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

December 31, 2014

おっす! The last monthly post of the year! Even as someone lukewarm on the whole Christmas thing, I can’t help but get excited at the coming of a new year. While it often doesn’t seem to go as planned when it actually comes and goes, the New Year is a great opportunity to criticize the way you approached things over the past twelve months, and chart out a path to a more positive life in the coming year.
Sticking to that path is the hard part.
It was admittedly an exhausted sprint to the finish line this Anime season, but I was pleased to have finished all of the series I had picked up since Fall.
Here’s what I watched:

 

coverSaki:
Miyanaga Saki is a student coming from a family of skilled Mahjong players, though due to the negative experiences with the game she has had in the past, she doesn’t care much to play it these days.
One day, while lounging about outside, her path crosses with the twin-tailed Haramura Nodoka, and, to Saki’s surprise, once again within her school’s Mahjong Club.
After sensing Saki’s astounding skill at the game, Haramura Nodoka, as well as the other cast of colorful characters found in the club, encourage her to join.

What I thought: “Equal bits
energetic, tense and cheerful.”
Saki was a strange case, because I discovered this series almost simultaneously with my sudden impulse to learn Riichi Mahjong. As it would turn out, I love both! Saki takes a game which is played by four people around a table and makes each match an utter pleasure to sit through. Through over-the-top delivery as well as character specific “special powers”, each match is more exciting than the last.
The run time is split between said Mahjong matches and character backstory/interaction, and the latter is also done very well. I would argue that character is Saki’s strongest suit, and I was pleasantly surprised at how many fun and interesting characters continued to be introduced as the series went on, with numerous especially memorable ones among them.
If I had a criticism for this series, it would be that unless you’re keen on the rules of Riichi Mahjong, the matches played by the cast, and especially the terms which are being flung out left and right by the participants, will likely whizz right over your head. Even as a beginner who gets the overall gist of the game, there were several moments during heated matches where all I could think was “Wait, what just happened again?”
There are two more seasons of Saki out there, and I can’t wait to get to them.
A series I picked up at the absolute perfect time, Saki is an energetic series based on the game of Riichi Mahjong, filled to the brim with exciting matches and memorable characters. If you enjoy the game, there’s a lot to like in this series, and if you don’t know how to play it, maybe try to learn how, because it’s a lot of fun.

 

67797lHitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle:
Avenging Battle tells the continuing adventures of the Coffin Maiden, Chaika Trabant, and her two Saboteur bodyguards, Tooru and Akari, as they seek out Chaika’s Father’s remains with the intent on giving him a proper burial.

What I thought: “A serviceable conclusion.”
Aside from giving a little more breathing room for the production company to get the rest of this series out, there wasn’t a particularly great reason for the first and second seasons to be broken up as they were, as they don’t tell two distinct arcs, but rather one overarching narrative. By that token, it would be best to seek out and consume this series in one go.
The second is a few episodes shorter than the first, and one could argue that less happens here from a plot standpoint, but the nature of characters who had been a mystery before are revealed, and loose ends are wrapped up. Things went a bit off of the rails near the end, and I would probably say the conclusion isn’t as entertaining as the journey leading up to it, but I enjoyed this series despite any minor issues I have with it. I would be curious to see whether the light novel’s ending is the same as found here, as it felt a little rushed and a bit contrived, although thankfully, it didn’t ruin the story for me altogether.
Small bummers aside though, I did enjoy this second season, as well as the series as a whole. It treads on pretty well-worn ground, but it has a good sense of style and cool stuff is done within the context of the world it takes place in to give it character. It was a fun, straight-forward adventure.
Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle concludes the overall story, and while as a whole it doesn’t do anything too new or exciting, what’s there is an enjoyable adventure set in an interesting setting.

 

025Inou Battle wa Nichijou-ke no Naka de:
One day, the members of the Literature Club find themselves endowed with special powers.
Be it the ability to create anything the user can imagine, controlling the forces of flame and darkness, or being able to transport through time and space, school life was sure to never be the same.
And then after a few months passed, Andou Jurai and his fellow members of the Literature Club realize that very little has changed.
Inou Battle wa Nichijou-ke no Naka de is the story of extraordinary individuals with mundane lives.

