The more I think about it, the more it seems fruitless and even slightly ridiculous to compare seasons. You can compare numbers, sure, but in terms of enjoyment, statistics mean absolutely nothing – and unless you’re telling me you tried out every single show of whichever two seasons you’re comparing, these numbers aren’t even accurate to begin with. You can try and compare the highs and/or lows too I suppose, but that’s not exactly what I’d call hard science, especially when you’re only a couple of weeks in.
So none of that for me this time; I’ve decided I’d prefer to just sit back and enjoy whatever the season throws at me, and try to judge shows based solely on their own merits… and/or gaping flaws, of course. As usual, I’ll be going from worst to best – I like to get the bad stuff out of the way first and end on a high note. With the exception of Ninja Slayer, which is a week behind everything else, I’ve now seen two episodes of all the titles listed below.
Ame-iro Cocoa/Rainy Cocoa
Score: 3/10 (Dropped)
Even at two minutes per episode, this really isn’t worth anyone’s time. The plot consists of a bunch of bishounen talking in a café, and they’re all such bog-standard characters with such lackluster designs that I can’t imagine many people would serious enjoy this, even those viewers who are after nothing but potential eye candy. Literally my deepest thought while watching this was, “Man, that one guy has really big eyebrows.”
Hibike! Euphonium/Sound! Euphonium
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)
This show annoyed me, and I can see that I’m only going to get more annoyed if I watch any further, so I won’t bother. On the plus side, Hibike! Euphonium looks pretty, like nearly everything else KyoAni has put out. That much is a given by now; I’m certainly not disputing the production values. However, this isn’t a show about music so much as it is a show about girls with short skirts and scarily high-pitched voices who are apparently interested in music. It might eventually become a show about music, but I honestly don’t have the patience to wait and find out, especially when I’d have to try and ignore high school students referring to themselves in third person and a ton of close-up thigh shots. It feels mostly like fanservice pretending not to be fanservice, and if that’s your thing then great, but it’s really not mine.
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)
Again, looks great, because MAPPA. On the other hand… well, pretty much everything else. I cannot for the life of me figure out why this studio, responsible for several great titles now including Sakamichi no Apollon, Zankyou no Terror, and Shingeki no Bahamut, decided it would be a good idea to get behind this show. One which, incidentally, has absolutely no business airing on noitaminA – a programming block supposedly intended to help broaden the anime target audience beyond the young male demographic. Because Punchline is about panties. There’s no deeper meaning to it, no relevant social commentary, and certainly no inkling of female empowerment or even just plain equal-opportunity fanservice, so forget any comparisons to FLCL or Kill la Kill. This isn’t somehow avant-garde – hell, it’s not even sexy – it’s just crass and juvenile. I’m not morally outraged over the content, I’m just pissed that of all the things that could have been made by these people, Punchline is what we got instead.
Ninja Slayer From Animation
Score: 5/10 (Dropped)
I assume this is just Trigger having a bit of a laugh at everyone else’s expense. No doubt more than a few viewers are busy doing the I-told-you-so dance right about now, but most will probably hate this, particularly if they were expecting another Kill la Kill. Which isn’t to say that Ninja Slayer is the worst anime to have come out over recent years – come on, it’s not even the worst anime to have come out this season – but at only fifteen minutes per episode and with visuals that look like they were cooked up in MS Paint, I can understand and even partially sympathise with the frustration. Personally though, I can’t bring myself to much care either way, since it’s doubtful Ninja Slayer would have been my cup of tea to begin with. However, if you can appreciate this specific brand of tongue-in-cheek humour, classically cheesy ‘ninja’ dialogue, and cartoonishly lurid violence, then it could very well be yours.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Alternative Architecture
By all rights, Ghost in the Shell should now be a terrible experience. The original manga in 1989, the first film in 1995, the excellent TV show in 2002, the TV sequel as well as another film both in 2004, those four Arise OVA-films between 2013-2014… you’d think Ghost in the Shell would now be a husk of its former self. Even this new TV series, a recompilation of the recent Arise films and set roughly three years prior to the events of Stand Alone Complex, is technically just promo work designed to tie in with yet another film coming out this June – but somehow I’m still watching, and this franchise is still somehow good. There’s enough new material here to make Alternative Architecture worthwhile even if you’ve already seen the four films, and since Production I.G very rarely drops the ball, the show predictably looks and sounds fantastic – seriously, that OP alone is a work of art. Yes, it’s very different to Stand Alone Complex, but I think it’s deeply unfair to compare the two. Alternative Architecture is a completely separate story and should be viewed as such; a solid cyberpunk piece in its own right, and one that doesn’t require any familiarity with anything that came before it in order to enjoy.
