Winter 2014 In Review (Part One)

TWWK: Winter is typically a slow season for anime, and it looked like more of the same going into this past season.  But how did winter 2014 really pan out?  Between our resident anime addicts, Japes and Goldy, almost every anime of note was covered, and over the next two days, they’ll let you know their views on high points and low this just-completed season.  Today, Japes and Goldy review series that only one or the other watched, and tomorrow, they join together to review shows that they both viewed.

Goldy:

Noragami – [9/10]
Noragami

There are usually a couple series I watch every season that surprise me; Norgami was the lucky one this winter. I jumped into it without thinking much about it beyond “this animation style looks cool and the head guy is wearing a scarf, so it must be good! :D”
While the “main character is wearing a scarf so it must be good” theory doesn’t always ring true for every anime you will come across, Noragami never failed to make me laugh, gasp in suspense and worry over the characters, make my eyes even water a little (especially that finale), and my heart warm at the sweetness of the friendships between all the characters.
Though don’t mistake my tone, Noragami was far from a happy sunshine and rainbows comedy. In fact, it reminded me a bit of the route that the manga/anime Rurouni Kenshin took (“the reformed murderer” in simple terms). There is something very serious and contemplative and even sometimes a bit frightening about the story of Noragami. At the end of the day, even through all the sweet and fun times to be had, you need to face consequences of your actions.
I would recommend Noragami very highly.

Space☆Dandy – [7/10]
Space☆Dandy

Space Dandy has received a lot of publicity and hype from the beginning. Many ears perked up in excitement, mine included, when hearing Shinichirō Watanabe would be directing another anime. As a lover of both Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, I knew I had to at least check out this series. Funimation licensed it and even dubbed it quickly enough to air it on Toonami even before the Japanese episodes came out each week (don’t know how they pulled that off that deal).
But surely most of you must know by now that hyping something up too much may be destining it to fail.
Space Dandy did have a rough start and it seemed like fan service and crude jokes were to be the norm for the series (the first ten minutes of the first episode was Dandy talking about butts and then going to the sadly appropriately named restaurant, Boobies), yet it became something more beyond that, somehow. It still had some fan service and some crude jokes, yet it obtained somehing classy, thoughtful and fun as well.
As mentioned in my mid-season review, Space Dandy reminded me of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or rather, any science fiction story that covers serious social issues under the facade of ridiculous circumstances (there is one episode where the whole universe turns into zombies in Space Dandy, for example, and another episode involves two alien species at war simply because of their clothing choice).
Space Dandy still has a second season on the way, and if it continues to have great story telling, especially like the stuff in episode 13, I think it might work its way up to a 9 rating from me, even with the main trio’s stupid visits to Boobies all the time.

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Japesland:

Gin no Saji 2nd Season – [7/10]
Silver Spoon Season 2

Gin no Saji’s first season was a wonderful entry in the slice of life/romantic comedy scene, so it came as no surprise that the second season followed suit. Although I was not as overwhelmingly impressed by many of my peers (or so it seemed, anyway) both seasons were definitely fun, and I looked forward to watching each and every week. Although season two didn’t introduce a new (and under-appreciated) setting like the first season did, it did manage to continue to develop the characters and add a sense of feeling, especially in the “canon” romance. It probably won’t blow you out of the water, but I can’t not recommend this show for its wholesome and entertaining content.

Golden Time – [7/10]

Golden Time

Golden Time was probably one of the most difficult to rate anime this season. When it began, I had relatively high expectations as it was set in one of my favorite settings (namely, college slice of life/drama a la Genshiken) as well as sharing the same source author as Toradora (not one of my favorite anime, but definitely a bar-setter). At first, my expectations were met and perhaps even surpassed, but as the series progressed it began to show signs of wear via poor writing and, especially, poor pacing. Although I think I continued to love it beyond the point where Charles (TWWK) felt frustrated by it, the flaws became more and more apparent with time. With that said, Golden Time is still entertaining for its college romance and drama, as well as a relatively decent finale (at least compared to its counterparts), which is why I rated ti a 7/10. It definitely could have been much better… but it could have been MUCH worse (coincidentally how I also feel about Toradora).