What I thought: “Wonderful production and voice performances; great slice-of-life comedy.”
Trigger is rapidly becoming one of my favorite animation studios.
Inou Battle is a sort of middle ground between the ludicrously over-the-top concepts and delivery of Kill la Kill, and what is arguably the most mundane, down-to-earth setting out there: school life.
There are hints of the absurd majesty found in Trigger’s previous tv anime, but by and large, the character interactions are largely the sort of thing you would find in any other slice-of-life comedy series.
This perhaps goes to show how wonderfully executed Inou Battle is, because it was one of the series I was looking forward to watching each week the most, in an Anime season already chock full of great series vying for ones attention. It’s one of those series that thanks to superb execution on all of the things which make a good anime great (audio/visuals/writing), produces something greater than the sum of its parts.
It isn’t perfect; the plot becomes a bit muddled later on, and some of the supporting characters don’t get as much screen time as maybe I would have liked, but this series was sheer enjoyment from start to finish. Trigger is two for two!
Lovable characters, a clean, nicely animated visual style, funny slice-of-life antics, and one of the most standout, memorable voice performances of the past year made Inou Battle wa Nichijou-ke no Naka de one of the go-to series of the season, and I would recommend it in a heartbeat.

 

Trinity-SevenTrinity Seven:
Enjoying life with his cousin Hijiri in the everyday manner he had grown used to, Kasuga Arata’s world is literally torn apart one day, and he loses not only his dear cousin, but is also transported to a bizarre magical academy filled with strange energies and beautiful women.
What happened to his world, and who are these whispered Trinity Seven? Are they available?

What I thought: “Great character designs can’t make a bad anime good.”
Trinity Seven is frustrating. The overall style of this series is fantastic; The characters are mostly all wonderfully designed, the environments, while regularly pretty bland from an artistic standpoint, are classy and stylish, and the soundtrack does great things for the tone of each scene.
It’s just a tragedy that the things that take place in each scene are a listless bore.
When it decides to forego its tremendously lazy ecchi comedy to try and tell any sort of coherent plot, the dialogue and the narrative fall completely flat, and come the welcomed end of this series, I had completely stopped trying to care about what was happening in the plot.
The character designs are so, so good, and the OP and generous helping of EDs this series provides do a wonderful job at coaxing you into thinking it might be worth checking out, but make no false assumptions, Trinity Seven is bad.
The character designs are there (though the art sometimes falters), the voice talent is there (though the dialogue as atrocious), the sound design is there; the only thing they forgot to include was the most important thing of all: a worthwhile plot. Skip this one.

 

Shirobako_Promotional_PosterShirobako (first half):
When she was in high school, Miyamori Aoi shared a wonderful experience of creating an anime with her fellow Animation Club, and showing it off to crowds of people at their school’s Culture Festival.
They all later made a promise: to gather their respective skills in the anime industry and create a full-blown anime production!
Things never go quite as they seem, however, and the dreams Miyamori Aoi had a few years ago seem to be standing just out of her reach, as she struggles to keep up with her work as a Production Assistant for Musashino Animation, a studio with a less-than-favorable recent history.
Can she and her friends from the Animation Club make it in the industry now that they’ve reached adulthood, and can they fulfill their dream of creating a full-fledged anime with one another?

What I thought: “A wonderfully done look into the process of anime production.”
While at a certain point it would be biting the hand that feeds a bit, I feel like while admirable things are done at showing the ups and downs of anime production, Shirobako doesn’t go for it like it could have. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and I think this series does a good job at splitting the difference between showing the good and bad aspects of the industry, but what this means is that the series is never especially exciting, either.
The characters are likable, and their motivations and struggles are nicely represented, but aside from Miyamori Aoi’s struggle to keep up with the workload, and one or two moments in particular earlier on, it’s a rather flat viewing experience.
That said, there were several wonderful moments which I feel like elevated the watch a bit, and will likely ensure that this series will be remembered for years to come, but as a whole, Shirobako wasn’t as captivating or exciting as I wish it was.
Whether it’s what you’re looking for out of it or not, Shirobako is a completely grounded tv anime giving viewers an insightful look into the creative process that brings the series we all love to our screens, and the various positive and negative aspects and situations the anime industry entails.

 

Denki-gai-no-Honya-sanDenki-gai no Honya-san:
Ecchi books! You love ’em! Don’t deny it!
And so do many of the bright individuals working long, hard hours at the Uma no Hone specialty shop to bring those books to your hands!
Denki-gai is a bright, cheerful, nonsensical slice-of-life comedy series filled with hilarious antics and endearing quiet moments.
Bring a towel. And a spare set of clothes.

