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

July 5, 2014

(This article will be spoiler free!)

みんな、ようこそ今月のソープボックスへ! Fashionably late of course. My apologies. I’ll save my excuses!
One of the things which I’ve noticed (as maybe plenty of people have) is the lack of standardization in presenting Japanese names via subtitles or text in translated media. One of the most standout examples for me is in the first episode of Another when Misaki tells Sakakibara-kun her name after leaving the elevator. “Mei. Misaki Mei.” you can clearly hear her say, though the subtitles read “Mei. Mei Misaki.” The opposite of what you just heard her say aloud.
It isn’t always the case, but sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether something is listing a character’s name in Western style or Eastern style, and this is quite irksome to me.
I understand why it is done, but I sort of wish translators trusted their readers/viewers to understand that Japanese names are presented differently. It isn’t a huge deal, but it’s one of those small things which I’ve realized occurs, so now I pick it out all of the time.
There was little room this past month for backlog, but here’s what I finished up from the Spring season:

 

10170696_632331136851951_90304749487558536_nIsshuukan Friends:
Hase Yuuki finds it odd that his classmate, Fujimiya Kaori never seems to be enjoying the company of friends while at school. In fact, he notices that Fujimiya doesn’t appear to have any friends.
Because of this, he decides to work up the courage to ask her to be his friend, to which she hesitantly agrees.
After a week of getting to know one another, Fujimiya suddenly behaves as though they had never met, which Hase-kun soon realizes is due to a strange disorder Fujimiya suffers from where she forgets everything related to those she considers friends at the start of each week.
Hase-kun refuses to let that deter him though, because no matter the situation, everyone deserves friendship.

What I thought: “Warmhearted and beautiful.”
This series is possibly the warmest and fuzziest feeling tv anime I’ve encountered. From the soft art style (in my opinion, slightly reminiscent of Hourou Musuko), to the admirable themes of the plot, the excellent sense of place achieved through its wonderful sound design, and its small but likable cast of characters (including the most adorable supporting character I’ve come across in some time), Isshuukan warmly draws you in with its premise and delivery, and while the main idea for the plot may not be the freshest out there, it’s done well and offers plenty of room for investment.
I was impressed with how a number of plot threads arose, which I repeatedly figured would derive into generic sub-plots, but each time I was pleasantly surprised at how this series managed to nudge those concepts aside and offer up a, while not the most impactful, genuine feeling narrative.
It may lack the emotional punch of other series of similar tone, but Isshuukan Friends is nonetheless a sweet series full of likable characters, pleasing visuals and admirable themes.

 

61781Hitsugi no Chaika:
In a world of unease following the end of a drawn-out war, a young man named Touru and his fellow Saboteur Akari are hired by a mysterious, white haired girl who is never seen without the large coffin which she carries on her back.
She tells the two that she is the daughter of the Gaz Empire, and that she seeks their aid in gathering the remains of her father to give him a proper funeral.
The three set out to achieve this task, as one faction seeks to stop them in their tracks, and another yet thirsts to rekindle the war that was settled a mere few years ago.

What I thought: “The right amount of gritty.”
In a way, this series reminds me older stuff such as Vampire Hunter D and Gungrave. Mostly due to its setting full of European-inspired visuals and strange magical technology.
You follow the characters’ journey to find Chaika’s Father’s remains, but the episodes don’t feel especially stand-alone as I feel like similar series can.
The cast of characters aren’t especially unique for the most part, but they’re likable enough to get the job done, and I was way into many of the character designs.
Chaika doesn’t do anything that new or exciting, but it does what it strives for perfectly well, and it has a coherent sense of style that I liked quite a bit. The first season stopped at a terrific spot, and has me pumped for the Fall season for when it will continue with a second.
A melding of medieval and magic-fueled technology, Hitsugi no Chaika wasn’t a stand-out series over the past season, but it is an entirely serviceable fantasy series with an interesting world and a wonderful sense of style.

