Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2013

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Despite it still being unseasonably warm (or so all my co-workers and neighborhood obaachans tell me), the fall anime line-up is now well under way and so far looks to be extremely promising. Thankfully, the ‘cute girls doing cute things’ shows don’t seem to be as dominant this season, so I’m looking forward to shows that pack a little more punch this time around. Let’s take a quick look at those titles that piqued my curiosity, shall we?

Coppelion
Score: 5/10

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Might as well get the disappointments out of the way first. Coppelion has an interesting synopsis – twenty years after a nuclear meltdown has transformed Tokyo into a ghost town, the Self-Defense Force have dispatched three girls from special rescue unit Coppelion to search for survivors – but unfortunately, the actual material doesn’t live up to its premise. Ham-fisted and cliché melodrama seem to be the name of the game here, and I’ve already more than had my fill of the artwork, which features incredibly thick black outlines for the character designs (although the backgrounds are undeniably lovely). I salute the anime for the lack of fanservice thus far, given the tiny skirts, but am nonetheless unable to take the idea of high school girls sent into dangerous radiation zones with any seriousness whatsoever. Dropped.

Diabolik Lovers
Score: 4/10

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I’m not going to make any moral statements about this one. The anime is based on a video game aimed primarily at women that includes BDSM themes, so if this kind of thing isn’t up your alley then the solution is quite simple: don’t watch. I took a peek primarily out of morbid curiosity (there are very few reverse-harem anime titles out there revolving around the supernatural), and while I can’t say with any honesty that Diabolik Lovers is good, my experiences won’t scar me for life or anything – frankly, I’ve seen far worse. At the very least, production qualities are actually significantly above last season’s Brothers Conflict reverse-harem offering. Of course, the story execution is about what you’d expect, so dropped.

Meganebu!
Score: 5/10

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Well, the idea is… interesting, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing. Like last season’s Free!, Meganu-bu! seems to be aiming to capitalise on the male moe fad, and to be fair it’s not completely terrible. The ‘plot’, revolving around five glasses-wearing high school boys and their glasses club, isn’t exactly challenging, so any entertainment to be had here would have to be strictly cheap comedy – which is exactly what’s delivered. The visuals are quite interesting and certainly pack a wallop (maybe too much of one at that, given that I only just managed to finish the first episode without having a seizure). Story-wise though, while parts of the show did have me cracking a smile once or twice, I mostly feel like the anime is just trying way, way too hard to be funny; never an endearing quality. Dropped.

Gingitsune
Score: 6/10

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The synopsis for this reminded me very much of Kamichu!, one of the sweetest anime titles I’ve ever watched, so I was interested to see if Gingitsune would hold the same kind of charm. So far, it’s cute enough but not particularly gripping. There’s nothing wrong with the story, which follows the daughter of an Inari shrine priest who has inherited the ability to see the shrine’s fox spirit named Gintaro, but there’s also nothing to really make this slice-of-life fantasy series really stand out in any way. I’ll hang on for one more episode, because I find the relationship between Gintaro and our main character rather adorable, but otherwise nearly everything about this show so far practically screams of cutesy averageness.

Magi: The Kingdom of Magic
Score: 6/10

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I still have conflicting feelings about the first season of this show – mostly because although I very much liked the initial half, I got sick to death of the Alibaba angst-fest and stereotypical shounen battle action during the second. That said, I enjoyed things overall just enough to make me want to watch more when I saw that season two was due to air, and I can see how I’d be able to continue my enjoyment of the series with a nudge in the right direction… namely, a turn back towards the solid adventure themes that characterised the first handful of episodes of season one. Since Aladdin is due to head off on his own in search of some personal enlightenment, I’d say that’s a good start. However, only time will tell if this turns out to be any good, or else just an Arabian Nights-themed version of Dragon Ball Z.

Kyoukai no Kanata
Score: 7/10

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Hi again, KyoAni. You entertained me immensely with Free! and wowed everyone with your animation prowess once again, so let’s see what you have lined up for us this time. Oh, a dark fantasy you say? Colour me intrigued. Actually, I have yet to see any particular evidence of the ‘dark’ part, but at the very least, Kyoukai no Kanata delivers all the things that fans have come to expect from any KyoAni series – appealing character designs, wonderfully fluid animation, and all manner of witty dialogue. While the plot is very different, stylistically I think this one has a fair bit in common with Hyouka, so if you liked that, then I imagine you’ll almost certainly like Kyoukai no Kanata as well. I don’t really have much more to say about it so far, since the story hasn’t progressed enough for me to tell whether or not it’ll truly deliver in the plot department. For now though, despite one or two annoyances, it’s a solid enough show that I don’t want to drop it unless it gives me a good reason to.

