Spring 2014 in Review (Part 3/3)

TWWK: Disappointed in how our reviewers have graded the spring 2014 anime season thus far?  While Kaze and Japesland have generally been down on the series they’ve written about the past two days, it seems they may have saved the best for last, as they review some of the series they were highest on for this past anime season.  Read on to see their concluding post as Japesland and Kaze review Mekaku City Actors, One Week Friends, The World is Still Beautiful, the latest seasons of Mushi-shi and Tonari no Seki-kun, and the conclusion of Nisekoi.

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Mekakucity Actors
Mekakucity Actors

Japesland – [6/10]

Yeah, so what happened exactly? I watched all twelve episodes and I’m confused. And not a good confused like you get after watching through Serial Experiments Lain. A “I feel like this story wasn’t that complicated but I still don’t know what happened” kind of confused. As an enormous fan of Jin’s two IA Vocaloid albums that inspired all of the Kagerou Project entries and an enormous fan of Shaft (the animation studio of the anime adaptation), I was frankly expecting this to score at least a 9/10 and be anime of the season. Don’t get me wrong, I still greatly enjoyed Mekakucity Actors, thanks to some wonderful art design and “interesting” animation (some was great, some was, we’ll go with “unique”…), re-recorded versions of some of my favorite songs, and some interesting characters, but, man… I have a hard time recommending it to anyone. Perhaps if it had had twice the number of episodes, I wouldn’t feel so poorly about how it was executed, but it’s hard to say, really. I just want to know what the heck was going on… is that so much to ask?

Kaze – [6/10]

I was a bit wary going into this, knowing very little about Kagerou Project, and songs getting anime adaptations do not have a good history. Although as a random note, I still want my Jun Maeda-Nagi album anime adaptation. It started out fairly confusing but as each episode progressed, it became clear that the characters were all connected via the eye powers and the mysterious “monster,” that was often alluded to. Like Japes, while I’m not as big on Vocaloid-related things, I was pleasantly surprised to see IA’s Fantasy Forest animated as it is one of my favorites. However, while the plot slowly came together, the animation certainly went in “interesting” directions (okay, I’ll say, it was bad. SHAFT spending too much money on Madoka S2 and where’s that Kizu?). Around episode 10, I was quite intrigued but then the finale fell flat. It seems there were a lot of things one can piece together, especially with knowledge of the source material, but even then, too much happened with not enough foreshadow. I did, however, love Kana Asumi and Mai Nakahara’s performances here as Ene and Ayano, respectively. I can definitely see why people don’t like this, but I can also see why KagePro fans would like it.

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Mushi-Shi (Sequel Series)
Mushishi Zoku Shou

Kaze – [9/10]

Mushishi is possibly the most hyped show of spring season, in part due to the 9 year wait since the first season ended. While I am not a huge fan of Mushishi, I did enjoy it a lot, with its simple, elegant, episodic, and thought-provoking story telling that can be called nothing less than brilliant. I’m not entirely sure how the second season compares to the first, as it has been a long time since I watched it, but I have been enjoying this season more than what I seem to recall. The way so much is told in a single episode while also raising interesting questions aimed at both the characters and viewers is something I do not get tired of. It’s a shame that it has been having production issues as two of the episodes were delayed to the BD release, but we can attribute it to the high standards the staff have for this wonderful work of art.

Japesland – [9/10]

If you’ve been following my column, “Anime Today”, then you no doubt know that I am a huge fan of Mushishi. The more I reflect on it, both seasons included, the more brilliant it seems to me, and ripe for the philosophical picking. Every episode is a breath of fresh air in modern anime, with its slow, but intelligent pacing. Each episode makes you think about the implications of the decisions of the characters introduced (new each time, since the series is episodic in nature) without forcing you to try to figure out the fantasy elements of the world. Mushishi is truly an anime that I can recommend to anyone and everyone, and its second season has, thus far (the second half finishes later this year) lived up to the high expectations I have had for the series in general.

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Nisekoi (Continued from Winter Season)
Nisekoi

Kaze – [6/10]

Having read the manga already, I both wanted and didn’t want to watch this. I was also curious about how Shinbo’s distinct directing would go with what is essentially an average romcom, and it did somehow turn out well. Anyway, strictly in terms of how well it adapted the manga, it was great. As a result, my opinion of it from reading the manga is pretty much the same. What started out as a refreshing romcom slowly began to degrade into a boring harem. Consistently dodging any plot points, or rather, consistently worsening the plot with the addition of more keys, Nisekoi eventually lost the appeal it once had. The anime, fortunately, stops at a fairly good place, as far as other choices go.

