Sitting in my room with the aircon on full blast and a pile of kakigori ice blocks sitting in my freezer – it must be summer! And what better way to distract yourself from back sweat and the aggressive sound of cicadas outside than amusing yourself with some brand spanking new anime? This season has already given me a few surprises; some of them good, others… not quite so much. Here’s what the line-up has brought me so far.
I predicted that this would be the guilty pleasure of the summer in much the same way that Amnesia was back in the winter season, and I’d say I was on the mark with that one – it’s about on the same level as Amnesia, meaning mostly that it’s terrible in nearly every way. This doesn’t surprise me since aside from its general low production qualities, having 13 guys in the cast is asking for trouble even in a reverse-harem. I’m mostly watching this because I can have a good chortle at just how bad everything is, but that aside, this show really has nothing going for it.
Ah, my most anticipated title of the summer line-up. If I had to describe Free! in just one word, that word would doubtless be ‘silly’. Yes, Free! is a plainly ridiculous show, but you know what? I don’t care. My reasons for this are twofold: first, I’m there for the eye candy and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Whatever else this show may be, it’s got gorgeous animation and artwork, which certainly doesn’t hurt when my main motivation for watching is the man-moe. Second, the show is clearly poking fun at itself. I generally loathe anime that are stupidly over the top yet still attempt to take themselves seriously, but the good thing about Free! is that it knows full well that it’s ridiculous and just runs with it. I don’t believe for a second that it’s trying to be particularly deep or meaningful, and I definitely don’t believe that it takes itself for a hardcore sports anime – swimming just happens to be the backdrop, and a convenient excuse for the aforementioned eye candy. (That said, as a competitive swimmer myself, I’m still very much appreciating the visual realism of the swimming. While clearly not one of the best titles to come out of KyoAni, Free! does what it does extremely well.)
Gin no Saji/Silver Spoon
After the multitude of cutesy moe shows coming out this season, Gin no Saji is a very welcome breath of fresh air. So far this is actually my favourite show of the summer – it’s funny without trying too hard, and it feels genuine but not like its attempting to shove a moral of the story down my throat. I really have nothing else to say except to encourage people to give it a try, because it seems sadly under-watched in comparison to many of the other new summer titles out there.
Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi/Sunday Without God
Sadly, it looks as though I’ll be dropping this one fairly soon. The premise itself sounded like it could have been amazing, but so far I’m feeling incredibly underwhelmed. I’ll also admit that while some of the artwork is quite nice, I’m really not a fan of our main character’s design. She’s supposed to be 12 but looks several years younger thanks to her head size, which even for anime is way too large for her body. I get that this is likely in an effort to be moe, but it reminds me a little too much of the bobble-headed character designs of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.
Kiniro Mosaic/Golden Mosaic
I’ll likely be following this one all the way through simply because it looks like it’s going to be a sweet story with a few light-hearted humorous moments thrown in. I was expecting more comedy than straight-up cute, but it’s actually the other way around – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I had a lingering fear that the anime might revolve around the whole ditzy otaku archetype that foreigners living in Japan are sometimes saddled with (i.e. haha stupid otaku gaijin material), but so far it’s more plain adorableness than anything else.
Now this is a surprise. I hadn’t intended to view this series at all, but after a first impressions review from another anime blogger whose opinions I very much respect, I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did – far from being a cheap show whose comedy routine relies on panty shots and pseudo schoolgirl lesbians, this is actually a title with some excellently timed jokes that are based mostly on intelligent scripting and some decent characterisation. At the end of the day it’s still going to be one of those ‘cute girls doing cute things’ anime, but at least it’s doing it in a way that’s genuinely amusing.
Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist
A big disappointment for me – I was anticipating something rich and dark and maybe a bit creepy like Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler, and what I got was mostly forced comedy and uninspired fan pandering. It’s a real shame because it would have been lovely to see a strong fantasy series in amongst all these slice-of-life shows, but this one’s definitely a dud.
Servant x Service
Another disappointment I’m afraid. I like the OP which has some fantastic animation and a catchy tune, but after that it all goes downhill. This isn’t a terrible series by any means, but it’s decidedly average – whereas Working!! usually had me rolling around on the floor at least once or twice an episode, Servant x Service just isn’t all that funny to me. First episode in and we’re already relying on b00b jokes and pick-up lines for our laughs, while episode two gave us a couple of cheap cosplay gags and a tsundere with a brother complex in order to introduce some character ‘quirkiness’. Sorry, but that’s just not good enough to keep me watching.
Next to Love Lab, this is my other pleasant surprise of the season. Again, I wasn’t planning on watching but am happy I have it a shot. What I expected was generic moe with plenty of ‘witty’ and ‘orignal’ otaku in-jokes, but what I got was sharp satire and some pop culture references jokes that are not only well timed but don’t suffer from being drawn out or explained by the characters. In fact, although Watamote isn’t and probably won’t be my favourite new summer show, it’s probably had the best opening episode of any anime series I’ve seen in a long time.
Question of the post: What are you definitely watching/not watching this season? Has what you’ve seen of the summer anime line-up so far matched up with your expectations, or have you been surprised?