 

61053No Game No Life:
Sora and his sister Shiro are Otaku and social outcasts. They spend their days and nights playing online games under the alias Kuuhaku (“blank”), and whether their opponents are playing fair or not, the two of them never lose.
One day they receive a message along with an invitation to a game, which they win without much effort, and upon doing so, they are transported to a new world in which games are how all feuds are settled.
No Game No Life tells the story of these two outcasts as they put their gaming knowledge and philosophy to use in traveling this strange world and unraveling its secrets.

What I thought: “Good ideas, but intolerable protagonists.”
I was immediately drawn to No Game No Life thanks to its bright, neon-colored visuals, and while I can say that this series has a tremendous sense of visual style, and a number of interesting concepts found within its plot, it wasn’t especially pleasing to watch simply thanks to its two (one to a lesser extent) heroes.
Nothing is less interesting to me than invincible protagonists in anime, and following in the footsteps of Log Horizon before it, No Game No Life sports a pair of protagonists that are so untouchable by any adversary who presents themselves, that the main crutch of the story, the games which are played to determine the fates of sometimes a few and sometimes many, are completely uninteresting, because after the first couple, you begin to go into them with the knowledge that Kuuhaku will not only win, but will win effortlessly.
The sights and sounds are great (the OPs and EDs are both fantastic also), but No Game No Life to me suffered dearly from having unlikable and completely uninteresting protagonists. If the plot sported the same flair as its visuals, I suspect NGNL could have been amazing.
It sports a creative and appealing art style, but No Game No Life lacked drama in its many conflicts, and while the supporting concepts found in its plot saved it from being a complete bore, I can’t say I was particularly impressed by its story as a whole. This a series worth its ideas, not its execution.

 

61255Gochuumon wa Usagi Desuka?:
Hoto Kokoa is a young girl with a bright (though sometimes clingy) personality who has just moved to a chic little city to attend school and work at a place called “Rabbit House”.
She is disappointed at the lack of rabbits in said Rabbit House once she arrives though, although she is greeted by a girl younger than herself named Chino who is almost always seen wearing her pet rabbit on her head.
Gochuumon wa Usagi Desuka? entails the warm and wacky antics which take place in and around Rabbit House, where coffee, cocoa and cheer is on the menu.

What I thought: “Bright, cheerful and endearing.”
Akin to something like your Non Non Biyori’s or your Kin-Iro Mosaic’s, Usagi Desuka is exactly the sort of thing which brightens your day after a long day at work, or after an otherwise subpar week.
The cast of characters are great, and while some parts of the story are sort of skimmed over, taking a slice-of-life approach to Usagi Desuka will not leave you wanting when it comes to cute antics and fun characters.
It’s a fantastic production, with clean yet detailed visuals, excellent character designs and sound design that (much like Biyori) sucks you right into the scene.
There are only a couple male characters to be found, and I’m certain you know whether this series is for you or not at a mere glance, but for me, Usagi Desuka filled the role of its cute and endearing forebears excellently.
With a relaxed tone, inviting visuals and its lovable cast of characters, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desuka? is a slice-of-life series well suited to stave off your worries and put a smile on your face.

 

61921Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san:
Nekoyama Suzu is a girl with a cat-like appearance and personality, but who loves dogs.
Inugami Yachiyo is a girl with a contrasting dog-like personality, but who loves cats.
The two girls immediately become drawn toward one another, and with the rest of their animal-esque classmates, they get into a series of light-hearted yuri antics.

What I thought: “Did I really watch this? Huh…”
Shorts are very tough. I feel like Tonari no Seki-kun was a good example of a series that had just enough personality and comedy to fill its limited run time, but Inugami/Neko is on the contrary an excellent example of a series that simply didn’t have enough of what it needed to make it worthwhile.
While I did, in fact, watch through this series, I would be dismayed to tell you one thing that took place during it, or to name off any of its characters (save for the two whom the series is named after of course).
The OP is catchy, and it isn’t a terribly put together series from a production standpoint, but those are probably the only things I could say about it.
Was it Akari of Yuru Yuri who put this show together? All joking aside, Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san lacked the time or personality to stand out over the past season, and as such, it’s tough to recommend, even at its tremendously short run time.