Japesland – [7/10]

Let me start off by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed Nisekoi, and that a seven, by my standards, is quite a good score. Something I would consider rewatching and collecting a hard copy of. However, with that in mind, I must say that it ended up being a little bit of a disappointment. Again, like Mekakucity Actors, I had high expectations due to the studio being Shaft. And despite some gripes I’ve heard from my peers about their strange directing style, I felt that the Shaft feel gave it an unmistakable charm that did nothing but increase my level of enjoyment.

But then, it ended.

Nisekoi had the potential to be great, and I don’t know if this is due to a lack of source material or some other influential matter, but it simply should have been longer. No solid conclusion was given, and the open ended ending wasn’t one that was easy to pawn off as “it’s for the viewers to imagine for themselves!”. The canon pairing felt way to obvious, making it impossible for people who were fans of the other pairings that were pushed throughout the season to feel like they were even given a chance. But despite that obvious canonical pairing, they still left things open by episode twenty! If Nisekoi is given another season, albeit one with actual plot progression, this score will most likely rise.

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One Week Friends
Isshuukan Friends

Kaze – [6/10]

One Week Friends is not something to watch because it’s good. You watch it because it’s cute, or simply because Fujimiya is cute (although I probably am interested in the other couple more). The memory loss issue is a bad plot device, but by forgiving that, it’s possible to enjoy how the characters develop because of it. I was constantly wondering whether they would pull a certain diary plot twist from ef~A Tale of Memories, but they managed to avoid that by having her memory actually improve. Hase got fairly annoying at times with his nearly obsessive attitude, but Shougo’s character more than made up for it. As the anime approached the end, the inevitable DRAMA was introduced and then settled with the power of friendship as everyone continues their daily lives…it’s not very good, but does it matter when it’s cute and makes your heart warm and fluffy? I think not.

Japesland – [6/10]

When I started One Week Friends, I immediately knew that I was watching a classic in the making. With the atmosphere of Usagi Drop combined with an intriguing memory-related premise (ef~A Tale of Memories is one of my favorite anime), it was bound to be something great. And then it just kind of floated along with all of its mediocre anime peers. If you want some more of the “squee” action you got with Usagi Drop, and enjoy some generic anime school romance, you’ll probably enjoy this at least as much as I did (a six is still slightly above average, last I checked), but don’t expect anything spectacular. All of the potential developments that you might expect based on the loose ends provided in the beginning will most likely not come to pass, and though none of the writing was, by any means, bad, none of it was particularly good either. It’s all just kind of… there.

But, I think we established in our last entry that “cuteness is justice”, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.

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Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time (Continued from Winter Season)
Tonari no Seki-kun

Kaze – [7/10]

This was a show I was hyping from the beginning. The manga is simply hilarious, despite its incredible simple plot, if you can even call it that. And the anime delivered all my hopes and expectations and even more. Seki’s antics are always so creative and entertaining, and Yokoi’s reactions and attempts to stop him or how she gets dragged along at his pace are even better. What made the anime especially great was its depictions of Yokoi’s imagination which are far more static in the manga, for obvious reasons. All that praise said, in the end, it is a short, and relies on a fairly specific formula. It does not have much of a chance to branch out to any other kinds of jokes (although there are a few small ones scattered around). Either way, I’m glad to see my original hype completely justified, and if you want to relax with a short comedy, watch this.

Japesland – [6/10]

At only eight minutes an episode, some of which is the opening and ending songs, Tonari no Seki-kun simply does not have the time to be anything deep. Which is perfect, because that is something it absolutely did not try to do! With a simple premise, two students in the back of a classroom, one of whom is a little troublemaker that does nothing but find creative ways to “play” during class, this show actually managed to do quite a lot. The small cast was focused on, gags drawn to their full potential, and time used efficiently. Despite all this praise, though, it simply is not outstanding. Although I enjoyed watching through it as it aired, and was delighted to realize that it was receiving a double length season, I never once had the urge to watch an episode again. Although that it not a necessity for something to be great (anime like Serial Experiments Lain are superbly done, but I did not have the urge to watch through it again after completion), but it is something I value highly in comedy. A show like Nichijou will have me watching each episode again and again, and finding new people to join me in doing so. Tonari no Seki-kun does not do that in the slightest, and for that reason I must only rate it at “good” and not “great”.

