different compositions denote? Do any have any live-action experience?

        And on the mangaka side, are there classes on effective panelling and shot composition, and how many successful mangaka have that education? How many mangaka also take literary classes, to improve their writing quality?

        At the same time that Jdrama can feel like it’s simply anime/manga in its staging and pacing, it still tends to have a very distinct gap from anime in tone and atmosphere, (for better or worse) which indicates that the staff pools don’t mix.

  3. Yea Barakamon 2nd episode was disappointing. Sad they rushed trough the son stuff has his realisation came without the needed impact and could have been something I would have loved if given more time. And the jokes at the beginning and a few trough the episode made me wonder wth I was watching. Like you said it was very standard anime stuff.

    Love the soundtrack in Aldnoah, reminds me of Kill la Kill and the show is shaping up nicely.

    Jojo stuff was well presented but it was a type of joke I never had much interest in.. The show is just good enough to keep watching really..

    Did you dropped Dandy? The beginning of this season is pretty fun!

    • Yeah, that first half of Barakamon really could have been good, if it’d actually been given room to breathe. As is, we just introduced the character, learned his emotional problem, and then had him immediately solve it – not particularly compelling stuff.

      And I never finished the first season of Dandy, so I haven’t checked out this one.

  4. Did you choose to not watch Ao Haru Ride? Because between being directed by Ai Yoshimura (of Oregairu fame) doing what she does best (i.e. putting care into nuance in characterization), and being a low-key character drama revolving around surprisingly introspective characters, I really think it’s your kind of show.

    • That’s a strong recommendation, but I think I’ll wait another episode to see if people are still enjoying it. It’s not that hard to catch up if this turns out to be a keeper.

  5. I loved the first episode of Zankyou no Terror as well! I’m getting the impression that Zankyou no Terror is going to go into some fairly heavy character drama, based on some things that stuck out at me. The opening (which I rewatched insatiably) features lots of juxtaposition and contrast between Nine and Twelve: shots where they’re standing next to each other, on opposing sides, and two birds that fly out into the city, one white and one black, which I can’t help but think represent the two. Plus, there’s the girl that’s just been introduced, acting as a wild card that will probably catalyze some sort of unprecedented reaction between them and her. I feel like childhood friends + wild card character is a pretty standard formula for character drama. Your thoughts?

    • Yeah, you’re pretty much on the money with those projections. Pretty likely that the two of them will be contrasted against each other in some ways, that the bonds they share will be tested, that the girl will be a catalyst. I’m hoping the show won’t focus solely on these people, though – the choice of overt narrative seems to imply this show really wants to be “of this moment” in some ways, so I’m excited to see what the boys’ intentions really are.

  6. Are you going to watch next week’s Dandy episode? It’s the Masaaki Yuasa one!

      • I know, he seems to pop just about everywhere lately. And since I’m also watching Kaiba, I’ll definitely remember 2014 as the Year of Yuasa.

  7. On Tokyo Ghoul, I did hear that the anime is rushing through the anime to get action stuff in every episode at the expense of the slower parts. It seems the first episode covered 5 chapters while the second covered 6, which is twice as fast as other series, like Hunter x Hunter, move at.

    Of course, I actually haven’t read the manga myself, so in the end take it as you want to. Maybe check out the first volume of the manga if you want to.

    • Tokyo Ghoul’s kind of hanging on by a thread for me – the choice of base narrative really isn’t my kind of thing. If anything, I’m guessing solid anime production would actually make me like the material more than I would the manga, but it’ll have to step up to keep me watching.

  8. I felt my eyes glazing over as I watched episode 2 of Aldnoah, I just didn’t connect to anything. I almost felt a lot like Inaho, completely disconnected from the characters and events happening before me, my own opinions on events barely registering. I’m not sure if that’s genius writing or if I’m just bored and trying to find some way to call the show good purely because of the names attached. Speaking of names, it is Urobuchi, so I pretty much have to soldier on… so far this feels like the weakest of his works to me, though.

