Anime Taste Testing: Summer 2013 (Part II)

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Summer is rolling on, and with the majority of new anime I’m keeping track of this season once again being between 11 and 13 episodes in length, it’s time to check in with them again now that we’ve reached the rough halfway point. It’s been a particularly rewarding season so far for comedy and moe fans, while more serious fare has taken a back seat – with numerous ‘cute girls doing cute things’ type shows making a strong showing in the new line-up, there have been comparatively few darker titles. So, which anime have I changed my mind on since first episode impressions HERE, and which have remained exactly the same? Let’s top up the water bottle, crank up the aircon and find out.

Brothers Conflict
Original Score: 3/10
Current Score: 3/10

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The fact that I’m still watching this is a testament to just how amusing I find reverse-harem train wrecks. I’m not quite as amused as I was with Amnesia (because as we all know, I find being locked in cages for my own protection extremely romantic), but it’s a near thing. On the plus side, at least our female protagonist has a name this time around, and I can see how her hobby of playing video games could be mistaken for actual character development (shocking, I know). That being said, I still stand by what I wrote after watching the first episode: this series has almost nothing going for it – unless of course you enjoy a stupidly large cast of bishounen throwing themselves at a high school girl and her rabid squirrel.

Free!
Original Score: 7/10
Current Score: 8/10

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Oh, Free!. You are so incredibly silly, yet so incredibly addictive. Needless to say, I’m still enjoying this show immensely. I won’t deny that part of the reason in the fanservice – I think Gou (sorry, Kou) becomes the audience insert character in that most of her time is spent in squealing about how amazing everyone’s triceps are and how fabulous everyone looks in a swimsuit. That said, this series also has some genuinely hilarious moments, thanks to a great sense of comedic timing and good use of self-referential parody. KyoAni practically helped invent the moe genre, so you can’t tell me they’re not poking fun at themselves on purpose. The animation and artwork also continue to be pretty top-notch.

Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou/Day Break Illusion
Current Score: 6/10

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I ended up watching this after dropping a handful of other titles I had originally planned to watch, and I’m not yet sure if that decision has paid off or not. I still don’t like the character designs at all – in fact, I actively dislike them – and the story, while actually pretty interesting, seems to have turned into a monster-of-the-week style of narrative. I do think there are some aspects of this series that are good, but I’m not convinced they’ll be good enough to be worth my time. If Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou had been a longer series then I almost certainly would have dropped it by now. As it stands, I’ll be giving it one more episode before making a final choice about whether to see it all the way through, though I’m not holding my breath.

Gin no Saji/Silver Spoon
Original Score: 8/10
Current Score: 8/10

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As you can see, I’m also still very much enjoying Gin no Saji. I don’t really have much to add from what I said the first time around; after all the moe in the line-up this season (Free! included), it’s pleasant to watch a show that has zero fanservice and whose appeal lies solely in the story and characterisation, and its tone is consistent enough that if you enjoyed the first episode, you know you’ll enjoy the rest. No doubt it may come across as dull for people on the lookout for any kind of action or even roll-around-on-the-floor comedy, but personally I rather enjoy the more laid-back feel of this series. Its comedy is good, but quite gentle, and I’d probably classify it more as slice-of-life than anything else.

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi/Sunday Without God
Original Score: 5/10
Current Score: Dropped

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After forcing my way through 3 episodes, I ended up leaving this one behind. Disappointing, because of all the anime coming out this season it had what I thought was the most promising storyline, but it just didn’t live up to its potential for me.

Kiniro Mosaic/Golden Mosaic
Original Score: 7/10
Current Score: Dropped

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I thought I’d end up following this one through until the end, because the first few episodes were actually pretty funny and the whole thing was charming as hell. Later episodes grew much more tedious however, with the story essentially just becoming a series of small skits in which the audience is supposed to laugh at how gosh darn cute our characters are for being so [insert character quirk here]. Plainly put, it stopped being funny and started relying on the moe factor alone, which simply isn’t enough to keep me entertained. Yes, I get it, everyone and everything is adorable. It’s so adorable my teeth were almost rotting away from the sweetness. Too much cute and too little substance for me, I’m afraid.