 

35d1a1a60cd292c5ad2a9f4780713e9a1396987481_fullKanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara:
Hatate Souta, after surviving a horrendous ocean liner tragedy, has obtained the gift to see any and all sorts of “flags” atop people’s heads, which can be used to at a glance determine what sort of individual that person is, or how they feel about him.
All except for his new classmate Nanami, who, while interested in Hatate’s ability, produces no flags herself.
All is normal for a while, though Hatate Souta finds himself a sort of cute girl magnet, until he realizes that atop his own head is a swirling black Death Flag.
What is the nature of this gift of his, and how does he remove his own Death Flag before it consumes him within its swirling void?

What I thought: “A great voice cast couldn’t
quite save it from its generic harem trappings.”
If there were ever a series to watch for its voice cast… lemme tell ya. But despite all of the names attached to this series, I feel like it didn’t quite deliver on the story or comedy.
It’s normal for there to be very little going on within the plot of a more slice-of-life series, but Kanojo Flag couldn’t seem to decide on whether it wanted to be a leisurely comedy or sci-fi tinted drama, which becomes especially jarring in later episodes.
It isn’t a terrible series; there were plenty of pretty hilarious scenes (and one of the best Hanazawa Kana characters in awhile), but it’s the kind of series that even while watching it you get the feeling that once it’s finished, you’ll quickly forget all about it.
It’s hard to say whether its Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara’s fundamentals that hold it back, or whether those fundamentals just weren’t executed upon properly, but as it rests, this is a series that might offer up a few good laughs, but won’t leave a lasting impact.

 

61519Mekakucity Actors:
Mekakucity Actors follows the various members of the Mekakushi Dan, which is a close-knit group of young individuals who each sport a unique power within their eyes.
Each of them finds their way to the Mekakushi Dan in their own way, and the kinship found within it benefits each of them in different ways, but there is a thread which ties them all together that may have the potential to consume the world around them, which many of them have lost those dear to them to help build.

What I thought:  “An interesting
story, if often difficult to follow.”
I know very little about how anime production works within a studio; whether there are different teams set up to work on different projects, or if everyone is working on numerous things at once, but if the latter is true, it is somewhat clear with Mekakucity Actors that resources were limited while the other concurrently airing Shaft series, Nisekoi was wrapping up.
The visuals are as usual for the studio, very creative and make even talky scenes interesting to watch, but the animation doesn’t catch up until a few episodes in.
The story is very interesting, though somewhat difficult to follow. At first I figured it was because there’s a large cast of protagonists, and that they were spreading the story too thin (which is what I found to be the case with Durarara!), but then I realized it was because the story isn’t told in a straight line. It hops from the future to the past to present day, and doesn’t offer much indication that it is doing so until you put it together later on in the episode, and while that made it somewhat of a challenge to keep up on everything when watching one episode per week, this is a series that I think would benefit greatly from a rewatch, and could potentially be better and better each time you view it.
Also worth noting are the storybook sections at the end of (nearly) every episode, which were easily my favorite parts of this series.
While I’d be lying to say I knew exactly what was going on at any given time, it wouldn’t be a lie to say that I enjoyed Mekakucity Actors as a whole, and I would be into watching it through again to get more out of the plot. It’s a stylish series presented in an interesting way.

 

56657Gokukoku no Brynhildr:
When he was just a boy, Murakami Ryouta had a best friend who called herself Kuroneko.
She told him that aliens exist, and that she saw one once, and wanted to prove herself to him to be right.
Before she could do this, however, the two of them have an accident, and Kuroneko unfortunately passes away.
Murakami never forgot her though, and years later he is shocked to find that a new transfer student, whose name is Kuroha Neko and bears a shocking resemblance to his childhood friend, has moved into town.
Could she be his beloved Kuroneko, or is something insidious amiss?

