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

October 3, 2014

(This article will be spoiler-free!)

 

おっす! What a month. Well, let’s get into it.
When I was younger, video games were the ostracizing thing which determined who your friends were going to be during school. There were no Call of Dutys or Battlefields or Destinys out there which gain widespread attention, and are played by people from all different walks of life. Video games were for dorky kids with their heads in the clouds and their faces in the television screen.
Video games, and the video game industry as a whole has changed however, and today I find no issue at all in finding people to talk to about the big games like Call of Duty or Halo, even if those same people have never even heard of Persona. Video game acceptance in our culture has grown to the point at which even one of my coworkers who is almost double my age has played Zelda, and is able to carry a conversation about it.
This is the anime monthly, though. Where is this going?
Anime on the other hand, in the U.S. at least, is not seen anywhere near as fondly I feel. Especially within the video game-playing crowd, I’ve noticed incredibly dismissive attitudes (to say the least) toward the medium, and in contrast to with video games, I’ve yet to find anyone at work who has heard of or is able to talk about anime to any capacity.
I feel like in a way, anime has taken the role of video games as that thing “only dorks or perverts or fans of kiddie nonsense” are into, and while part of me hates that, at the same time I love it, because it means when you do find someone who can talk to at lengths about anime, the conversation is much more exciting, and there’s a bigger feeling of connection there.
Whether that connection will dwindle if anime reaches the levels video games currently are as far as social acceptance is concerned, all we can do is wait and see. The question I’m concerned with however, is whether widespread acceptance is something I really want to see.
Anyway, personal business as well as the typical workload ensured that keeping up on Summer series was a real struggle, so the vast majority of September was spent playing catch-up.
Here’s what I finished out of the Summer anime season:

 

742a32fc8179e0fc08998507cd698c3c1404307718_fullAldnoah Zero:
In the recent past, Humanity on Earth found and harnessed an alien technology on the Moon which gave them the ability to colonize Mars. Once there, more ancient technology was discovered, and upon its discovery, the Mars colonists declared themselves the Vers Empire, freeing themselves of any connection with Earth.
A great war later broke out between the Vers Empire and that of the Earth, which resulted in the alien technology on the Moon being destroyed, which in turn caused the Moon to shatter.
This event came to be called Heaven’s Fall, and brought a ceasefire to the Earth and Vers forces.
Years later, the wills of some thirst for conflict, and an assassination on a representative of Vers seeking peace with Earth brings the war to the forefront once again.

What I thought: “Fast paced, and full of style and intensity.”
There were numerous Summer series I was enjoying, but Aldnoah was easily my go-to show of the season. While I feel like it may have been somewhat lacking in character, everything else this series strives for is achieved with style.
A good series gets you invested, but a great series makes you excited, and Aldnoah had me waiting impatiently for each new episode, excited for what new twists or developments might be in store within the plot.
It isn’t always the case, but this series has its share of Urobuchi Gen “What?! I didn’t see that coming!” moments, and a good job is done with making the characters on both sides of the conflict seem more like human beings and less like plot devices, even when not a lot of time is spent to allow them to breathe within the story.
The action and intrigue leads up to a truly shocking ending which I highly anticipate seeing followed up upon when the series continues early next year. My mind is abuzz with what could be waiting.
The world is interesting, though the characters found within it may be somewhat less-so. Regardless however, Aldnoah Zero’s plot is full of unpredictable turns and intense battles, and is supported by excellent visuals and music. This one is a keeper.

 

 

yEqMnCKObPoFate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei!:
Illyasviel von Einzbern is a young school girl with a bright smile and distinguishing silver hair. She enjoys the company of her friends at school, and does her best with her studies.
What no one at home, and all but one individual at school doesn’t know however, is that Illya is also a magical girl.
Past conflicts have faded a bit however, and Illya has enjoyed a lull of normal life once again.
This is until a botched spell cast by one of her allies produces a strange shadow version of Illya; a shadow version of Illya who has no reservations for seeking what she desires.

What I thought: “Less action
than the first season, and much more ecchi, but still a fun series.”
While the first season had its iffy moments, enough time was spent on spectacular battle sequences and funny character moments to make it worth the watch. The second season on the other hand, while yes, sporting the same slick visuals, the same over the top and intense battle scenes, and the same bright and funny characters, has far, far more ecchi scenes than I recall from its predecessor. A few here or there sort of come with the territory nowadays, but I think when I think back of the second season, ecchi is all I’ll be able to think.
The story is interesting I suppose, as you’re unsure whether Kuro is going to end up being a friend or foe, but what that means is there is never a sense of an impending threat. While the first season had a nicely set goal from the get-go, the second played out more like a slice-of-life comedy series with some magical girl elements thrown in when battles haven’t taken place in too long.
That’s fine at the end of the day, because I do think it’s still a fun series. Some of the supporting characters get more screen time which is great, and a couple well-placed moments were snuck in for good measure. It isn’t what I would have thought a second season of Prisma Illya would be. That doesn’t mean it’s bad necessarily, it just means it’s different. A third season is coming, and sure, why not.
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! has a more ecchi-focused tone than what came before it, and while that’s sure to be a red flag to some (and reason to watch this series behind closed doors and shades for the rest of us), that isn’t to say it’s without some form of merit. It’s still a nice looking, nicely animated series with likable characters and good character comedy.

