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Hey Spitz, What’ve You Been Watching? March 2014

March 31, 2014

(This article will be spoiler-free!)

March marks one year since I undertook learning 日本語, and while I understand the basics, and can differentiate your 箸 (hashi/ chopsticks)’s from your 橋 (hashi/ bridge)’s, I’ve still yet to wrap my mind comfortably around many particles, such as when to use で (de) over に (ni) or, in many cases, when to use は (ha, but when as a particle, “wa”) over が (ga). My Kanji proficiency is slowly building, as well as my general vocabulary as one would expect, but overall I feel like I may need to reconsider my current study methods and rearrange some things to allow for more progress to be made in less time. I have enjoyed learning each little snippit so far, and while there are some days in which I get frustrated, and feel like I’m simply too dumb to learn, my desire to become proficient in written and spoken Japanese is still fresh, so I will of course continue. I am very much looking forward to seeing what I’ve learned come this time next year.
私に忍耐をもってください。
Having gotten off to a late start with March due to a slightly shorter February (a poor excuse, I know), and being constantly side-tracked by something exciting, March’s backlog didn’t get as much attention as I wanted to give to it, but here are the backlog series I managed to cram in time for over the past month, as well as the Winter (/Fall carry-over) series I had been following which have ended:

 

Aura-.Maryuuinkouga.Saigo.no.Tatakai.611770Aura: Maryuuinkouga Saigo no Tatakai:
Satou Ichirou is a boy whose life took unfortunate turns due to his previous experiences with chuunibyou syndrome. Trying to live a normal life after the separation of his parents, he attends school with the hopes of putting it all behind him.
This is until one evening he meets the offbeat Satou Ryouko, who is still in the throes of chuunibyou.
Ryouko desires Ichirou’s assistance in accomplishing her mission, but Ichirou has little interest, understanding well the negative impact chuunibyou can have on a young persons social and family lives.

What I thought: “A more realistic
depiction of chuunibyou syndrome.”
Having seen Chu-2 first, a lot of the ideas going on in Aura weren’t new to me, and even without having seen Chu-2, segments of Aura were pretty predictable, but where Aura differentiates itself is in the more realistic portrayal of what problems chuunibyou might raise in the social stratum of high school.
There are some moments which I thought pretty accurately reproduced the sorts of terrible things young people of that age might do or say to one another, which, while sometimes difficult to watch, were done quite well. But there were also a few more ecchi scenes that I thought felt out of place given the tone of the rest of the movie.
Segments of this movie had my blood boiling, and while overall, due in part to one pretty over-the-top bit in particular, Aura didn’t quite hit the crescendo of emotional resonance that I feel like it should have, it did enough differently to make it worth its run time of around 90 minutes.
(Also, Hanazawa Kana.)
 A few oddly placed scenes aside, Aura: Maryuuinkouga Saigo no Tatakai is a series which looks at chuunibyou syndrome through a more down-to-Earth point of view, and while it may arguably lack impact, it’s still a story with enough heart and substance to recommend.

 

ed72ea47318c230facd60dca0b0d24011365013653_fullDevil Summoner 2: The Animation: 
As they’re preparing to board a train at Shibuya Station, Kuze Hibiki and Shijima Daichi both receive “death clips” from a tasteless online service called Nicaea, which offers to show you your friends face just as they die.
The clip shows these two high-schoolers falling victim to an accident on the rail-line as the subway car arrives at the platform.
The deaths predicted by this mysterious online service suddenly come true, and the results of this subway tragedy are but a taste of a global catastrophe, in which terrible demons roam the world killing as they please.
Signing up for Nicaea for some reason unlocks a hidden power within these young individuals however, and they find themselves able to summon and command their own demons to fight alongside them.

What I thought: “Pleasing to listen to and
look at, but a tad boring until later in the series.”
It has a great sense of style, but too much time is spent on battle sequences and not enough on plot or character-building.
One thing that stuck out to me is that for a world at the end of days, life in Devil Survivor 2 never appears all that oppressive. People die, sure, but demon attacks aside, the world never comes off as being less than functional.
The story does start getting good nearer the end, and I enjoyed how the series ended quite a bit, but the road up until that point is rather dull. The look is quite stylish and nicely animated, and the anime’s OP and ED sequences (and especially the music found in both) are terrific.  It has made me interested in grabbing the Nintendo DS game, if only to see if there is more character in that version of the story.
It’s a stylish, more battle-focused anime series, but Devil Survivor 2: The Animation likely won’t set your world on fire with its plot.

