Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2013 (Part II)

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I suppose it’s not surprising that the current season seems like it has really flown past, even though it simultaneously feels as though I’ve only just started most of these shows. With one exception, every new series I picked up for spring 2013 is slated to have a run time of 13 episodes or less – the current financial issues of the anime industry being what they are, this is also probably not surprising. So now that the summer season is creeping up on us, it’s time to see which of the spring titles, if any, have altered my opinion since I last looked at them in my previous anime taste testing post HERE.

aku no hana
Aku no Hana/Flowers of Evil
Original Score: 6/10
New Score: 7/10

The art style of this series has really divided the fandom, although personally, it didn’t and still doesn’t particularly bother me. Mostly I think people need to pipe down already and just watch the damn thing without dwelling further on it – the artwork has already received extensive discussion by plenty of viewers and critics. Quit flogging the dead horse. On a narrative level, Aku no Hana has only drawn me in further. The intensity with which it tells its story and the large amount of raw, ugly emotions driving the plot can make this a difficult show to watch, but I believe the journey has been well worth it (that final scene of episode 7 alone… wow. Just wow). The pacing, which I had some complaints about in my earlier post, has also evened out considerably.

hataraku maou-sama
Hataraku Maou-sama!/The Devil is a Part-Timer!
Original Score: 9/10
New Score: 8/10

I’m continuing to enjoy this series a lot, primarily for the comedic value. In terms of storytelling it’s not the strongest title of the season, although it certainly is the one providing me the most laughs (something of a relief given the serious nature of the rest of this list). Not all of the jokes are spot on, and some have gone down the cliché route despite my hopes that they would have more originality. On the whole though, it’s been a good watch which has maintained a very solid consistency.

karneval
Karneval
Original Score: 5/10
New Score: 5/10

Dropped. As I said in my earlier post, I really wanted to like it. It has all the right ingredients, but something just isn’t right – it’s like a chocolate cake that looks like it’ll be amazing at first glance, only then I ate some and discovered the chocolate was low-grade factory material. What the series should be is deliciously dark and rich in a Kuroshitsuji kind of way; what it actually turned out to be is dismayingly average. Given Karneval’s potential and how much I was looking forward to watching it before it aired, this is my biggest disappointment of the spring season.

red data girl
RDG: Red Data Girl
Original Score: 7/10
New Score: 5/10

I would drop it, but with only 2 episodes to go I figure I might as well grit my teeth and finish. This show isn’t awful by any means – on the contrary, there are still points about it which are deserving of credit. The story itself, which showed a lot of promise during earlier episodes, is unfortunately no longer one of them. A longer series with a tighter focus might have managed to bring the threads of supernatural drama and high school fantasy together, but Red Data Girl has now become a watered-down and somewhat ridiculous version of Hogwarts, interspersed with the occasional decent plot device. As with Karneval, things simply haven’t panned out as well as they should have given its potential, and I can’t imagine that things will drastically improve with what little time it has left.

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Shingeki no Kyojin/Attack on Titan
Original Score: None
New Score: 7/10

Having dropped Karneval, I ended up picking Shingeki no Kyojin up in its place – by far the most hyped-up title of the season. So far, my feelings have been rather mixed. On the one hand, it’s easy to see that this show has numerous good qualities. The soundtrack is excellent, the animation (when the series bothers to show it off instead of throwing around awkward still frames for no apparent reason) is lovely, and there’s a very interesting mix of characters. On the other hand, I’m also unable to completely ignore the flaws. For a start, I’m definitely not a fan of the thick outlines being used for the character designs – why the art directors decided to do this, I have no idea, since it creates a more cartoonish vibe when nearly everything about the series is supposed to be grim and bloody. The scripting also comes across as stilted sometimes, like maybe whoever’s in charge forgot that you can’t just take all the lines from a manga and expect a conversation to flow smoothly when it’s transferred onto screen. These are small niggly details that normally wouldn’t bother me too much, but on a more important level, I haven’t yet really clicked with most of the characters. Personally, I like the fact that Shingeki no Kyojin is pushing its dark and gritty atmosphere by beating the ever-loving crap out of its cast. However, this is a big problem when this starts happening before you’ve had the chance to develop any particular emotional attachment towards anyone. If an anime is going to kill off and hideously maim its characters so ruthlessly then I’d better actually care about them first, otherwise it’s going to be just another soulless bloodfest. Thankfully, episode 8 was where I started to seriously root for our heroes, so my opinion on this aspect may very well change by the end.