What I thought: “Over-the-top
ecchi comedy goodness.”
Denki-gai is perhaps the closest a comedy series has been to being as consistently funny as Nichijou (my favorite comedy series) was, and while the laughs weren’t as gut-wrenching as compared to that particular series, Denki-gai manages to be surprisingly endearing and heartfelt in several of its episodes, which connects you with the characters and sets it apart in ways I think if those moments weren’t shown, would have made the series rather forgettable.
It’s the kind of series which at a glance you might scoff at and write off as “dumb perverted nonsense”, but Denki-gai does an excellent job at opening your eyes at how silly so many of the tropes found in ecchi are, and has a good aura of “this stuff is embarrassing, and it’s perfectly fine to laugh at that” about it. It’s self-aware in the best ways, and coupled with wonderful production, makes it a huge success in my opinion.
Whether it’s by over-the-top delivery, awkward and funny social situations, or sweet intimate moments, Denki-gai no Honya-san just wants to bring a smile to your face, and it very rarely fails to do so.

 

Sword_Art_Online_II_Promotional_PosterSword Art Online II:
Asada Shino is a high school student who has an intense fear of firearms. However, she has found that within the VRMMORPG world of Gun Gale Online, her fears are no where to be found.
Within Gun Gale Online, a player versus player tournament is regularly held named Bullet of Bullets, which offers a place for those seeking to test their skills against the best of the best, an opportunity to do so.
Leading up to the third Bullet of Bullets tournament, a man draped in a dark cloak, whose face is concealed behind a mask, appears with the ability to kill players in the real world by killing them in Gun Gale Online. He refers to himself by the same name as the handgun he uses to murder his victims: Death Gun

What I thought: “An excellent continuation, if flawed.”
While SAO2 delivers one proper, full-length arc from the light novel series, the later half tells two smaller tales: Calibur, which was a side-story found in a volume comprised of shorts, and Mother’s Rosario, which is a smaller arc involving Asuna.
I think the Phantom Bullet and Mother’s Rosario arcs are very well done (though the latter of which is rather short), though some of the voice performances found in Phantom Bullet were a little too over-the-top, and made the scenes in which they are found a bit more funny than dramatic.
As ridiculous as the name Death Gun seems at first, the character was legitimately intimidating, and things are done within Phantom Bullet to tie everything together nicely.
There are things not to like about it, such as the Calibur arc, which offers little to the overall plot and feels more like the sort of thing which should be found in an OVA, but SAOII is well done by terms of both writing and production, and I’m ready and eager to see a third season, as there are still stories to be told in this universe.
As was the case with the first season, Sword Art Online II is a series sometimes more worth its ideas than its execution, but even when it isn’t firing on all cylinders, it is a series full of character and style, and the stories found here work and work well, more often than not.

 

pwlXk2UGirl Friend (Kari):
Based on the mobile game by the same name, Girl Friend (Kari) takes place in a world brimming with cute young ladies building bonds and sharing memories with one another through hard work, determination, and 萌え.

What I thought: “Not especially
memorable, but fine while it lasted.”
Maybe the most stand-out thing about this series, or at least the thing that made it so endearing to me personally, were the Gaijin accents found in some of the episodes.
Other than that, though, Girl Friend is the sort of series which is difficult to find much to say about. It’s a 萌え series, so from the get-go you likely know whether it’s for you or not.
Many of the character designs and personalities are great, but there is such a large cast of characters to get to that you never spend enough time with many of them to get too attached. Some of the subplots are entertaining, and some are endearing, but thinking back there aren’t any that immediately come to mind as being especially memorable.
 Girl Friend (Kari) doesn’t do anything all that memorable or interesting, but for what it is, which is a twenty minute booster shot of cute, 萌え antics at a time, it does what it sets out to do reasonably well. 

 

The Winter Season is nigh upon us, and among a couple must-watches for yours truly is the follow-up season of Aldnoah Zero. What could possibly be in store for us?! I’m quaking in anticipation; I hope it does not disappoint!
I was pleased to hear Parasyte (Kiseijuu) will be an extended, two season spanning series, as that is possibly the show of the season coming out of the Fall, but Ufotable’s rendition of Fate/ Stay Night is also going to have an extended run, and I am falling off of that series, and hard.
We will see what the New Year brings, though.
See you in the year end article! It will be up later tonight (31st) or early tomorrow morning (1st)!
(Did you keep your stories unspoiled this past year? Keep at it!)
あとでね。

From → Anime

2 Comments
  1. Oh no, it’s happened again! Shirobako isn’t over yet. Whoops, whoops, whoops!

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

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