 

2294378-guilty_crown_main_imageGuilty Crown:
On Christmas in the year 2029, the violent outbreak of a virus in Japan drives its people into disarray and panic. With the aid of the UN however, Japan is saved from this disaster, and while the people rest under the will of the UN-provided organization GHQ, normal life has more-or-less returned.
Ooma Shu is a wimpy high-school student, frustrated at his own insignificance.
One day, Shu happens across an injured Yuzuriha Inori. This girl is a member of the Undertakers, a guerrilla group whose goal is to overthrow the GHQ and return Japan’s independence once again, and when Shu aids her in returning to her allies, he finds the two of them under attack.
It’s in the fight which ensues in which Shu comes to realize he has a special gift; the power to reach into an individual’s heart and wield it as a weapon.

What I thought: “Looks and sounds beautiful,
with a nicely paced plot full of likable characters.”
The art design is fantastic, the soundtrack is amazing, and I feel like great directing made Guilty Crown’s presentation something special, where otherwise it might have come off as pretty generic. The characters are full of personality and several are very likable, especially some of the supporting ones. There’s a good deal of sharp writing in the story, and the path it weaves to the end is accompanied by several surprises.
It isn’t without its small share of sillier moments, but silly moments sort of come with the territory as far as science fiction is concerned, and despite these moments, I enjoyed seeing Guilty Crown through quite a bit.
(Also: Hanazawa Kana.)
This is a series chest-deep in style. The plot may be hit or miss for some, but the action is varied enough and the presentation is wonderfully realized enough to make Guilty Crown a complete pleasure to watch.

 

cf05a82e7c148f3d8d9389f5fca0008aSuper Sonico: The Animation:
Super Sonico is a sometimes dim-witted, but nonetheless energetic and good-spirited young woman.
She does her best to make those around her happy, though she sometimes finds it difficult to juggle her life between her college study, her band, her modeling career, and helping at a relative’s bar.
Regardless of how busy she gets however, Super Sonico can always be identified by her pink hair, her distinguishing headphones, and her bright smile.

What I thought: “More sincere in parts
than I would have originally expected from it.”
I only started up SoniAni because I liked the idea of a character who is more-or-less the face of a popular eroge company getting her own anime series. I didn’t expect much from it, but on the contrary, I feel like Super Sonico: The Animation turned out much better than I sort of feel like it had any right to be.
While there was indeed a large chunk of fan-service, this series had several very good episodes, some with fun subplots, and others with some pretty heartfelt moments.
The look is nice and colorful, and the animation isn’t bad. There are some uses of CG in there, which I always feel look silly alongside 2d, but save for a few instances, the CG is mostly limited to the ED sequences.
Entertaining and sometimes endearing, Super Sonico: The Animation is a sure-fit for anyone seeking to brighten their day.

 

5142ab9ed5dd56153b731de52021ac5b1379547918_fullKill la Kill:
Resting in Tokyo Bay is Honnouji Academy, a monolithic high school watched over by the iron-willed student council president Kiryuuin Satsuki. This school is helmed by a collection of students and faculty (Kiryuuin included) adorned with Goku uniforms, which imbibe their wearers with uncanny power.
One day, a young girl named Matoi Ryuuko steps foot in Honnouji Academy. She claims she seeks to avenge her father’s murder, and that the woman who killed him was none other than student council president Kiryuuin Satsuki.
But before enacting her vengeance, Matoi will need to get through the student council’s Elite Four, composed of the strongest students and Kiryuuin’s personal guard.

What I thought: “Complete, uncorked lunacy.”
Mother of mercy. If there was one show over the past few months that had me coming back again and again begging for more just due to how much sheer nonsense it brought to each episode, it would be Kill la Kill.
Every episode was a near endless stream of over the top energy, and the presentation had such a flair that it was impossible not to get sucked in, especially during the fight sequences.
It’s a series that boasts a throwback look, fantastic music (which they know how to get the most out of), and a tremendous sense of character.
Ryuuko’s journey takes countless unexpected twists and turns and consistently builds, and come the end, each episode felt as though the world was on the brink of shattering.
This series embraces its own lunacy so wholeheartedly that it was impossible not to get pumped up alongside it. It felt like an event; a kind of series that doesn’t come around very often, and I loved the heck out of it.
This was the first project for the new production company Trigger, and I am quite interested in what they’re doing next.
Kill la Kill isn’t something one watches, it’s something one witnesses.