 

121048civxvrjhdvijrdvrMaji Moji Rurumo:
 Shibaki Kouta is a high school student with a keen interest in girls and is famous for being a pervert. He is a member of the Mysterious Discovery Club, and one day while investigating in the library, he stumbles upon a book which entails a summoning ritual for a witch.
As a half-hearted joke, he performs it, though to his surprise he summons the young witch-in-training Rurumo.
Rurumo explains to Shibaki that as a training ritual, she is given a master, and that master is given a book of tickets. Using this book of tickets can grant any wish, but once it is all used up, it will claim the life of its user.

What I thought: “Cute and funny with a great art style.”
Boy, did I love this series! It would be easy to rail on Maji Moji for sort of abandoning its primary plot device somewhat early on, but it’s so nice to look at, and the comedy is so nicely done that at a certain point I sort of forgot that plot device even existed in the first place.
There is a good bit of ecchi going on, but it’s presented in a way over-the-top manner and played for laughs, and while each episode doesn’t necessarily impact what has or will happen in the episodes surrounding it, there are a few quite memorable episodes in there.
The character designs are terrific, the tone is generally bright and inviting, and the characters are likable, even if I feel like some of the best ones didn’t get much screen time.
While Maji Moji Rurumo’s plot as a whole isn’t especially great, the moment to moment comedy found in each episode is often hilarious, and this series features one of the more appealing art styles and some of the more likable characters of the season, if not the year so far.

 

20140705232355!Glasslip_Prmotional_ImageGlasslip:
Glasslip follows Fukami Touko, one of two daughters of a family who owns a glass-making establishment, and her group of friends who, up until now had rules that no one could date another member of their group.
Fukami was born with a strange gift, which under certain circumstances, show her fragments of what can only be the future.
When a transfer student arrives who claims to have the same future-sight ability as Fukami, it disrupts her and her group of friends in several ways.

What I thought: “Incoherent
presentation. Boring plot.”
It’s a P.A. Works production, so naturally it looks and sounds very nice, but I feel like the overall tone (partially thanks to the strange choice of music during some scenes) is difficult to understand.
This is a series that makes you feel dumb, as though there is something to it which should be completely obvious that you’re missing, which causes the series to be less interesting to watch than would be the case otherwise; it’s the sort of series I felt I should have someone explain to me, and that’s something I’m never especially fond of.
I sort of hope there is something I’m missing, because I think past the strange choices of music and the odd things that occur which never really make sense, the plot feels disjointed. There is a focus placed on the various relationships between the characters, but it’s never clear why so much time is spent on those “normal” people’s interactions, when equal if not less time is given to who is arguably the main character of the series, who just due to her special power is the most interesting character.
I loved each of this studio’s previous series (that I’ve seen so far) quite a bit, and I wanted to like this one too, but the combination of slow, tedious and confusing plot, strange visual presentation and odd musical choices made it one of the least interesting series of the season.
Every studio is entitled to an iffy project every now and then though, I suppose.
Easily the most bizarre P.A. Works series I have seen personally by terms of tone, Glasslip was a little too all over the place in its presentation for me, even if it was, as usual for the animation studio involved, nice to look at.

 

DlEGxFAo Haru Ride:
Yoshioka Futaba is in an uncomfortable place in high school. Surrounded by friends she feels like she doesn’t really know, she feels as though she wants to become a different person.
She once liked a boy named Tanaka Kou when they were young, but she was never able to tell him what she felt before their ways parted.
As it would turn out however, Kou transfers to her school, and while this is immediately exciting, something about the boy she thought she loved is different.

What I thought: “Had it’s
moments, even if it wasn’t targeted at me.”
I’m not above a good romance-comedy every once in awhile (One of my recent favorite series is Chu-2 after all), but upon starting up Ao Haru Ride I came to a shocking realization. “Oh no… oh no…” I thought to myself, “I’ve made a terrible mistake.”
This is pretty clearly a shoujo series.
Then I spent a little more time with it, and that embarrassed feeling faded, and turned to genuine interest in what was happening between the characters, and what was taking place within the plot.
The bizarre character art style threw me off at first, but by the end of the series I found myself quite fond of it. The animation is a little lacking here or there, but appealing things are done with the art as a whole (notably during flashback sequences) which I feel lets that slide a bit.
Ao Haru appears to try very hard to set up little intimate moments, and while some of them are well done, when they don’t work they feel quite contrived.
The characters at first come off as annoying and unlikable, but as more time is spent on each of their respective stories, you get a good sense for what has made them who they are, and come the end, I was perhaps more invested in this series than any other this season.
It’s tremendously well done, and by the time the story wrapped up I had completely forgotten feeling awkward about watching a girly series.
Ao Haru Ride goes to show that even when you’re faced with a series aimed at a different target audience than you, a good story and nice visuals can get through to you regardless. It’s a pleasing to look at series with detailed characters, good writing and a terrific story as a whole.