suisei no gargantia
Suisei no Gargantia/Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
Original Score: 9/10
New Score: 8/10

This has been another very divisive series, mostly I think because of the fanservice (which I didn’t have a problem with myself, but can see why others did. That’s a whole separate conversation though, so I’ll leave that for now and just focus on the overall show). Suisei no Gargantia has taken over Hataraku Maou-sama! to be my favourite spring anime title, and coming from a non-mecha fan, that’s impressive. I’ve noticed plenty of viewers complaining about the lack of action and slow, slice-of-life pacing, and I can’t argue with that – this is clearly not an action series, and I didn’t imagine it ever would be. In truth, there are one or two areas where I do wish things had been hurried along a little. However, the character development is second to none, and the production quality likewise continues to hold up beautifully. It might not have as much mainstream appeal as the louder or more action-filled titles like Shingeki no Kyojin, but it’s my belief that Suisei no Gargantia has featured some of the best world-building and general storytelling we’ve seen over the past several anime seasons.

Question of the post: Have there been any titles which have really surprised you this spring season, either because they were far better or far worse than you were expecting?

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10 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2013 (Part II)

  1. I ended up sticking with shows that were sequels (Oreimo, Railgun) and Gargantia has been about as good as I was expecting, so not too many surprises there. The one that came out of nowhere for me was Muromi-san, which has turned out to be really good if you like over the top comedy. The only catch is it’s a short episode (about 12 minutes long) series, but I’m enjoying it as much as anything else this season.

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    • I haven’t watched any over the top comedy in a while, so perhaps I’ll give Muromi-san a try if I find some spare time. I don’t think episode length is any real indicator of a show’s quality – if anything, I find it refreshing to see anime come out that don’t fit into the strict 20-something minutes standard once in a while.

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  2. For me, the darkhorse of the season is definitely Vavlrave. I was this close to dropping it after the first two episodes, but then it continually gets better and more entertaining from the third episode onwards.

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    • I confess I haven’t seen anything of that. Not because I assume it’s going to be terrible – just because I’ve barely had time to keep up with the number of weekly anime I’ve already got this season, without adding another title to that list. Maybe someday I’ll get there though.

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  3. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I have to agree about Shingeki no kyojin not investing enough in its characters. When a new minor character is introduced at the beginning of an episode, my first assumption is that they’ll be dead by the end.

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    • I don’t mind character deaths, but if they’re not done right then I just won’t care. Likewise, if I don’t care about a character beforehand, why would I suddenly care when they die? Unfortunately I think this is a mistake that anime in general often makes, and I hope Shingeki no Kyojin doesn’t end up just being another title that kills people off for the shock value. That said, I really did enjoy the latest episode 8 – despite the super awkward still frames, it was probably my favourite episode of the show so far.

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  4. Oh I’ve been wanting to watch all of these shows. I’ve been so busy lately and haven’t had time to catch up. Knowing me, I’ll download them all and watch them in the span of a day or two, social interaction be damned. I just find it refreshing that there are so many seemingly good shows this spring, as opposed to the fall season.

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  5. I think this has been a good season especially when compared to the last one. Aku no Hana, Hataraku Maou-Sama, Yahari Ore no Seishun and Shingeki no Kyojin have all been consistently excellent. Aku no Hana has pretty much been my must-watch since it comes close to presenting the sort of dark psychological school tales seen in films like All About Lily Chou-Chou… Well, maybe not as dark as that, but the direction has a similar rigorous approach that dares to explore a characters emotions with subtlety and not shouting/explosions. I think my only major disappointment has been Devil Survivor.

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    • I agree, this season has been quite strong, particularly in comparison to the last one.
      I only ever watched the first 4 episodes of Devil Survivor – I can think of far worse game to anime adaptations, and I quite liked the artwork, but other than that I wasn’t feeling it at all.

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