Owarimonogatari, Part Two – Review

Today I return to Owarimonogatari, for the inconsistent but ultimately satisfying Shinobu Mail. Stuck at the end of a broadcast run and crunched by SHAFT’s generally over-ambitious scheduling, Shinobu Mail definitely suffers in the visual department, but it’s still a very rewarding arc in terms of character and theme. Some of the peaks of this arc count among the franchise’s peaks in general, Kanbaru’s argument with Shinobu and Araragi’s phone call with Senjougahara among them. Even in a less consistent arc, it’s hard to keep this series down.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below.

Continue reading

Owarimonogatari, Part One – Review

The Monogatari review train continues today, as I return to the Ougi/Sodachi-focused stretch of Owarimonogatari. Looked at in total, these arcs feel a little awkwardly placed in the narrative, largely because adding a character like Sodachi is both disruptive and a return to a long-abandoned Monogatari format. But Sodachi’s a reasonably compelling character in her own right, and only getting Ougi’s introduction now is actually some pretty great storytelling – though this is her first chronological appearance in the story, it feels like the natural progression from the times we’ve seen her before. I kinda doubt Monogatari will give us a clean conclusion to Ougi’s narrative, but I guess we’ll have to see what the end of the final season brings.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below!

Continue reading

Top Ten Anime of 2015

And so, another year of anime winds to its end. There have been surprises and disappointments this year, and my ultimate list doesn’t really look much like what I’d expected to find, but in the end, anime is anime. At the beginning of this year, I was looking forward to crowning two of 2014’s better series – Your Lie in April and Parasyte. Unfortunately, both of those shows kinda lost their way in their second halves, which was sad for everyone. Later on, at the year’s halfway point, I was again excited about my end-of-year list – I already had a good seven or eight shows I felt were top ten-worthy, and was beginning to think this would be a year to rival 2013. Unfortunately, the year’s second half only really gave me the last couple shows I needed, and so here I am, recognizing just enough shows to fill out a full list. This year didn’t end out quite as strong as I’d hoped, but ultimately I probably shouldn’t complain about any year that featured enough shows to fill a list plus honorable mentions.

And I actually do have an honorable mention, one I honestly feel a little bad not including on my list proper. Although not all its sequences were equally strong, Studio Khara’s Animator Expo definitely deserves a mention – you might have heard of it just because of Me! Me! Me!, but the whole thing is full of wonderful, creative little vignettes. If you’re interested in the visual potential of anime, or just want to see some cool short-form pieces, Animator Expo is a can’t-miss experience. The third season is still available online (here’s a particularly good one), so I’d definitely check that out. I should also probably mention One Punch Man, since I get the feeling not mentioning it means it will dominate the comments. Yes, I watched it, and no, I didn’t think it was that great. Strong animation, but everything outside of that felt pretty mediocre, and so you won’t see it here.

But that’s all preamble. You guys are here for the top shows, and top shows you will have – shows from a wide span of genres and creators, shows to thrill and shock and make you cry. Every year in anime brings new treasures, so let’s buckle in and run down the best in one more year of Japanese cartoons!

Continue reading

Fall 2015 – Week 12 in Review

I don’t tend to enjoy writing negative stuff. If I can make some kind of upbeat game or challenge out of it, like I did when writing about Strike Witches or Dragonar Academy, it can be pretty okay – but when it’s just a grim reporting of disappointment and failure, continuing week after week, that’s just the saddest kind of writing. I like being enthusiastic about stuff, and sharing that enthusiasm with people, and lately it’s been feeling like my week in review posts are just too dang negative. But like all good critics, I’m going to remain confident the problem isn’t with me, it’s with the media. I’m just watching too many bad shows! I’ve got bad shows I’m watching on contract and bad shows I’m watching on faith and mediocre shows I’m watching for their occasional glimmers of greatness. If not for all these bad shows, everything would be fine.

So yeah, I’m looking forward to next season. The only show I’ll really be sad to see go is Owarimonogatari, and that one ended so well that I can’t even complain (plus hey, Kizu’s on its way). Other than that, this shambling collections of rejects and ne’er-do-wells can just shuffle on into the past, and we can embrace a whole new collection of anime hopes and dreams. Plus I’ll be posting my top ten shows of the year about a week from now, and it doesn’t really get more positive than that! This cloud shall pass, but for now, let’s take a somewhat skeptical look back at this week’s shows and RUN ‘EM DOWN.