Galilei Donna
Score: 7/10

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One of the two shows this season to air on the noitaminA programming block, Galilei Donna is so far a pleasant mystery – pleasant because it’s already a fun ride, but a mystery because I’m not completely sold on the actual story or its characters. According to the synopsis, our three female Italian astronomers and descendants of Galileo are going to end up on international wanted lists, and judging by the first couple of episodes we’re going to be dealing with some… um, creative mecha influences. Other than that, it’s difficult to tell how and where things will go. The production qualities make this show a joy to experience though, so I have no problem watching more while I wait to find out.

Samurai Flamenco
Score: 7/10

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The other noitaminA title of the season, which had me rearing to watch as soon as I learned that it would be directed by Omori Takahiro (also at the helm of shows such as Baccano!, Durarara!!, Natsume Yuujinchou, and Princess Jellyfish). The superhero themes here put me in mind of the likes of Kick-Ass and Tiger & Bunny, although clearly with its own vision in mind, and that suits me just fine for the time being. Again, some great artwork and animation going on here, and hopefully a story with some boldness and creativity to match, although it’s a little too early to call that one. Between this and Galilei Donna though, I’d say that Samurai Flamenco is the more solid of the two.

Kill la Kill
Score: 8/10

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This series already had a substantial amount of buzz weeks before the first episode aired, primarily because it’s the first original anime to be released by Trigger – the studio founded by a couple of former Gainax employees – and directed by Imaishi Hiroyuki, written by Nakashima Kazuki, and features character designs by Sushio (all three of whom worked together previously on the extremely popular Gurren Lagann). And comparing Kill la Kill to Gurren Lagann (or Gainax’s FLCL and/or Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt) is easy to do – the story, a fantasy action piece taking place in a high school where students possess uniforms that give them superhuman fighting abilities – is obviously different, but it’s that same style of crazy, no doubt about it. Actually, ‘crazy’ is a mild way of putting it; Kill la Kill is more like crazy on speed. It has zero sense of shame and zero interest in pulling its punches – every single thing about it is amped up to truly ludicrous heights. The fights, the fanservice, the plot, is all taken to extreme levels of rapid-pace what-the-fuckery, and so far, I’m finding it addictive as all hell. That fanservice alone would probably either come across as either offensive or simply pathetic in any other situation, but Kill la Kill is just so cartoonishly campy and over-the-top that I don’t think anyone, least of all the creators, could take it seriously. However, I will note that just because an anime is ridiculous doesn’t mean it has nothing meaningful to say.

Pupa
Score: ??

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Well, this definitely looks promising, in a very dark and twisted way. It’s being listed as a fantasy, horror, and psychological “life-and-death sibling” story about a boy and his younger sister, who is transformed into some brand of demonic human-eating creature. I dare you to watch the trailer and not be creeped out, at least a little. It’s not that I’m a sucker for horror, but I do feel that given many of the titles from the previous anime season, I’ve overdosed a bit on cutesy shows recently. I want something with a bit of serious substance to it, and Pupa sounds like it just deliver that in spades. Rumour has it that Pupa has been delayed because the creators are refusing to censor the content – which of course will almost certainly result in more people now wanting to watch it, if only out of curiosity.

Question of the post: Do you think the fall anime season is better or worse than the summer season? What’s been your favourite and/or least favourite title so far?

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19 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2013

  1. Kyoukai no Kanata is by far the highlight of each week so far for me. Kyoani’s stuff almost always looks and sounds just fantastic.. I also like how you’re just sort of thrust into that world without a ton of exposition setting everything up. The nature of the world they’ve created seems to speak for itself.
    Gingitsune gives off Hanasaku Iroha vibes for me, for some reason which I cannot really put a finger on. Spunky female protagonist maybe?
    (I’m also enjoying Nagi no Asukara, but I’ll watch pretty much anything if I get to hear Hanazawa Kana voice one of the characters…)
    Without sounding too overtly dismissive, I’m finding the wait (at least at this point) for new episodes less stressful than it was with the Summer season, although during the Summer there were only 4-5 series that were appealing to me, where as every single day of the week has at least one show for me to look forward to with the Autumn season.
    Quantity over quality? I wouldn’t really say that, because I’ve been enjoying 90% of what I’ve been watching, but it’s still what immediately comes to mind.