    On the other hand, I’m much more engaged with Tokyo Ghoul, surprisingly, as I was not interested in it going in. It’s got a lot of what I like in an anime outside of the overt horror/shonen trappings. However I am worried that it will run out of ideas and ultimately wont live up to these first two episodes.

    Definitely watch the original Persona 4 before Golden if you’re even remotely interested, Golden is not friendly to new fans. Despite recapping the same events, it honestly feels more like a sequel to me given the new game + take on Yu’s character.

  9. The blood was the only thing that remotely amused me about the latest Tokyo Ghoul, if even that because the violence lacked viscerality when it wasn’t being censored up the hoohah. This isn’t b-movie horror, nor an insightful look into the dark spots of humanity. It’s a shonen action series where you get superpowers for being Blandy McBlanderson.

    • Bullshit. Tokyo Ghoul is more like Shiki than a shonen action series (what Tokyo ESP is) where the MC has to deal with being part of two worlds, and the reality of a new world unknown to him before.

      • Im glad there is someone else who noticed the similarity between Tokyo Ghoul and Shiki. Im watching it for this reason in fact. Unfortunately, i think TG will eventually shape up into more or less mediocre action series providing no grounds for deeper thinking.

  10. “Persona 4 Golden: Every single person I know on twitter said “wow, screw this, just watch the original,” so, uh, I guess that’s what I’ll maybe eventually do!” As someone who saw the original i have to say even that is pretty dull. I’ve played some of the game since (and watched a lot of the Giant Bomb endurance run of it, hey I had a massive knitting project and needed something to entertain me!) and the story really lost a lot of it’s weird charm in the transition from game to tv series, even if it is massively long.

    • I’ve heard mixed things about the original elsewhere too. I played a fair amount of Persona 3, and it does seem like it’d be virtually impossible to translate the strange, jumbled appeal of a world like that to a linear anime.

      • For me all of the characters came off as a pretty flat and unlikeable in the anime, in the game with all the social link time they all really grew on me and actually came off a bit more nuanced than expected (well, except Yosuke although there’s apparently some Japanese dialogue on the disc that wasn’t actually used which would explain his more homophobic moments…). The set-up just doesn’t translated as well to anime/manga as you’d expect, especially since you lose the ability to be a little ball of snark in the process.

  11. P4G isn’t really a NG+ story, it’s just using Yu’s power as an excuse to ignore the main plot; the second episode preview skips a couple months and several dungeons ahead to get to another new addition in Golden. So it’s very definitely for people that’ve already seen the original.

    In terms of stuff you’re not watching, Sabagebu is a pretty good comedy! …although it apparently achieved that by basically gutting the original and wearing its skin as a mask, like some sort of shoujo anime parasitic wasp. I’m not sure how long that can last, but in the two episodes so far, the main character is a jerk in the best way and I have a weakness for goofy narrators.

    • Hmm, I might check out Sabagebu. Anime comedies very rarely work for me, but I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about it, and the nice thing about checking out a comedy is that it really doesn’t take much time to figure out if it’s for you or not.

  12. I’m all in on Aldnoah.Zero and Zankyou no Terror. Super pumped on what those two bring in the coming weeks.

    • They’ve definitely got the greatest potential. I feel a little nervous pinning so much of this season’s hopes on two shows with such apparent ambition, but that’s what we’ve got.

    • I really must disagree on the Alnoah.Zero. It strikes me as prime example of what Holywood has become in the last years. Churning out movies with brave, but questionable premises (fight against alien race, mankind fights for survival) that make the movies ‘unique’, supported with epic music and amazing cgi visuals.

      I dont think story is the only true aspect of a movie or series, but there is a limit to using pretty effects for blinding me from seeing the lack of coherent storyline and intellectually stimulating aspects.

      These 2 Alnoah Zero episodes did not impress me at all with the exception of its music, which unfortunately is a very slightly altered continuation of Hiroyuki Sawano’s previous works (Guilty Crown, Attack on Titan, Gundam Unicorn, Kill la Kill). I dont like the fact that he is doing so many shows lately because he sometimes is not able to make the music distinctive enough – which is a problem in his case because his music can get repetitive fast (Unicorn, Guilty Crown).