Kekkai Sensen/Blood Blockade Battlefront
Clearly the fan favourite of the season, Kekkai Sensen seems like it’s going to be a cheerfully hectic and somewhat messy show filled with oddball characters, random explosions, and conversations that might not make a whole lot of sense except in retrospect. The energy of the piece is infectious though – somewhere between Durarara!! and Kill la Kill – with a very chic vibe and easily one of the swankiest soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time. The ED is nearly as awesome as Death Parade’s OP was, and since much of the show matches that laidback yet more than slightly crazy kind of tone, it makes for a pretty fun watch. I’m honestly not convinced that Kekkai Sensen won’t end up as style over substance, but that’s mostly because there’s so much style here that it’s difficult to imagine how the substance will quite manage to keep up. It’s also easy for me to see how the combination of all that fast-paced urban fantasy action and fairly large cast could result in things getting a bit sloppy story-wise (much like the second season of Durarara!!), but odds are that the majority of viewers, possibly myself included, won’t really care so long as the series remains so damn cool.
Ore Monogatari!!/My Love Story!!
Finally, a new romantic comedy I can get behind! I had just assumed from the synopsis and the OP that this show would be about a romance between an ‘ugly’ high school guy and a high school girl who’s initially terrified of him because of his appearance. And that might have been okay, but it was a pleasant surprise to discover that our main female protagonist isn’t actually that judgmental – in fact, Ore Monogatari!! is clearly going to be more about Takeo’s misunderstandings than Rinko’s. Her character might perhaps be a little too saccharine-sweet for my taste, but I’m already warming to Takeo’s, because while he might be a little socially awkward, he’s clearly no pushover and not portrayed as some kind of social pariah. His friendship with the extremely handsome but emotionally distant Makoto is one of the highlights of the story for me so far, but just the fact that Takeo isn’t a brooding asshole and that Rinko has enough guts to stand up for herself is a fantastic starting point.
Arslan Senki/The Heroic Legend of Arslan
Fans of the historical fantasy genre should definitely be keeping an eye on this one, particularly as the setting isn’t pseudo-European for once but is instead heavily inspired by historical Persia. I’m expecting the pacing to be quite slow throughout the series – the synopsis told us more than the first episode did, which felt more like a prologue than anything else – but if episode two is any indication, I doubt Arslan Senki will be lacking in action even so. I’m quite impressed with the general cinematography of the show thus far, which features a lot of sweeping pan shots and some gorgeous background artwork, but it’s still too soon to be able to say much about the story or the characters, both of which for the most part have yet to be revealed. As a whole, Arslan Senki strikes me as a series with plenty of potential, but it remains to be seen whether or not than potential will actually translate into a good series. For its sake though, I badly hope it does, because while it possibly isn’t going to the best anime of the season and definitely won’t be the most popular, it’s the one I’m currently enjoying the most.
I was also looking forward to trying out the new Digimon and Lupin III, but the latter has likely been delayed until later on in the year, and the former definitely has.
Question of the post: Any big surprises this season, either for good or for ill? Which title has impressed you the most so far?