 

8b4d6a16fc4574fefd0438507a3030651402376724_fullHaNaYaMaTa:
Hanayamata follows young Sekiya Naru, a girl who has enjoyed fairy tales since she was very little, into a chance moonlit meeting of Hana N. Fountainstand.
Standing above an arch and dancing in the moonlight, she appears to Naru to be the image of a golden-haired fairy.
Hana as it would turn out, is merely a transfer student from America with a love of Japanese culture, and the Yosakoi style of dance, after seeing it on a trip to the country when she was very little.
Hana encourages Naru, who is shy and clumsy, to join her in making a Yosakoi club at school, and many ups and downs greet them in achieving their goal.

What I thought: “Bright and colorful in both visuals and tone.”
It’s an unwritten rule that each anime season has to have that bright and cheeful series to go to when you need a couple dozen minutes of cheer, and following in Non Non Biyori and Gochuumon wa Usagi Desuka? before it, Hanayamata is an easy to watch series met with a (mostly) bright tone, likable characters, and colorful visuals.
It may the the visuals in particular, which had me coming back eager for more. I’m unsure what has gotten into Mad House recently, but between No Game No Life and Hanayamata, I’m loving how their series look. The nighttime scenes especially were a treat.
The story does enough to draw you into the characters and get you invested, and culminates in a wonderfully done finale. I think this series also had perhaps the best OP of the season, or at least (again) the most gorgeous.
Hanayamata is one of the brightest series you’re likely to find by terms of visuals and tone, with a cast full of likable, energetic characters possessing a knack for putting a smile on your face.

 

sabagebuSabagebu!:
Don’t let the soft blues and pinks fool you. It’s all a guise. Those bright smiles hide blackened personalities. Those small hands are dirty with human blood, and those handbags carry lethal weapons.
At least this is true in the minds of the Survival Game Club’s members.
The newest member is Sonokawa Momoka, a natural at the trigger, and an insidious, masochistic personality at heart.

What I thought about it: “Crass and hilarious.”
I didn’t expect to laugh as much as I ended up doing while watching this series. The comedy really goes for it at times, and unexpected and (some may say) shocking things are done with some of the Survival Game Club’s members.
There is a fair amount of time spent on “gun porn”, and the detail given on weapons and things pertaining to their use just makes the series all the more funny.
This series was a pleasant surprise, I suppose, and caught me off guard with a lot of its comedy.
萌え’s reach is vast, but Sabagebu! is a comedic reminder that not all bright smiles belong to pure-hearted and kind individuals.

 

61039Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei:
Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei takes place in a future in which magic is a scientifically accepted field, and day to day life has changed since society has pushed the limits of magic further and further through technology.
Shiba Tatsuya, prodigal brother of the “Bloom” Shiba Miyuki, rests in the lower social strata of their high school, as he exhibits lacking academic drive. Those like him are known as “Weeds”.
There is more to Tatsuya than is immediately apparent however. While his sister looks on at him with loving eyes, his brilliance when programming magic is unparalleled.

What I thought: “Nicely produced,
with a number of great ideas, but boring protagonists and a boring plot.”
The character designs are great, and overall I think it would be a lie to say they didn’t nail the visual and audio presentation of this series, but the characters themselves are a complete bore, and the story they’ve been placed in lacks anything to keep you invested in it.
There are two story arcs found in (what I’m guessing is) the first season of several, and while the first is the more interesting as it gives you a better set-up for the state of the world in which this anime takes place, the second is more focused on action, and any attempts that are done to add intrigue to the space between falls pretty flat I feel.
If there is any reason to watch this series it would be the world. I’m always interested in stories taking place in a magic-wielding setting different from the typical, played-out medieval stuff, and the technological take Rettousei does, where magic spells are programmed and fired using a small, smartphone-like device (sometimes shaped like guns) is terrific. The hierarchy of magic users over non-magic users adds another interesting facet to the upperclassmen/underclassmen interaction, and the style of outfits and the (excellent) music feel futuristic without feeling unrealistic.
It just makes me wish a better story was told within the world this series takes place.
(Oddly enough, this series has one of the best Hanazawa Kana characters this year in my opinion.)
 The action is great, as is the presentation as a whole, and the world Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei takes place within is unique and interesting, but the characters found there and the story they tell is so boring that it brings the whole thing crashing down.

 

Such a terrific anime season, full of good drama and good laughs. While there was a less-than-amazing series here or there, there were a few which I would very-much like to own for my collection found in this season, and I have a feeling come end of the year wrap-up time, the Summer season will be the one thought back on the most positively.
I want nothing more than to get back into the old swing of things, with full-sized anime and video game monthlies, but things haven’t worked out that way lately. The end of the Summer season is a good cutting off point, so here’s hoping October brings the respite needed to get things back in gear.
For now though,
じゃね。
(As October brings about the cold transition into Wintertime, keep those stories unspoiled.)

From → Anime

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