    (And Pupa seems interesting in a morbid way, but I’m not one for gore, so I’m not likely to watch it.)

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    • I gave some thought to also picking up Nagi no Asukara, but ended up deciding it against it – mostly because if/when Pupa comes along and it’s as interesting as the trailer looks, that will give me 5 fall titles that I’ll almost certainly be watching through to the end. I may still give Nagi no Asukara a try a bit later on, but for now I’m happy enough (and busy enough) with what I’ve already got.

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  2. I’ve been watching Kill la Kill (mainly because of Trigger.) I can’t help but find myself disappointed, admittedly because I can’t help but compare it to Gurren Lagann. While the two shows are vastly different and it’s not entirely fair to compare them side by side, it still feels like Kill la Kill is trying to pick up where Gurren Lagann left off in intensity–zaniness too, I suppose–instead of carving out its own place.

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    • Hmm… I think I’ll have to reserve judgment on that one. Episode 3 only just aired after all, and I don’t even think a total episode number count has been released yet. I also think that this latest episode had quite a bit to say, although of course, it’s impossible to know whether or not the rest of the series will follow through on that.

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  3. The summer season wasn’t particulary mindboggling. The shows were pretty weak overall. If you count Shingeki no Kyojin in, then that was the show of the season, despite its shortcomings every now and again.
    The show I fancy most now in the fall season is Galilei Donna. I like the characters and the overall setting that promise some interesting plot. There seems to be some big mystery going on and I wonder what that might be. I also like Non Non Biyori. The visuals are great and the setting is relaxing. You have to love the slice of life genre themed anime or else it won’t be your cup of tea.

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    • I agree, the summer anime season, while pleasant and occasionally surprising, didn’t make any big waves for me. Gin no Saji, Love Lab, and (ahem) Free! were the only three titles I really enjoyed all the way through, and even they didn’t leave me absolutely breathless or anything. In comparison, I think this current fall season already has a lot more up its sleeve, at least as far as story plots are concerned.

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  4. I’m here for Samurai Flamenco, myself. I’m a sucker for heroes and a big fan of the director, and the first two episodes are 100% charm without seeming forced or moe-pandering. It seems like I’ve only the time to watch one or two shows a season these days, so that’s where I’m hedging my bets. Pupa does look interesting, though. I’d almost forgotten about it since seeing the initial synopsis. I’ll have to put my ear back to the ground.
    A good rundown here as far as hitting gut feelings. I’ve been staying away from Kill la Kill until I can watch it at a pace. If it’s anything like Gurren Lagann I’ll need to plow through and get sucked in, because sitting back with some logic does not help this kind of show.

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    • At this point, I’d say that Samurai Flamenco is easily my second-favourite title of the new season, beaten out only by Kill la Kill. You put it well – it’s charming and compelling but doesn’t insult anyone’s intelligence and doesn’t fall back on the established power of moe to tell its story. And I trust the people behind it to keep it that way.
      I think that if I had to pick any one title that Kill la Kill was most like in terms of general style, it would be FLCL more than Gurren Lagann. I view the former as being crazier than the latter though, so you may be right to wait until you can watch things at a faster pace than once a week.

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  5. I always look forward to these posts and your thoughts on it. I haven’t started any new fall series since I am still catching up on some that I need to finish. But I am definitely looking to more of your reviews so I can decided if I should even bother with them. Except for the gory ones LOL

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    • I’m glad you find them interesting. 🙂 Most likely, I’ll be doing the usual and posting up one more fall anime taste testing article at around the season’s half-way mark.

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  6. I think this season is better than the last, mostly because it’s moved away a bit from the lightness of the last season. My favourites at the moment are Valvrave S2 and Kill la Kill, they’re both crazy and random and awesome :-). I thought Galilei Donna was pretty cool as well but since I’ve only seen the first episode so far I don’t really want to compare it too much. Also I’m very sad Pupa hasn’t aired yet, it’s the show I was looking forward to most 😦

    Least favourite would have to go to Coppelion. It seems to be a good idea, but I find too many things that annoy me each episode to enjoy it. Can’t really say I like Kyoukai no Kanata that much as well. For an anime that appears to be character-driven, I’m finding it hard to sympathise with the characters much, and I find Mirai to bedownright annoying.