Continue reading

Owarimonogatari – Episode 12

Owari is done and Owari is good. It honestly took until this episode for me to really feel that Owari was on par with second season, but yeah. It’s there. Maybe we didn’t get an entire Kaiki arc or Medusa Nadeko, but Sodachi’s story was wonderful, and these last two episodes have been overwhelmingly good. Such great conversations all through this episode, with characters ranging from Senjougahara to Kanbaru to even Yotsugi getting great little bits. Even Araragi was excellent in this arc, demonstrating some of the most consistent growth and true strength of character he’s displayed all show. This season was another triumph, and I now feel even more confident in Monogatari succeeding all the way to the ending. It continues to demonstrate why it’s one of my favorite shows.

You can check out my supersized review over here, or my notes down below!

Continue reading

Fall 2015 – Week 11 in Review

This week in anime wasn’t the best, I’m sad to say. My reliable favorites were reliable-to-great, but… well, there are only two of those. And everything else kinda let me down. I feel like I’ve more or less set myself up for disappointment this season – instead of accepting that it’s a bad season and relying wholly on backlist shows to get me through, I’ve basically just assumed a handful of shows are permanently in “dud episodes” and keep feeling disappointed when they consistently prove their dud episodes are actually just their normal episodes. It’s no way to live, frankly, and I don’t actually know if next season offers any escape – considering how tentative my excitement is for basically everything on my preview list, it seems pretty likely that Monogatari and Iron-Blooded Orphans will be next season’s best shows, too.

But I don’t mean to depress you. Even if this week’s shows were bad (and even when it comes to what I was reviewing for ANN, they were), that doesn’t mean I don’t have stuff to say about ’em. And hey, not every show tripped on its face – in fact, Owarimonogatari pulled off an episode that I’d probably count among the best of the year. So let’s put on a brave face, assume a stiff upper lip, and contort your muscles in any other way you feel appropriate as we RUN ‘EM DOWN.

Continue reading

Owarimonogatari – Episode 11

And Shinobu Mail pulls out its first perfect episode. Well, I guess “perfect” is never really the right word for Monogatari. But seriously, this episode was incredible. The conversation between Kanbaru and Shinobu that consumed the second half was one of the best exchanges in the series so far, simultaneously acting as a great showpiece for both of their personalities and a strong reflection of the themes both in this arc specifically and the show overall. Monogatari is looking as strong as ever moving into the final stretch of Owari.

You can check out my full review over at ANN or my notes below!

Continue reading

Fall 2015 – Week 10 in Review

We’re approaching the end of the season, which at this point means we’re also approaching the end of the year. On a seasonal level, this means shows have really stopped pulling out too many surprises – Perfect Insider and One Punch Man demonstrated some welcome strengths over the last few weeks, but even they seem to be settling into a rhythm for the finales. And on an annual level, this means holy crap it’s time to do all that end-of-the-year nonsense! I’ve more or less settled on my top ten shows of the year, and am working my butt off to manage that list, weekly reviews, actual full show reviews, and regular current project articles for all you lovely people. It’s been an extremely busy week on basically all those fronts; I spent a great deal of last week barreling through way too many episodes of Black Lagoon, and this past weekend I also managed to sneak in the excellent When Marnie Was There. All those and many more attractions in this here week in review! Let’s RUN IT ALL DOWN!

Continue reading

Owarimonogatari – Episode 10

This was a reasonable episode of Owarimonogatari, notable mostly in that it succeeded in a way I think Monogatari rarely does – it went heavy on the pervert banter, and was actually really successfully funny for it. I think a lot of this came down to the fact that Araragi and Kanbaru’s relationship is a really solid one in spite of their perversions; they’re very comfortable with each other, and so there’s less of the gropiness and more trading barbs back and forth. But that wouldn’t work if the gags weren’t just inherently funny, and many of the individual lines this week were excellent. Or maybe I’m just always up for more jokes at light novels’ expense, who knows.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below.

Continue reading

Fall 2015 – Week 9 in Review

This week in anime was really good! Super good, in fact! It wasn’t just held up by one or two shows – almost every show I’m watching (aside from Beautiful Bones, but that doesn’t really count) either held strong or pulled off one of its best episodes, and a bunch of these episodes even demonstrated strengths their shows hadn’t previously exhibited. The Perfect Insider was full of strong character moments, Owarimonogatari returned to the beautiful art designs of arcs long past, and One Punch Man succeeded not just as an animation showcase, but as an emotional drama. I’ve got all sorts of good things to say about these episodes, so let’s get right to it and RUN ‘EM DOWN!

Continue reading