Love Lab
Original Score: 7/10
Current Score: 7/10

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This is another very consistent series, with at least one or two good laughs in every episode and plenty of random hijinks that you wouldn’t think would be all that funny, but are actually timed well enough to be hilarious. It’s made all the better by our characters, who probably should be moe but are usually dumb enough to be just plain amusing. Riko keeps digging herself into a deeper and deeper hole, Suzu takes shy to a whole new level of awkwardness, Eno is a fairly good parody of an ojou-sama, Sayo is a giant troll, and Maki… looks surprisingly attractive in that male school uniform.

Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist
Original Score: 4/10
Current Score: Dropped

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I have nothing to add after my previous comments. Another big disappointment, and very promptly dropped after the first 3 episodes.

Servant x Service
Original Score: 6/10
Current Score: Dropped

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Again, I have nothing much to add after last time. The animation was really nice, but unfortunately almost none of the jokes worked for me. I get it, Lucy has large wobbly breasts . Lol.

Watamote
Original Score: 7/10
Current Score: 7/10

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While a few jokes miss the mark from time to time (and boy did that train groping episode get people talking), Watamote tends to hit right on target in most ways. I can certainly see why a lot of anime fans aren’t enamored with this series – with Tomoko being such a hopeless case and running into problems borne from her own blatant stupidity, some of the situations she finds herself in really are cringe-worthy. It’s not a comfortable show to watch, and it’s incredibly easy just to feel embarrassed for our main character, who you just know is never going to get any better. The barbed satire makes it all worthwhile on my side of the screen though, and regardless of how spectacularly Tomoko manages to screw up, I think Watamote has some rather intelligent things to say behind all its razor-sharp parody. The visuals are interesting as well – I can’t tell if they’re avant-garde or just another way of poking fun at itself, but they definitely work either way.

Question of the post:Now that we’ve gotten this far, what’s your number one show of the summer line-up, and what’s been your biggest disappointment? Are you a big moe/comedy fan, or are you chomping at the bit to watch something darker?

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23 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Summer 2013 (Part II)

  1. I’ll wait for the second half of Shingeki no Kyoujin to finish before I marathon the second half of the season. Watamote looks promising so I’ll wait for it to finish airing as well before running through the entire series. As for the other series mentioned here, Free, Love Lab, and Servant x Service are being actively followed by me.

    I am still following Servant x Service because for one thing, The Office in the anime form is refreshing. I may have to terminate myself if I get suckered into another comedy series based on middle/high school life in Japan. Also, Episode 5 effectively shows why dating someone you see everyday at work is a terrible idea; a nice juxtaposition with how different that is from dating someone as a student.

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    • I was actually planning to drop Shingeki no Kyoujin for a while there, because I was sick to death of the pacing and a lot of the scripting was just plain terrible. Then episodes 16, 17, and 18 were suddenly far, far better – and now with only 7 episodes left to go of the series, it doesn’t make sense not to watch the rest.

      I wish I could like Servant x Service, because I do definitely appreciate the fact that it’s about adults in an office as opposed to teenagers at school. My patience wore thin fairly quickly though, because a) even though everyone’s supposedly an adult, they still act like teenagers and b) breast jokes just aren’t all that funny to me. If a comedy series doesn’t make me laugh, it’s generally not worth the effort.

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  2. Number one show, thats pretty tough. There were a lot of shows with potential, a lot I didn’t know what to expect and others that I didn’t even bother. That said, I think my number one this season is WataMote. I liked the manga, the chapters I’ve read so far at least.

    Kamisama had the most potential out of every show, but it wasn’t as dark as I expect it to be. I wanted a show that portrayed a more dark state of the world. Instead it’s really colorful, contradictory to the dark theme it embodies.

    Free! actually does a good job, but what else to expect from KyoAni. I’m almost emberrased I’m entertained by Fate/Kaleid xd Her character design is beyond cute. I don’t care for the story, but heck the designs are cute. Still I’m not sure if its a good transition from the Fate/Zero series.

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    • I agree, Kamisama probably had the most potential in terms of general plot. Like you though, I wish it had been darker. I wanted something rich and layered, not another cutesy show with only pretensions of being dark.