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The World is Still Beautiful
Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii

Japesland – [7/10]

Soredemo Sekai was a surprise for me this season. After the first episode my immediate thought was, “Oh, jeez, I’ve roped myself into yet another dud” (I have a hard time with my completionist attitude dropping an anime after starting it). I was so happy to be wrong! Although not an outstanding anime entry, it was definitely one I can support, and would even consider picking up down the road if I found it for a good price on Blu-Ray. A relatively well-done romance between two people of different ages (and levels of maturity in multiple ways) that took place in a fantasy world that, instead of following some rather commonplace fantasy anime tropes as plot points, used them as a simple backdrop for a nice little romcom. Had it been any longer, I can see it going downhill rather quickly (which makes me wonder where the source material is now), considering some weaker episodes toward the beginning of the series, but the character transformation that occurred within the limited episode count of the season made it stronger than expected. Hardly a classic, but no chump when it came to executing romantic comedy either!

Kaze – [7/10]

This is yet another show I had already read the manga of. In this case, I do like the manga and was wondering how well it would be adapted. Although the first episode was purely original, I think it was a great way to start as the manga’s start is a bit abrupt, and the rest of the series followed the manga very closely. The pacing went pretty much exactly as I had hoped for, and while I probably could point out minor issues, I don’t think there were any significant ways to improve the adaptation. There were complaints about the age issue and how Livi acts like a kid sometimes (newsflash: he is a kid) but I think that allowed the story to explore a rather interesting direction given the dichotomy of his age and accomplishments. Soredemo certainly isn’t a great story, but it is enjoyable, and a romance where development actually happens at a reasonable pace.

***********

Kaze: In summary, Mushishi Zoku Shou is the only spring anime worth watching.

Japesland: Hey, I wouldn’t go that far! A seven is still a good score! Granted, the fact that Mushishi is the only anime that received anything above that from either of us that is rather…

Kaze: Which begs the question, what sort of anime would get an 8 from us? The readers may never know…

Japesland: Oh the mystery! I guess they’ll just have to wait until next season and hope we like it (the Japescast currently says that chances are low).

Kaze: I thought we established you don’t know how to pick anime. I have to agree though; summer season doesn’t look promising, but I must say, fall season already has an unbelievably amount of hype and potential.

Japesland: Well I suppose you can trust me at least as much as your local meteorologist (read: not at all). With that, said though, I’m excited to see what surprises are in store for us both next season and fall season!

14 thoughts on “Spring 2014 in Review (Part 3/3)

  1. I’ve never seen Mushi-Shi but I’ve read so many good reviews of it, I need to watch it lol. I usually check Anime News Network to see what ratings they give (I haven’t found a better rating website for anime, any recommendations anyone) and it has a lot of “Masterpiece” ratings.

    Thanks for the hard work in watching all of these series, because no way I have the time to do it lol.

    1. Yes, Mushishi is amazing. Although I genuinely liked a number of anime this season (despite what my review numbers might have you believe!), it is the only one I would consider a keeper. It pushes a lot of different types of philosophies and modes of thinking, some biblical and some not, but they all force you to think! In my book, something that forces you to use your noggin, even if (or perhaps especially if) it goes against your beliefs is a great piece of writing! Plus, the animation and music are absolutely gorgeous!

      Maybe instead of praising us, you should give us a slap on the wrists for being completionistic to the point of watching through a series we know is going to be bad the entire way through. Or at least slap me on the wrist, I don’t know about Kaze…

      I’ll keep doing it anyway, though, so look forward to more harsh criticisms of bad anime in the future!

      Thanks for reading!

        1. Haha, same here, That’s why I do a lot of research on shows. That way I have an idea of what I’m getting myself into. It helps, but I still feel compelled to finish the ones I really don’t like.

  2. I didn’t watch any of these shows.. lol. I started, but dropped the ones I did. Though I’m honestly surprised that Japesland didn’t watch and review Love Live! Season 2 because honestly that seems like a series that would be right up his alley.

      1. Really? You should watch it sometime! I’m never into cute girl shows, but Love Live! has become one of my favorite series. Plus the music is great.

  3. >> dairy plot twist from ef~A Tale of Memories

    Ah yes, the infamous milkshake scene… wait, I don’t remember that from the visual novel! Either this is an unintentionally hilarious typo, or Shaft has gone and done even stranger things with its adaptation than I expected.

  4. One of the best thing about these reviews is that I feel completely justified in dropping/ignoring-based-on-first-episode the shows I did, like Mahouka, Brynhildr and No Game No Life, among others. The only one I somewhat regret sticking with is Captain Earth, but can’t drop now that it’s halfway done already.

    I’m surprised by two 6/10s for One Week Friends though, I thought it was better than that, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t taken in by The Cute.

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