Anime Taste Testing: Summer 2013

sutekki
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.

Brothers Conflict
Score: 3/10

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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.

Free!
Score: 7/10

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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
8/10

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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
Score: 5/10

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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
Score: 7/10

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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.

Love Lab
Score: 7/10

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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
Score: 4/10

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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
Score: 6/10

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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.

Watamote
Score: 7/10

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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?

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15 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Summer 2013

  1. I’ve been reading the WataMote manga(don’t know for how long I’ll stick with that though). Anyways, it captured the look and feel of the series pretty well. The voice actors fit the characters so far, only the brother of the main character had a pretty adolescent voice. But overall it seems this will be a pleasant ride.
    Kiniro Mosaic seems pretty decent, cute girls doing cute stuff is always a plus. Still I had some trouble with the engrish, but they did a brave attempt to make it as good as possible so I can only credit them for that.
    Kamisama no Inai, the premise sounded spectacular. I still enjoyed the first episode and I didn’t find the main character’s design out of place.
    I have two feelings with Free: I am not the target audience so I can’t judge it properly and it seems anime is searching for a way to widen the its audience with this show. Which isn’t a problem of course. But it still looked decent. The characters seemed a bit unrealistic, but hey as I said, I’m not the target audience:p
    I’m surprised you haven’t picked up Blood Lad, that first episode was very strong in my opinion. Maybe you could check it out.

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    • Ah, I completely forgot to say anything about the Engrish in Kiniro Mosaic. Still, like you, I think they made a brave attempt there, and there wasn’t anything too cringe-worthy so I have to give it props for that.

      I did try out Blood Lad, but I didn’t even bother writing up a first impressions review in this post just because I felt it was that damn average. Lots of fan pandering with the vampire otaku idea, but nothing actually of substance – especially since a lot of the laughs seem derived from fanservice. I’m not necessarily criticizing that (how can I when Free! is essentially doing the same thing for its female audience), but it’s just not something I find particularly amusing.

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  2. Artemis-chan~~ hedoi yo!! Your rating for BroCon is so low!! I rated it an 11/10 because my heart went doki doki as I stared into the eyes of all 13 hot potential love interes– I mean brothers. And when Onii-chan asked Main Character to sleep with him I was so angry she didn’t! This truly is an anime with developed characters and an innovative plot Kyah~~~.
    But seriously, I made the mistake of watching the first episode with my cousin and she decided she liked my pained commentary that came along with it. Now I have to watch the rest of the show with her because she’s a sadist and has no soul.

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    • I figure if I made it all the way through Amnesia (with the help of weekly back-and-forth commentaries with a friend) then I can make it through Brothers Conflict. Misery loves company I guess. XD

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  3. I’ve started a bunch more things this season compared to last:
    Blood Lad – well the first episode was ok but nothing special. I’ll give it my 4 episode test then keep or drop.
    Danganropa – seemed a bit silly, see where it goes I suppose.
    Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya – will probably drop.
    Free! – I haven’t got around to watching the first epeisode, is it just fanservice for girls or would guys like it too?
    Genshiken Nidaime – Kind of a sucker for this anime, liked the first season too.
    Monogatari Series Second Season – I have a love/hate relationship with the Monogatari series but this one’s started well so yay!
    Uchouten Kazoku – Hopefully no panty shots 🙂
    Watamote – Loving it so far. Especially the OP and that ultra-depressed ED.

    Much enjoyed reading your opinions. Btw who is this anime blogger who’s opinions you very much respect?

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    • I’d certainly say Free! is aimed primarily at the ladies, and no doubt they make up at least 90% or so of the main fanbase. Still, Free! does genuinely have some excellent artwork and animation where the water/swimming itself is concerned, and I think that’s something an anime fan of either gender should be able to appreciate at least on a technical level. I think the obvious comedy parts are well done too – there’s a great sense of timing there.
      I definitely agree with you about the OP and ED for Watamote. I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy that first episode as much as I did.
      There are quite a few anime bloggers I respect, but in this case I was referring specifically to Avvesione over at Avvesione’s Anime Blog. Not only does he write very well, but I’ve noticed that I tend to agree with him when it comes to general taste in anime (or at least, that’s the impression I’ve gotten since I first started following his WordPress a couple of months ago).

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  4. Watamote and Gatchaman Crowds are the definite stand-outs so far because the directors do interesting things and the visuals are genuinely fun to watch. I can see myself sticking with them throughout the entire season. The character designs in Sunday Without God also threw me because I’m not really a fan of loli types but the premise is holding me in place so I’ll give it another few episodes.

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    • I’ll likewise give Sunday Without God at least one more episode before I ditch it, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. Like you said, leaning a bit too far into loli territory there.
      I haven’t watched anything of Gatchaman Crowds – it’s not usually my kind of story. But if I have time, I might check out just the first episode to see how it goes.

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  5. I have to say I’m in total agreement with this list, although I haven’t watched Silver Spoon yet. Seems like a good season for comdey as Love Lab and Watamote were surprises and a good amount of people (not me) did like Servant x Service.

    For shows not mentioned, I really love Monogatari for the writing and art direction, but I understand that’s not a series everyone is going to enjoy. I also think Blood Lad has potential if they can stick with more black humor and less Dragonball jokes.

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    • Silver Spoon is definitely my favourite so far, although of course being only one episode in, I can’t tell if it will stay at my number one spot for the whole season. You’re right, it’s a great season for comedy, although I feel a bit sad at the lack of anything serious or gritty this summer. While a couple of my very favourite anime shows of all time have been comedies, most of them are a bit darker.
      I tried watching Blood Lad but was turned off by the heavy-handed fanservice and obvious otaku jokes. I get that for some people that appeals, but it’s just not my kind of show.

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  6. Oh… Brothers Conflict… Watched the first episode and just couldn’t bring myself to watch anymore of the series! Still having Amnesia flashbacks from earlier this year, haha.

    Was meaning to pick up Silver Spoon, but with all the other shows this season, I kinda skipped it… But, with your recommendation, I definitely will check it out!

    Super disappointed about Servant x Service, especially since I had high hopes for it, being by the same author that brought us Working!

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    • I think Brothers Conflict is actually slightly worse now than Amnesia, lol. XD

      I’m still really enjoying Silver Spoon, but yeah, really disappointed with Servant x Service. I loved Working!!, but mostly all I see in Servant x Service is breast jokes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but I just don’t find it that funny.

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  7. Pingback: Anime Taste Testing: Summer 2013 (Part II) | OTAKU LOUNGE

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