    Still enjoying reading your “taste-testing” anime impressions. ^^

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    • I think so too – it’s nice to have a better variety of more serious material, which I guess I probably tend to prefer if given the choice between that and purely light-hearted fare.

      Kill la Kill is definitely my top pick so far, followed by Samurai Flamenco and then Galilei Donna. Kyoukai no Kanata remains to be seen – it’s good quality, but yeah, there are things there that are beginning to grate on me a little. I’m hoping Pupa doesn’t end up being shelved because of its (assumed) problems, as I’m likewise looking forward to it a lot based on the premise and trailer. And I agree, Coppelion is a big disappointment. There are plenty of titles that are far worse from the fall line-up, but I had high expectations of Coppelion, hence my annoyance at it being entirely average.

      Glad you enjoy reading – as always, I appreciate your comments. 🙂

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  7. Hmm, given my love of Kuragehime and Durarara!!, I probably should’ve given Samurai Flamenco a chance. I’m just so busy with all the other anime, that I haven’t felt like adding anything to the queue. But I will probably be doing like you and dropping a few anime in a week or two.

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    • There are quite a few promising titles this season – it’s inevitable that there be at least a couple that slip through the cracks. So little time, so much on my ‘could be good’ list, I hear ya.

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  8. Please excuse the incoming mega-reply :3

    3 dropped out of 9 shows – I was originally going to say how jealous I am that you managed to drop so many shows, percentage wise, then I realized you’ve only dropped 33%, where what really has me envious is how few shows you’re now watching. I’ve sampled 23 shows total, 7 dropped (but 2 are the shorts), which makes for 30.4%, but I will likely drop 4 more shows this week. I might pick up 2 more though… please don’t judge me :<

    Free! – enough for a fad? I'm not sure – is there enough of a fad? There had always been shows about bishounen, or well-muscled guys – but shows which use these as their selling point? Hm. I think they've been around for a while, and I'm not sure Free! and Meganebu are enough to truly mark a difference, except perhaps in how they're marketed?

    Coppelion art – Well, we talked about it, that's a stylistic choice that you can either like or dislike, which I personally like, but not much to actually discuss there. I too am surprised, originally I thought they'll just hop into the city for a few minutes, and then head back, but nope, they go in, they meet with a helicopter, and this is how they’re equipped. The philosophical-moral discussions are very threadbare as well. When the season began I said this show is one of the bigger gambles, and right now it’s just meh, and I’m likely to give it one more episode before dropping it.

    Gingitsune – Stands out in how natural it feels, which since it’s about being understated is the exact sort of thing which doesn’t stand out 😉 I actually feel the level of chemistry between the two mains is amazing, as well as loving the magical realism bits quite a lot. The slice-of-life sequences didn’t get enough time for me to pass judgement just yet – one of the joys of my week.

    Kyoukai no Kanata – Dark is about the dark past, about self-hatred, and well, there’s a lot that’s “coloured dark” but isn’t really, since it’s undone, like her cutting him. “Dark Fantasy” these days isn’t what it used to be, when it was people dying by the thousands, and humanity being discarded or abandoned under duress or just due to being useless – gotta love Glen Cook. These days it’s enough for it to occur at night, have blood/vampires, and that’s “Dark”. Today dark means “Emo”, hue.

    I’ve said in a couple of other places, I’m increasingly feeling they’re trying way too hard with the speed-talking, and all the gloss, but that at the heart of this show there’s nothing, and that void, along with them trying so hard which keeps drawing my attention to the void, really hurt my enjoyment of the show.

    Galilei Donna – action versus plot/characters – I think this show is very hollywoodish, and I wonder if we’ll ever actually get a lot of character-interaction out of it. I think treating whatever plot it serves us as more than an excuse for more beautiful action is just a recipe for facepalming, myself. There’s a reason I call this “J.J. Abrams, the Anime (specifically Alias”.

    Pupa and horror – I am not a fan of “makes you scream” horror either, but I never had a problem with “gore horror” and “psychological horror”, and thankfully, I don’t think Pupa will be the kind of horror that keeps me up at night, heh.

    Shows with more content – Kyousougiga, Nagi no Asukara which you’ve mentioned, Outbreak Company is shaping up to be one of these shows, Log Horizon is promising to be more thoughtful – especially with some spoilers I’ve been subjected to, and yup, that’s enough.