      Watamote is definitely in my top handful of new shows this season. While Free! is now my favourite new series, likely followed by Gin no Saji and Love Lab, Watamote isn’t too far behind.

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  3. If there’s anything I have to say about the list presented before me, it’s that I really do regret that I haven’t had time to pick up Silver Spoon, and that I’m sad you didn’t enjoy Servant X Service, which I’ve really enjoyed.

    With all these good comedies airing this season, and all the shows I’ve stuck with being consistently entertaining, it’s hard to pick a top one. Not counting Monogatari which I see as a sequel, I’d say week to week I most look forward to Servant X Service. That still puts it barely in the top 5 of what I’m currently watching with Attack on Titan, Majestic Prince, and Monogatari ahead of it, and Symphogear G right behind.

    And the list also answers your other question. With Attack on Titan, I’m getting enough of my “darkness” in anime watching out of the way for now. Don’t get me wrong, if another Shiki comes along, I’m all for it! But surprisingly enough, I’m very happy with all these comedies and laid back slice-of-life shows.

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    • I only wish I could have liked Servant x Service more. As another blogger pointed out, office workers makes for an excellent change to school kids. Unfortunately my problem lies not in the story or setting, but in the humour. I’ll readily admit that that’s purely a matter of taste though, and probably has little to do with the objective quality of Servant x Service.

      That’s a good point you make about Attack on Titan making up enough of the ‘darkness’ this season. That show is serious enough for several titles. I’d be lying if I said AoT completely satisfied me though – which has nothing to do with how dark it is and everything to do with poor scripting, patchy pacing, and questionable production values. Still, the most recent 3 episodes were a giant step above those that preceded it, so I suppose I can no longer complain too much on that front.

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  4. I can sort of understand why you drop Servant X Service and Kiniro Mosaic. Not everyone is into these sort of shows. My number one show would be Gifuu Doudou!: Kanetsugu to Keiji. To me, it is very underrated. Sure, the character designs are questionable and the soundtrack is not noticeable, but at least it fleshed out the point of reminiscence and theme of righteousness very well.

    I don’t care whether a show is comedic or dark as long as they do it right.

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    • Fair enough. Personally, I like to have a balance between funny and serious shows if I can – there are a lot of comedy and cute anime that I love, but too much sweetness makes me feel unsatisfied.

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  5. Hmm… not really seeing anything with my name on it this season. Moe isn’t griping, and I can’t say I’m excited one way or another for male-moe. : / I think I had enough kicks and giggles with Amnesia, but rather than for the characters I really was watching that one to see how the plot would work itself out! Since I mentioned to a coworker that I had seen it, she went out of her way to give me an Amnesia badge she got in a bubble machine. XD

    Curiosity got the better of me and I poked a bit at the Watamote manga (which I imagine the anime would be pretty similar to–hardly much I see worth deviating from). I think you’re right about it having some intelligence hiding behind all the cringe-worthy parody, and I was rather enjoying it until the train groping chapter I accidentally found myself at. I don’t know if it was the same in the anime, but as a naginata-ka, that was just… just no. >_<;

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    • Bwahaha, what character does the badge have on it? Does it depict our nameless female character meeting Ikki in the alleyway? Because if so, I MUST HAVE IT.

      Yeah, the Watamote train groping episode had a lot of people talking. I don’t think being a naginata-ka was necessary for people to cringe – and not in an amused way.

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      • No, it’s just a chibi of the most sane but least ship-able boy of the bunch, Akira Ishida. I know he has a name, but in my head he’s just Akira Ishida. After all, some reverse-harems are really just masks for the seiyuu to wear.