Little Busters!: EX – [?/10]

Little Busters!: EX

Since Little Busters!: EX isn’t really airing in the normal sense (it is being released on blu-ray releases of Little Busters!: Refrain), and it also has not even finished, I am going to have to leave it unrated. Little Busters!: EX is an anime adaptation of the R-18 visual novel follow-up to the all ages visual novel Little Busters!. The existence of this follow-up simply for the sake of hentai has been a frustration to me, since I am an enormous fan of Key and I quite enjoyed Little Busters!, so a clean anime adaptation was a God-send for me. While I, again, cannot rate this side series as of yet, I can practically guarantee that if you enjoyed the anime adaptation of Little Busters! and Refrain, you will enjoy this entry.

Nagi no Asukara – [8/10]

Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea

A vibrant color scheme. Beautiful animation. A creative locale. A relatable cast of leading characters. And what’s more, four amazing OP songs by Ray. What more could you want in an anime?

Nagi no Asukara was, hands-down, my anime of the season. Although it still had its fair share of problems (as indicated in my score of an 8/10) and probably won’t enter classic status, it was definitely a great addition to PA Works’ rather inconsistent repertoire. Having just finished the final episode literally a few minutes ago (this show was holding up the season review post), my final thoughts may still change over the coming days and weeks as I’ve had more time to process everything that happened over the past few months, but Nagi-Asu is the easiest anime on this list for me to recommend to readers. Playing out essentially like a melodrama, it may not immediately appeal to the casual viewer more interested in pickup-and-go-action a la Shingeki no Kyojin, after a few episodes, the depth becomes apparent. Halfway through the series, it moves from stepping that direction to taking enormous leaps (much like another recent goodie called Shinsekai Yori). Since I don’t want to spoil anything, I’ll refrain from talking much about story, but if there is one anime from the past two seasons that everyone should at least try, this is it.

Pupa – [2/10]

Pupa

Easily the worst anime I watched this season. Seriously. I should just stop there.

Kidding. Well about the second part anyway… (it was pretty awful)

At four minutes per episode, the time given to developing… anything really, just wasn’t there. Characters were difficult to understand, plot was even worse, and fan service brought to a disturbing level. I don’t mean to a disturbingly high level, although it was pretty bad in that regard, but I simply mean that the fan service itself was disturbing. The ED includes a shot of the little sister making some sort of suggestive moaning expression while holding some sort of bloody cylinder in her hands… and the actual episode to episode content was no better. All said and done, though, despite all of these issues, I still have no clue what happened in this series. That seems like a significant problem to me, even more than considering moral content…

Saikin, Imouto no Yousa ga Chotto Okashiinda ga. – [3/10]

Recently, My Sister is Unusual

Recently, My Sister is Unusual was an unfortunate addition to this season, like Pupa. I picked it up completely on a whim late in the season, and I can say that was probably a mistake (if I had been watching it as it aired, I likely would have dropped it). It is quite apparent in the beginning that it exists purely as a medium to satisfy the ever-popular little sister fetish that exists in the otaku community. That fetish, in and of itself, can actually serve for some interesting (or at least comical) development, like in Koi Kaze (which treats it as a serious issue) or in Oreimo (of lesser quality than Koi Kaze, but a prime example of using it a bit less questionably), but most times it is simply approached as a means for shamelessly attracting an audience interested in hentai. This is especially apparent in several scenes that approach hentai status as closely as possible without actually showing on-screen nudity. Completely disregarding these moral issues, though, the series was simply not that good… which is another quality that it shares with Pupa. The characters were not fleshed out and the overarching plot left much to be desired. For that reason, I advise that you skip this one entirely.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – [5/10]

World Conquest Zvezda Plot

Zvezda was, despite my rather mediocre score of it, a quite fun watch this season. It never truly attempted to be anything more than an absurd teen-aimed comedy with fantasy action (though I was picking up on some strange social commentary towards the end). And at that, it succeeded. However, outside the scope of its goal, it was simply not very good. Despite Kate being one of my new favorite characters in anime (just look at her in the middle of the above image! How can you NOT love her?!), Zvezda was simply not much to watch. Although I can’t say I really regretted watching it, I can’t really recommend it either. At the very least, the OP is both visually appealing and extremely catchy (it’s been stuck in my head for weeks!).