    Question of the post: Do you think the fall anime season is better or worse than the summer season? What’s been your favourite and/or least favourite title so far?

    That’s two questions (actually three)! I call shenanigans!

    Favourite shows of the season are Kill la Kill, Samurai Flamenco and Kyousougiga. The last two came out of nowhere. Samurai Flamenco is a classic show, and if you ask me, it’s a direct descendant of the Manglobe lineage of Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop.

    Least favourite – NouCome just barely wins over Yuushibu, I’ve watched one episode of each, and both felt interminable. People say Yuushibu is better afterwards, but there are two points to remember – the first is that they thought the first episode wasn’t bad enough to have dropped the show outright, and the second – it’s sad that the show makers thought the horrific crap they flung at us with episode 1 was actually supposed to draw more people to the show…

    Comparing seasons – can’t tell, since many shows only began failing around episode 4 or 6 last season, and we’re only just beginning this season, so things are still rosy-hued.

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    • Wow, you weren’t lying – mega comment is mega. Not that I mind, all comments are welcome. 🙂

      I expect I’d watch more if I could. With a full-time job and a couple of other relatively time-consuming commitments though, my limit is pretty much what you see in this post. So every season, I tend to cherry-pick roughly 10 shows from the new line-up judging by synopsis, trailer, etc. and go from there.

      I wouldn’t describe Free! in itself a fad, no. But I do see it as revitalizing a more general fad of male moe, which I think is definitely present in other anime shows such as Hetalia. The reason why Free! in particular stood out to me (other than it’s truly enormous popularity) is because with previous male moe anime, the focus has been on cute and adorable. We still have some of that in Free!, but it’s the first time I’ve seen such a sexually overt and muscle-laden version of the male moe trope.

      ‘Meh’ is exactly the word I’d use to describe Coppelion. I don’t think it’s a terrible show, but it is a boring one that left me with absolutely no motivation to watch more. In general, it just left a very weak impression.

      The relationship between our two main characters is something I can really appreciate. However, I’ve seen so many other supernatural-themed yet natural-feeling shows that do it so much better. Again, Kamichu! is the obvious example I suppose, and I’m also thinking of Natsume Yuujinchou.

      “These days it’s enough for it to occur at night, have blood/vampires, and that’s “Dark”. Today dark means “Emo”, hue.” Unfortunately, not what I’m looking for. Semantics about what ‘dark fantasy’ now constitutes aside for the moment, I’m just not fully satisfied with how Kyoukai no Kanata is shaping up. You’ve pointed out a couple of the problems yourself, and there are some other underlying issues there as well I think. That said, by no means do I think it’s a bad series, and I’ll be waiting to see where things go from here.

      I think that, judging by the latest episode, you may be right about Galilei Donna. It’s unfortunate, but I’m now indeed getting worried about whether we’ll see any proper character development and intelligently thought out execution of the story. Action is all very well, but won’t make up for shoddy writing. Still, I’d like to give it a couple more episodes at this point, see if it manages to right itself.

      Psychological horror is good, but yeah, I don’t necessarily enjoy horror in and of itself. In fact, come to think of it, I can’t come up with a single horror anime series that I’d list as being among my top… say 50 or so titles.

      What can I say, shenanigans are my specialty.

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  9. Hi, I’m a few weeks late and the season’s well underway but I still wanted to respond. I watched about eight titles last season and the only ones that left great impressions were Shingeki no Kyojin and the ongoing Monogatari series. As far as this season goes, my opinion is that summer was better because of those two titles. Titles I like currently are Kill la Kill, Samurai Flamenco. Little Busters Refrain and Arpeggio of Blue Steel – Ars Nova. Out of them all Samurai Flamenco and Kill la Kill are currently taking the cake, and I’m still eagerly awaiting the elusive Pupa. Thanks a lot for your articles, I love reading everyone’s opinions and pick up mentions of titles I’d love to check out! 🙂

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    • You’re very welcome – I’m happy you find these articles interesting. 🙂
      Likewise, Kill la Kill and Samurai Flamenco and by far and away by favourite titles of the fall season for me. I’ll be making a second update about the fall anime line-up in a week or two though, since my opinion has definitely changed in some areas now that we’re a few weeks in.

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  10. Pingback: Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2013 (Part II) | OTAKU LOUNGE

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