 

fc8938a7d556f9068bb8ed327c6c56351380569594_fullGolden Time:
A few years ago, Tada Banri was in an accident which caused him to fall from a bridge, losing his memories of the time in the process. He is now a college student, free from the past and looking toward the future.
He meets a young man named Yanagisawa Mitsuo, and in turn the young woman stalking Yanagisawa, Kaga Kouko.
While Yanagisawa has no interest in a relationship with this Kaga woman, she is hell-bent on finding his praise, and will follow him to the end of the world if she needs to in order to do so.
What follows is Tada Banri interacting with this one-sided crush, and doing his best to fit himself into a world devoid of his past.

What I thought: “Seemed to be trying a little too hard to
get something out of the many areas in which it was lacking.”
It had a few small moments where I felt like I could see something genuine and special somewhere muddled in the nonsense, but Golden Time often seemed to be trying far too hard to be memorable, and when coupled with the numerous cases of entirely contrived drama, boring dialogue and outright annoying characters, it made for a series that lasted too long and made too little of an impact on me to make it worth recommending.
The art isn’t terrible in most cases, but it looks rather plain, and this carries into the character designs. The opening and ending themes are pretty good, though.
I wanted to enjoy it, and in a few small cases I did like what I was seeing, but come the end, I was fresh out of giving it more chances to make an impact on me, and the climax of the story likely suffered from this.
It had its moments, but they were much too difficult to find, and as such, Golden Time is a difficult series to recommend to any but avid fans of Takemiya Yuyuko’s other work.

 

148356Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren:
Having been kicked out of her own apartment, Takanashi Rikka is temporarily under the care of the Togashi family.
Togashi Yuuta is still weary about his relationship with Rikka, but he is doing his best.
Despite the different living situation, things are mostly business as usual until someone moves into the apartment which used to belong to Takanashi.
Yuuta is shocked to discover that their new neighbor is Shichimiya Satone, a girl from his past whom he might have had a special bond with.

What I thought: “Lacked the impact of
the first season, but gave me more time with the characters I loved from it.”
For awhile, it seemed as though Chu-2Ren didn’t know where it wanted to go with its plot, seeing several small subplots crop up and then resolve almost instantaneously with little to no buildup.
Shichimiya is a great character, but she gets very little screen time until what seems like the later third of the series, which I found odd coming off of the previews, which seemed to be insinuating that she would pose more of a looming threat.
At the end of the day, while the plot didn’t have as much lasting impact as the first season did, Ren was still a very entertaining watch, as it was another opportunity to spend time with these characters and the hilarious antics they get into amongst themselves.
The references to the previous season (and OVA) that are made were well done I thought, and felt more like fun spins than simple rehashes.
A third volume of the light novel has been announced, and I’m hoping that translates into the potential for a third season some time in the future.
It may be lacking in the plot department, but Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren is still a wonderfully produced follow-up to one of my personal favorite anime series.

 

Mikakunin-de-Shinkoukei-609x842Mikakunin de Shinkoukei:
On her sixteenth birthday, Yonomori Kobeni is hardly given a chance to celebrate womanhood before it is learned that she was to be in an organized marriage. Her groom to be is Mitsumine Hakuya, a mysterious young man from an old family in the mountains.
Before she can properly process this information, Hakuya and his little sister Mashiro are at her front door.
Mikakunin de Shinkoukei entails Kobeni and her family getting to know their strange new guests, while she tries to avoid the social spotlight at school were word to get out she was already engaged.

What I thought: “Charming, energetic, and well produced.”
The pleasant surprise of the season. I didn’t go into MikaShin expecting much, and at first I found the somewhat unique art style (which gave rise to a couple great character designs) kind of off-putting, it eventually grew on me, and the animation was well done.
It’s a slice-of-life comedy series with nicely written comedy, a good sense of character, and what is in my opinion the best ED sequence of the season.
Save for a hidden treat in the plot, Mikakunin de Shinkoukei is a somewhat standard slice-of-life series, but the presentation is such and the characters are likable as such, that it’s still a terrifically entertaining watch.