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – [6/10]

The Pilot’s Love Song

As a fan of the movie, The Princess and the Pilot (which I rated an 8/10), I was quite excited to hear that a tie-in series was in the works. With that said, I had rather high expectations. While I honestly cannot say that those expectations were met, I also can’t say that The Pilot’s Love Song was outright “bad” either. The series had a bit of a rough start, but by the end, which left itself wide open for a second season, it had finally picked up to at least slightly above average quality. If you either saw and did not care for The Princess and the Pilot, or you have not seen it, this is a hard recommendation. The plots are entirely separate, but the feel is similar, and it’s something that is hard to explain without seeing for yourself. Much like the Valkyria Chronicles series, if you are interested in seeing a fantasy anime take on World War I and World War II era battle and student drama, you will probably enjoy this one to some extent. Beyond that, there are probably better shows out there to view (even others that I also rated 6/10).

Wake Up, Girls! – [6/10]

Wake Up, Girls!

Let me get this out of the way right now. My 6/10 review for Wake Up, Girls! is completely biased (even more so than my other ratings). My appreciation for the teen idol scene, and the animated versions thereof, with the addition of my personal experiences in the Sendai area (where the anime takes place) made up the majority of my enjoyment of Wake Up, Girls!. I found both the music and the accuracy of the areas portrayed, as well as some of the interactions in those areas, to be more than worth the time I put into watching through the entire season. In that light, though, I should probably mention that the soundtrack was a bit of a disappointment. As a fan of teen idol music myself, I was greatly anticipating a few albums released during the show showcasing some of the in-anime performances… only to realize that there were barely any performances at all. Seriously, they actually wrote the re-use of one song by two different groups into the story in order to avoid producing more pieces. The bright side of this, though, is that the show did NOT become an excuse to market the music in it, adding (slightly) to the quality on screen. While Wake Up, Girls! was not really all that great, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and fans of anime teen idols will probably also think the same way.

Witch Craft Works – [6/10]

Witch Craft Works

Witch Craft Works was a pleasant surprise for me this season. Frankly, I was expecting a throwaway series, but decided to give it a shot anyway. I was treated to a fun romp in witchcraft that didn’t take itself too seriously, which was a nice break from some of the other shows airing this season. Although I only rated the show a 6/10, I feel quite positively toward it. The only negatives I can think of are that it was simply not enough, which is why I couldn’t bring myself to rate it any higher than a 6. A score of fun and somewhat relate-able characters were introduced in the midst of a relatively engaging story… only to have it all end without much actually concluded. I would call this “Anime Ending Syndrome” (I’m sure there’s actually a term for it out there somewhere that I am missing), which is a shame, although not uncommon. Given a second season, I might be willing to revise this score.

Oh, and that ED? still stuck in my head.

Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – [4/10]

Wizard Barristers

I picked this one up purely on a whim after seeing a Tweet posted by Charles lamenting the lost potential of the first episode. Well, that complaint is valid not for only the first episode, but the entire series (sadly). Wizard Barristers is a series exploring the racism occurring in a fictional, future (close to modern society) in which magic users called Wugs and humans live side-by-side. Think Harry Potter, except it’s not a secret. However, in this world, most humans hate Wugs and attempt to subjugate them because of their differences. This is where Wizard Barristers, lawyers of wrongly persecuted magic-users, come into play. All of this was an extremely intriguing setup for an utterly disappointing production. Characters were shallow stereotypes, plot twists seemed hacked together, unnecessary fan service was inserted throughout (seriously, entirely uncalled for), and there were dozens of other problems. Just save yourself the trouble and skip this one.

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Japesland: Thanks for reading part one of our season review this season! Be sure to check in tomorrow for part two, which will wrap up the rest of the season and cover the shows that both Goldy and I watched!

4 thoughts on “Winter 2014 In Review (Part One)

  1. I told you not to watch Pupa! Guess you didn’t lose much time since it was a short though.

    Nagi no Asukara – hey woah there, Ray did not do the endings. Those were by (the superior) Yanagi Nagi.

    Wake Up, Girls is below average for idol anime. Love Live is better, but in the end, everything is just a poor imitation of im@s.

    1. Pupa: Yeah, that’s basically how I felt about it, too.

      NagiAsu: Fixed. Thanks for the catch!

      WUG: I haven’t seen much idol anime (which is something I need to fix), but I’ll agree with you that it was mediocre. I just liked seeing Sendai in animated form right after seeing it in person, methinks.

  2. Reblogged this on Japesland and commented:

    One of the Beneath the Tangles writers, Goldy, and I wrote a review of the Winter 2014 Anime Season a couple weeks ago. I just realized I hadn’t reblogged them here, so here is part one followed closely by part two!

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