The Best Anime Next Steps

There are a lot of anime out there! Literally thousands, with over a hundred more being released every year. There are new hits every season, and old favorites that have slowly lost their topical sheen. Given all those shows, it can be understandably hard to pick what to watch next – anime, like every other medium, is full of stuff that will disappoint you, and everyone’s tastes are different.

My own tastes in particular are a little weird – I like arthouse stuff and intimate character studies and occasional cathartic message-focused shows. But fortunately, there is indeed such a thing as “normal” taste in anime, or at least the most common preferences shared by fans outside of Japan. And today, I’m hoping to help that audience – or more specifically, hopefully, You.

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Summer 2014 – Week 10 in Review

No complaints about this week in anime – my favorites were great, my second-strings were either solid or great, and I’m barely even watching anything beneath those. Aldnoah continued last week’s “wait, let’s try to be actually good again” streak, Zankyou recovered from its wonky Hollywood interlude, and Hunter x Hunter is just making me too emotional right now. Also, Shounen Hollywood whipped out one of the most absurd, confident concept episodes I’ve seen in… ever? A long time, at least. Let’s run them down!

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Kill la Kill and Grounded Conflict

So. Kill la Kill.

Alright, I guess we gotta start this one right at the beginning. Kill la Kill is the first full-length production by Studio Trigger, a new studio whose claim to fame is sucking Gainax dry of all the talent they had left during the Gurren Lagann/Panty and Stocking era. Or, well, at least the one piece of talent most closely associated with that era – Hiroyuki Imaishi, the director of both those shows. Imaishi’s style, frenetic and impressionistic and somewhat uniquely indebted to western cartoons, is really friggin’ popular – Gurren Lagann in particular is one of the most beloved shows in the western fandom, and in spite of its recent mud-dragging, the Gainax name still conveys nostalgia and magic for a lot of fans.

So Kill la Kill came out of the gate with some pretty heavy expectations on its shoulders. With the writer and director of Gurren Lagann reunited for a show that gave every indication of being as hot-blooded and stylish as its predecessor, it’d be difficult for any show to really please everyone.

Fortunately, Kill la Kill is extremely good at pleasing people.

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Winter 2014 – Week 13 in Review

Welp, last week of the season. Some shows triumphed, some shows floundered, and some just stopped producing new episodes. Let’s run it down!

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Kill la Kill – Episode 24

Well here we are. Allies gathered, enemies looming, stage set. It’s been a long and somewhat uneven ride for Kill la Kill, but it’s pretty much always held on to its core strength – an earnest and beautifully articulated love of pure spectacle. It’s generally kept things visually interesting in spite of anything approaching fluid animation, but this is the very last episode, so I’m guessing we’re actually gonna See Some Shit this time. I don’t expect this show to suddenly become a narrative masterpiece, but I’m perfectly happy to settle for twenty-three minutes of absurd visual excess. Let’s Kill la Kill.

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Winter 2014 – Week 12 in Review

Fell behind on basically everything this week because of Anime Boston, so I’m struggling to catch up as fast as I can. Of what I have watched, well…

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Kill la Kill – Episode 23

Jeez internet look at the time I am super sorry this is so late. I’ve been wasting time and money at Anime Boston all weekend, so I am embarrassingly behind on my cartoons – but that all ends RIGHT NOW. Kill la Kill’s been kind of a narrative mess in this second half, but last episode made a very intelligent choice that did a lot of work to address that – it gave Mako her awesome uniform back, meaning I don’t give a shit if KLK even has an ending at all. Last episode was the “everybody finally loves each other” fanservice-fest – this episode’s likely to be the “EVERYBODY’S A BADASS” one.

I don’t use the word “fanservice” in a necessarily pejorative sense, by the way. Normally it is a bad thing – I generally define fanservice as something added to please a certain audience demographic that either doesn’t aid or directly works against the show’s other goals. Which is why voyeuristic nudity is fanservice in a show that generally wants you to respect its characters as people, or why long shots of mechs are fanservice in a show that’s actually also trying to tell a well-paced story. Most people tend to define fanservice as sexy stuff in general, but I find that a far less useful definition – some shows actually do make great, purposeful use of sexuality (cough Monogatari cough), and I think limiting fanservice to sexual content kind of obscures the reason fanservice is considered bad storytelling in the first place.

But with Kill la Kill? The purpose is fanservice – what Kill la Kill is best at is pleasing the fans. It’s pure spectacle, and always at its best when it’s letting its visual aesthetic, sense of humor, and solid direction just go wild. I quite frankly don’t think Kill la Kill is a very good story, but I do think it’s a very distinctive spectacle, and Kill la Kill’s most impressive moments are often also its most indulgent ones.

So go nuts, Kill la Kill. Get stupid, get funny, get big. Do what you do best.

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Winter 2014 – Week 11 in Review

Fantastic set of episodes this week, even from shows I’ve kind of given up on. Glad to see the season ending so well!

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Kill la Kill – Episode 22

Well here we are. Ryuuko’s latest existential tantrum has been resolved, Satsuki and Mako remain better friends than she deserves, and Ragyo is off cackling to herself somewhere. Things haven’t been going the best for Kill la Kill lately – the narrative has kind of rambled, and Ryuuko has sort of undeveloped. Fortunately, we’ve still got Satsuki to be an actually good character and Mako to be entertaining. And if we’re approaching the ending, Kill la Kill can once again lean on what it does best – pure aesthetic spectacle. Last week’s episode was heavy on iconic key frames but incredibly light on animation, so I’m guessing they’re saving up for some serious pyrotechnics to come. This show has had plentiful ups and downs, but I’m ready to see it end strong.

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Winter 2014 – Week 10 in Review

Standard Winter 2014 week this time – Kill la Kill was entertaining, Sekai Seifuku was good, and Witch Craft Works did its job. Everybody else… I dunno, I guess ending a season is harder than it looks!

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