 

pupaPupa:
As they’re on their way home one day, the Hasegawa siblings Utsutsu and his little sister Yume encounter butterflies carrying a virus which mutates those infected into hideous, flesh-eating monsters.
While Yume was indeed affected, and quickly morphs into a terrible beast which kills several nearby innocents before reverting back into human form, Utsutsu was instead given the ability to rapidly regenerate from wounds.
Understanding it as the best option given the grim circumstances, Utsutsu allows his little sister to feed on his rapidly regeneating flesh, not only to save innocent lives, but also to hide his precious sibling’s terrible secret.

What I thought: “Seemingly misguided
and too short to deliver on any sort of story.”
Poor, poor Pupa. This is a series that had such a wonderful premise, but that was more than happy to squander it all away by relying on the gross-out factor of its liberal use of gore (which luckily was pretty heavily censored in the broadcast version) to pad out almost every episode.
Match that with each episode’s almost comical run time and you’re left with a series that leaves little to no impact whatsoever.
The art style is nice, and like I said, I loved the premise, but nothing interesting is done with it. Maybe one day another crack will be done at it, but as it stands I’m adding Pupa to the list of “series that should have been better than they ended up being”
The ideas are there for an effective contrast between the sweetness of an older brother who just wants to protect his sister and the terrible things which that entails, but only minuscule figments of this are evident. Maybe we’ll try the manga at some point.
Too much time was spent on violence in a series that already had too little time to do anything meaningful with, Pupa had one great idea but just couldn’t make anything happen with it.

 

131da5669e67efd8312c2666ae4bba6e1388891698_fullWake Up, Girls!:
The Sendai based upstart Idol group Wake Up, Girls! has had their debut concert, but has since found it difficult to climb Japan’s entertainment ladder.
Where there is a will there is hope, however, and with enough hard work and determination anything is possible.
Wake Up, Girls! continues the story of Wake Up, Girls!: Seven Idols, as Shimada Mayu, Katayama Minami and the rest of the girls do their best to win over the hearts of their fans, while competing against rival Idol groups, and fighting the shadows of the past.

What I thought: “Lower in quality than the
movie by terms of production, but offering more story and characterization.”
The art is inconsistent, and in some places kind of rough, and as much can be said for the animation, which sticks out more with this being a follow-up to the movie, which didn’t have the same issues visually.
The plot goes through what ups and downs you’d expect from a series focusing on an Idol group, but there are a few very well done moments here and there. It doesn’t beat you over the head with some of the more vague stories it tells, which makes those stories all the more effective.
With it being a more down-to-Earth series, its tone ends up being less colorful and its characters less memorable, but it benefits from this to make the story more sincere. Any issues aside, I still think Wake Up, Girls! is a good watch. The production quality might have been lacking compared to other series of this type, but it was still a story with its heart in the right place.
A more realistic Idol group series, Wake Up, Girls! might be lacking in character, but it shows signs of quality in some of the areas that matter most.

 

56189Sakura Trick:
While they spent the better chunk of their childhoods together, Takayama Haruka and Sonoda Yuu feel like their friendship may be on decline, or might be losing its importance as they reach high school.
The two of them decide that they need to do something special and memorable to set their friendship in stone, so after class one day, they find a vacant classroom and share a kiss.
Sakura Trick is about the young love between these two girls, the comedic and sometimes tense situations their relationship produces, and the fun antics they get into with their friends.

What I thought: “Yuri fan service: The Anime”
This is a series that will be a guilty pleasure to some, and sharply detested by many others I would assume.  While the closing of their high school has slight impact on the going-ons of the plot, much of it is merely meant to provide more opportunities for our cast of characters to get into light-hearted antics with one another.
Haruka and Yuu’s relationship is cute and full of energy, accurately reproducing the excitement of youthful relationships, and this is all supported by a number of terrific character designs, good voice-over, and a nicely animated art style.
Though it may best be enjoyed out of the eyesight of others, Sakura Trick is a cute series full of 萌え, yuri, and slice-of-life comedy.

 

47935lLog Horizon:
The MMORPG Elder Tale has become a tremendous success around the world, with a player-base of millions.
Upon the release of its twelfth expansion pack, several thousand players find themselves transported into the MMO’s world.
One of these players is the glasses-wearing strategist Shiroe, who, with the assistance of his friends, new and old, seeks to unravel the mysteries of their situation, and if home is no longer an option, shape a world in which all can live happily and free.