      As for the characters AZ reminds me of Robotic;Notes where i didnt connect to a single character and for me it was painful to stick to the very end. Story – what is the point? So far the focus has been more on the overall situation not any individual, which im not immediatelly against, but its obvious this will change soon giving us the pitiful image of the main character. So, yes, i think the characters in my eyes dont have much to provide here and rather are tools for the story to ‘execute’ them as needed (see ep2) and make a point about how quickness to react in any kind of situation can lead to survival.

      Normally, i jump with joy seeing a character who can ‘shut’ his emotions and react faster than anyone because of it. Heck, this is a part of why i think Darker than Black was so awesome (because it made a point out of it – several i mean). But this?

      So far this show is only relying on the immediate cool of the cgi (the spaceship design and lens flares). Characters are defined by 1-2 simple tropes (the guy who has experienced all this before but nobody believes him so he drink a lot and everyone tells him to sop so we notice that he is drinking for a reason, the bad guy who enjoys killing defenseless pilots on a parachute by ramming them with a plane, even though he considers him an insect, the princess who is somehow resistant to her race’s brainwash about being superior and the main character who can do things normal poeple cant – probably because he experienced trauma in his earlier years )

      The only thing im interested in is the princess because she reminds me of Dianeilla from Heroic Age.

      Bobduh, you are much better dropping this and watching Ao Haru Ride. It even gives me slight Isshuukan Friends and Kare Kanno feeling. Slight.

  13. Zankyou no terror reminded me of Prophecy, by Tetsuya Tsutsui (mainly the “weather report” video), for better or worse.
    I’m awaiting for more.

    Tokyo ESP. Well, it sure is by Ga-Rei author.
    I expect it to bekinda muddled, but full of energy.

    • I’m hoping Tokyo ESP at least remains entertaining, but I’m also working on two backlog shounens at the moment (HxH catchup and FMA), so I guess I don’t really need to fill that spot this season.

  14. So I see that several people have mentioned the NG+ nature of Persona 4, but no one really explained what that means. In Persona 4 your stats represent aspects of your personality. One of the things the first anime did fantastically is actually show this with Yu starting off as basically a blank state and having his personality develop along with his stats (which they showed you on the eye-catches between commercial breaks). In NG+ you start off with all your stats, so in this anime Yu is already “the man”. He is a fully developed highly outgoing character right off the bat, and honestly without watching him get to that place you miss out on just how fun his actions are. As a huge fan of the original anime (I don’t own sony consoles so I have not played the game), it’s hugely rewarding to see how he acts differently in the early situations. The series is going to be half the length of the original despite the added content with the new character, so they are going to be blowing through a lot of the parts that normally would have been character development. Long story short this is a show for fans, but is the type of fanservice I am more than OK with, and is a great extension of how the first show combined the game mechanics with the characters.

    • That actually sounds really awesome conceptually, and makes me a lot more inclined to check out the original at some point. If it’s really doing some kind of weird meta game-protagonist-characterization trick, that sounds like something worth seeing.

  15. You’re watching FMA? The 2003 version or the Brotherhood one?
    ( pesonally, i liked the Brotherhood version better.) Loved your review of Zankyou no Terror and Aldnoah.Zero. Zankyou is like the anime version of a classic thriller novel, while Aldnoah seems like it takes its cues from those ‘sword and planet’ type books. War of the Worlds, anyone?

  16. All in all, I’d say right now I slightly favour Aldnoah over Zankyou – probably because it gives me more thrills (partly courtesy of Hiroyuki Sawano’s usual epic work, of course). Zankyou felt a sort of skilled but cold work to me at the moment. It was incredibly competent but just didn’t buy me – yet. They still look like two series full to the brim with potential, and who would probably make a season on their own.

    • Yeah, I agree that Zankyou is kind of cold, though probably intentionally so. Aldnoah is much more immediate.

  17. You like SAO.

    Every single opinion you write in this blog is irrelevant and invalidated

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