        I think Genki Jason worded it well in a later comment–Watamote is gripping because it’s easy to relate to Tomoko’s foolish overreactions, which is why a situation like that is even harder to watch. Not that I want to see that much of that kind of situation in any genre towards any character. >_>;;

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  6. I’m still watching a most of the things I started this season.
    Blood Lad is on hold, I haven’t seen it in weeks (shows my great enthusiasm lol)
    Watamote is an odd one. On one hand, it’s funny, the main reason why I keep watching it. On the other, Tomoko is 1) often a total bitch and 2) I feel really sorry for her and it makes me feel bad. But I still like it and will probably keep watching it.
    I picked up Free!, and despite the large quantities of triceps I’m really enjoying it, one of my favourites this season.
    Danganronpa is ok I suppose. I’m not up to date with it but I’ll give it a few more. That bear pisses me off.
    Still getting my nerdy fix with Genshiken :-).
    My favourite for this season is Gin no Saji. It’s just really peaceful and fun and I haven’t really watched a show like that in a while.
    Monogatari is fairly good, I thought last weeks ep was sweet.
    I’m also watching Uchouten Kazoku, I’m not as much of a fan of this series as many anibloggers seem to be, but it’s still sorta cool.

    On a different note, I’m glad Shingeki has picked up again recently. I prefer darker anime to moe ones so I’m happy that Shingeki is still around. Hoping for something darker next season.

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    • I’m also really happy that Shingeki has picked up again. I was on the verge of dropping it, mostly because of its terrible pacing issues but also not helped by some terrible scripting. The most recent 3 episodes have been a lot better though, and I’m actually looking forward again to seeing how things resolve themselves. They’ve got a nice tension going on right now, which will hopefully will keep up until the end of the series.

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  7. Attack on Titan and Watamote are the anime that have the biggest effect on me. I can genuinely say that when a new episode is up I stop whatever I am doing and watch it with a sense of excitement.

    Attack on Titan has had three barn-storming episodes and 18 where they blew the budget on the female titan wrecking everything had me shouting out and cringing.

    Watamote is more troubling simply because the humour and the situations always hit the mark. We’re meant to feel sorry for Tomoko even when she’s being foolish and while she overreacts to things we can still relate to where it all comes from.

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    • I definitely agree, these last three episode of Attack on Titan have been excellent. I was about to drop the series due to crap pacing and cringe-worthy scripting, so these recent episodes have come along at just the right time for me. The tension as it stands now is great – here’s hoping the creators can keep it up.

      You’re right, and it’s always the more realistic shows, or the ones in which we can relate to characters the most, that end up being almost painful to watch. While Tomoko is a blown up parody, I’m sure everyone has at one time or another been responsible for their own troubles. I don’t think Watamote hits the mark every single time, but at this point it’s a near thing.

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  8. Of the new shows Love Lab and Watamote are still my favorites, which I would have NEVER guessed at the start of the season. Love Lab has definitely been solid, consistent fun, and has somehow managed to avoid most of the pitfalls those types of shows can fall into. WataMote has much higher upside when it’s good, but I’m also worried it’s starting to repeat itself.

    As far as the visual style for WataMote, the director is Shin Oonuma, who is an ex-Shaft disiciple who left and formed his own studio. So you can kind of see how working with the notorious Akiyuki Shinbo has influenced him. He used very similar visual tricks in Baka and Test, so I’m pretty sure that’s just how he operates and not a parody.

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    • I would never have guessed that about Love Lab or Watamote either. They weren’t on my original watch-list, so I only started watching after seeing some first impression reviews by other WordPress anime bloggers that I follow. I guess it just goes to show that you can’t judge an anime based solely on its plot synopsis.

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  9. Excellent post! And thanks as always for liking my own. 🙂 Castle in the Sky was awesome! Hahaha, the girl in the Watamote picture (Tomoko, if I have this right?) reminds me SO much of this picture of Minatsuki from the (outside of this picture, EXTREMELY GORY) anime Deadman Wonderland. http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110527155655/deadmanwonderland/images/1/19/Minatsuki_Sadistic.png

    To be honest, I actually kind of want to check out Free!, as I’ve heard very good things about it. Take care, and God bless, friend. =)

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    • And thank you. 🙂

      I remember watching Deadman Wonderland a while back. I liked some of the ideas but the series just felt like it was trying way too hard to be cool. I don’t mind blood and gore, but only if it has a point other than ‘because then our viewers will think we’re stylish.’