What I thought: “Too heavy on
exposition and explanations  to provide any room for story-telling.”
Several of the character designs are quite good, and overall this series looks great, but so little is done with the premise nor the story as a whole, that it was rare for an episode to keep me engaged throughout.
There are glimpses of amazing ideas or plot-threads that crop up, but they’re all but lost amidst a series that ran too long (at 25 episodes) and accomplished too little.
So much time is spent by the characters of this series explaining things which don’t require explaining and I found my eyes glazing over in many instances. There are battle sequences, but their pace is dreadfully slow which sucks the excitement away, and as they explain early on that death has little consequence in this world, these battles have no tension either.
For a series that has such a huge cast of nicely designed characters, I feel like very few of them had memorable personalities, and a couple were very irritating (one of which is the series’ main protagonist. This is a problem).
The manner in which the last episode concludes is merely a set-up for a second season which is apparently coming this Fall, and judging by how poor the story-telling was in the first season, and how little enjoyment I got out of it, I’m unsure whether I’m interested enough in where the plot may or may not be going to warrant checking it out when the time comes.
Despite a nice, clean look and interesting setting, Log Horizon falls short on both story-telling and characterization.

 

wizard-barristers-benmashi-cecilWizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil:
In a world where humans and magic-users (known as “Wuds”) coexist, but are at odds with one another, a young girl, Sudou Cecil, the youngest Wud barrister-at-law ever to grace a courtroom, seeks to clear her mother’s name, who was charged for a crime unjustly several years ago.
With the help of her colleagues at the Butterfly Law Offices, Cecil undertakes a number of cases of alleged magic-misuse as she inches her way toward the truth of what happened back then.

What I thought: “Interesting world at first
glance, but its charm gradually diminishes.”
There are some good character designs in there, but overall the art is middling. The animation quality is also very inconsistent, with one episode near the end which seemed outright unfinished.
I get the feeling that this anime thinks it has a lot more personality than it actually does; as if there were ideas in someones head that just didn’t translate into a finished product. Truthfully, the most stand-out characters were the Wud’s familiars, such as the frog-like Nanajiinyi pictured to the left here.
I wish I had something more positive to say about it, but Wizard Barristers just left zero impact. After a few episodes my interest sort of died out, and if I were to guess I’d say I’ll quickly forget about this series.
A single interesting idea aside, Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil lacks the plot, character and production quality to do anything all that exciting or memorable.

 

55489Tonari no Seki-kun:
Tonari no Seki-Kun is a series comprised of shorts depicting the student Yokoi Rumi as she becomes easily distracted by the odd behavior of her classroom neighbor Toshinari Seki, who never gets in trouble despite his constant, sometimes elaborate mid-class tomfoolery.

What I thought: “Short, bright, and entertaining.”
You only need a few minutes here or there to watch through Tonari no Seki-kun, and I can appreciate any series that manages to be funny and worthwhile in such a small amount of time.
Seki-kun’s antics and Rumi-chan’s reactions to them are both equally entertaining, and it was fun to see what Seki-kun will be up to next.
No elaborate animation is necessary, but the series still looks nice enough to get the job done. It was a great series to find time for before or after work, and it never left me without at least a chuckle or two.
(Also, Hanazawa Kana.)
Light in scope and light on run time, Tonari no Seki-kun is a fun, to-the-point series about fooling off during class.

 

-out of breath- Season ending articles are a doozy to go over. I had thought about doing a separate article solely for the series I had been keeping up with, but I suppose in the grand scheme of things there’s little point when they can just be added to the current month’s article.
I swear I went into the Winter season with the intention of keeping up with fewer series (there were even some I wanted to watch but didn’t start!, such as Witch Craft Works), but here we are… No regrets, however. I’ve enjoyed the season quite a bit, and I’m looking forward to getting my backlog schedule back on track.
Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a series I’ve watched an episode of here or there and have enjoyed quite a bit, but due to its (compared to the majority of series I watch) longer run, I have put it on hold numerous times. I’d love to watch through that series though, so we’ll try to make that happen in April.
The Spring season of anime series is almost upon us! Fewer series are jumping out at me than was the case with the Winter season, but there are sure to be some last moment interests and some hidden surprises waiting in the wings.
Until next time though!
又読んでね。
(Enjoy that fresh Spring air, and keep those plots unspoiled!)

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