What I thought: “A miserable waste of time.”
Having read the synopsis for this series at the start of the Summer anime season, I was sort of stoked. Aliens? Count me in!
What we got though, is a series chock full of needless fan-service, unnecessary gore, and a plot so rich in contrivance and convenience that it caused me to eye each Sunday on the calendar like it was an infected polyp ready to burst.
I do my very best to finish any series I start, because even within the worst stories, there are fragments of brilliance often found hidden under all of the flaws which in a way make it worth sticking with it, but Brynhildr had none of that, and after a few episodes, it became not only my least favorite show of the season, but the show that I outright dreaded having to sit and watch each week.
Maybe it simply wasn’t for me, but all the same, I’d never recommend this series to anyone.
I saw it through to its conclusion, but if there has ever been a series to make me consider the idea of dropping something I wasn’t enjoying, it would be this one.
With anime, I try to stick to positives when relaying my feelings on specific series, and as such it might sometimes seem as though I’ll watch just about anything and like it, but it’s safe to say that I didn’t like anything about Gokukoku no Brynhildr. It isn’t 11 Eyes levels of horrendous, but it’s not far off.

 

black_bulletBlack Bullet:
Early in the 21st century, humanity has been all but wiped out by the insect-like race of Gastrea, which are born from a virus which turns those who carry it into monstrosities.
There is a generation of children, however, who were born with the virus running through their veins, but who exhibit extraordinary powers; powers which can be used to combat the Gastrea.
These “Cursed Children” are put under the custody of Promoters, who join them in battle and take care of them.
Satomi Rentarou and Aihara Enju are one such pair, and working for Tendou Civil Security, they fight to protect humanity, who have scraped by to survive within the Tokyo area thanks in part to huge man-built monoliths crafted out of Varanium, which repel the Gastrea.

What I thought: “Equal parts stylish, cute and shocking.”
Black Bullet is the sort of thing that would be easy to dismiss as a product of its era, with its large cast of small girl characters and its sometimes uncomfortable comedy involving them, but looking past those things you’ll find a series with filling helpings of action, intrigue, and sadness.
It isn’t a carefree world, and terrible things occur regularly. You could argue that corners are cut with said terrible things just from to the sorts of characters they happen to, but I thought the things this series attempts to do are carried out quite well and set it apart, because I think if Black Bullet had to rely on its action and story alone, then that wouldn’t quite be enough.
There were a ton of great character designs this past season, but Black Bullet had the most condensed in the smallest amount of space. The story feels hurried at points, but I was sort of surprised at just how much I enjoyed this series, and as there are aspects of the plot which are brought up and never delivered upon, I hope we see more of it in the future.
Don’t let all of the loli characters put you off, Black Bullet is a stylish story of humanity with their backs against a wall, and while it isn’t perfect, it does enough well to make it well worth a watch.

 

You might or might not have noticed depending on when I finish this post, but there is a new Tab available near the top of the page titled “What’s Up?”
Since I’m finding less time now than I did in the past to post different kinds of articles, What’s Up? will be a regularly updated page (sometimes several times per week, depending on how long I stick to one thing) listing the things I’m currently playing, watching, reading, etc, and a sentence or several with what I’m currently thinking about those things.
The idea of a living document on the Soapbox has been something I’ve been interested in for awhile, and I think maybe this’ll be a good way for me to get regular micro-updates out without having to devote what is more often than not hours at a time writing up proper articles.
Don’t fret! The video game and anime monthlies will still be a monthly occurrence, so if you’ve been reading those (thanks for that!), there will still be more to come each month, but until I find some hefty chunks of free time, What’s Up? is unfortunately going to be the best I can do with getting more than two posts out per month.
So look for that if you’re interested. That’s June. Woo summertime!
それじゃ
The heat is just getting started. Keep those plots unspoiled!

From → Anime

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  1. Spitz’s Year End Wrap Up 2014 | Spitz's Soapbox

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