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      • I don’t mind it either, but my empathy kicked in WAY too much at the sight of watching a child cry his eyes out at the sight of other people being gored. I didn’t come back until several episodes later, which (turns out) was the end of the show. Thankfully that episode was more reasonable and was pretty good overall.

        But yes, I didn’t honestly understand some of the stylistic decisions on the show. What was the point of Shiro (the floating, pale-skinned girl) looking like she did, with the spiraling red stripes and the outfit that looks way too much like her skin tone? Other than that, the concept (essentially Unreal Tournament or the like but with a resource-saving and conservation aspect, like the Hunger Games but on death row) would potentially make an interesting video game.

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  10. I’ll begin with your questions, then move on to pick on some of your comments (I’m such a big meanie!):

    My top two shows of the season (sorry, can’t pick 1) are Genshiken Nidaime and Gatchaman Crowds. Many shows had stand-out episodes, but these two shows had been consistently really good. Gatchaman Crowds gives me a lot to think about, while I also enjoy watching the action on screen, and Genshiken Nidaime shows what a slice of life show can be, and what a slice of life and character-based comedy can and very rarely is. I recommend both heartily.

    My biggest disappointment is Danganronpa. I like shows of this genre, I even didn’t hate the not very good Deadman Wonderland and actually enjoyed Btoom! for being just another show in this genre I like, the genre of psychological thriller pressure cookers. This show though doesn’t really give any real time to exploring psychological and emotional woes, and the characters are basically all gags…
    My other disappointment is Blood Lad, where the disappointment comes from two angles – one is that the premise really drew me in, being a NIS fan, and the other is that the show could be good rather than mediocre quite easily, if only it gave up on some of its nonsense…

    Now, the picking-on poor Artemis part (<3):

    I didn't really feel like Gou was my insert-character, unsurprisingly, you're just a fujoshi 😛 Or more seriously, I actually find her squealing about the pectorals and triceps annoying, and break whatever flow the show does have – fan-service that isn't passive where you enjoy what you see as you watch the show, but fan-service that stops the flow of the show.
    I guess that's also why you were disappointed in Makai Ouji, for expecting the same. I wonder if I should commend or pity you on making it to episode 3, though episode 2 was better than 1, I had a really hard time motivating myself to ever start that 2nd episode…

    I'm a tad surprised by what you said of Kiniro Mosaic – unlike Love Lab which tries to be funny (and for me fails), I never felt Kiniro Mosaic even tries to be anything than pure unadulterated and unfiltered moe.

    I also feel there's a lot of action in Gin no Saji, it's just not the "people get hurt" kind. Things are happening all the time. Also, there's no fan-service? Did you see that tractor? And of course, we can’t forget the Holstein club! 🙂

    Also, I don’t feel this season is lacking in non-comedies/moe that are worthy of being watched, just your list is a tad uneven 🙂

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    • The reason I think that Gou is the insert character is because she reminds me a lot of the insert characters for reverse harem and yaoi shows – I’m thinking especially of fujoshi such as Renge from Ouran High School Host Club. It’s a pattern that I’ve seen so many times in so many anime now that Gou just seems like one more to add to that list, since she doesn’t have anything much to differentiate her.

      Makai Ouji disappointed me because it was just a bad show – generic production values at best, characters whose ‘quirks’ only served to make them more annoying, and poor storytelling in general despite an otherwise promising plot.

      As for Love Lab, I honestly think it’s funny. Not everyone does, which is fine – that’s purely a matter of personal taste, and I won’t begrudge anyone their own if it differs from mine. I do feel that Kiniro Mosaic is trying to be funny though, in much the same way as other moe skit shows are. It keeps obviously separating its scenes out to show off that hilarious moment in each of them – the main problem being that I don’t find any of them especially funny. That’s not the reason I gave the show up though – I just got sick of the moe. It alone just isn’t enough to make me watch something all the way through, although again, I have no issue with those people that find it more entertaining than I do.

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      • Gou – that was a joke, about me being a heterosexual male 🙂

        Makai Ouji – I dunno, disappointment means expectations. I am sure I had expectations too, since that show was one of my initial crop of watched shows, but I can’t recall why I expected it to be any good now. That first episode had been so bad as to erase any hopes I’ve had, retroactively.

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