Anime Taste Testing: Winter 2013/14

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You know, I really didn’t anticipate such a solid winter line-up. Based purely on the first versions of the charts that came out, I imagined something of a snooze-fest – and to be honest, I don’t think we have any truly ground-breaking shows here. However, there are also very few shows that I’m dropping. Normally I pick 10 or so titles and end up either disliking or losing interest in at least half of them, whereas this time around I picked fewer titles but am happy with nearly all of them so far. Perhaps it’s not a season of standouts so much as it is a season of surprising consistency.

I usually don’t bother with any particular order with these things, but today I think I’ll go from high to low.

Space Dandy
Score: 8/10

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Also known as That Show Everyone Is Watching Even Though They Otherwise Wouldn’t, Because Watanabe Shinichiro. Incidentally, Cowboy Bebop is one of my all-time favourite anime, which I’ll not apologise for, but anyone going into Space Dandy actually expecting something similar is clearly missing a few brain cells. Science-fiction, yes, but that’s about all that Cowboy Bebop and Space Dandy have in common – and I’m okay with that. Now that that’s out of the way, the rest of what I have to write is fairly straight-forward, because Space Dandy is itself a straight-forward kind of show. Whether you’re going to find it genuinely funny or not can probably be determined within the first few minutes, but you should probably watch it if any of the following appeal to you: energetic gag comedies that repeatedly break the fourth wall; campy shows that intentionally disregard any semblance of plot; retro-inspired stylishness blended with undeniably high production values; or pompadours. Personally speaking, I really like what I’ve seen of Space Dandy so far, but I get that humour is subjective.

Gin no Saji 2nd season
Score: 8/10

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This one’s a direct continuation of the first season so I’m not going to waste words here, since if you liked the former then you’re probably already watching this. But for the sake of any readers who may have missed out on Gin no Saji when it first came out, I’ll briefly sum up by saying that although it was probably my favourite title of the summer line-up, it probably won’t appeal to anyone not in the mood for a laid-back slice-of-life show combined with mostly gentle comedy. There’s no action as such, no fanservice to speak of, and probably no surprises in the long run. If this is exactly the sort of thing that doesn’t appeal to you, move along. Otherwise, it’s a great show.

Noragami
Score: 7/10

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Even though this studio has pulled out a couple of not-so-fabulous adaptations over recent times (looking at you, Gosick/No. 6/crappy Eureka Seven sequel), and despite the fact that this particular series is based on an as yet unfinished shounen manga (and we all know how those tend to go), I choose to remain optimistic. The fact that it’s set to be only 12 episodes long makes me a tad nervous, but so long as Noragami doesn’t get screwy with its pacing, what I’ve seen so far is actually pretty good. BONES is doing what it does best and delivering vivid artwork and fluid animation, the direction seems solid enough, and the plot itself, while not exactly original, is one that can hold its own without resorting to only flashy action sequences or rapid-pace banter alone to convey its story. What shortcomings Noragami may or may not have, it will probably make up for with its obvious style. Seen the OP yet? The soundtrack seems pretty good too.

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta/The Pilot’s Love Song
Score: 7/10

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I’m in two minds about this one, because as obvious as the clichés are, I find myself genuinely enjoying things. With a main character named Kal-el, a love-at-first-sight meeting complete with Titanic pose, and a few none-too-subtle gesturings towards class conflict of almost exactly the same Titanic-esque variety (among other issues), we have ourselves a show that should probably be average at best – and then only if you actually like romance as a primary theme, alongside what I’m assuming is also going to be an action/adventure show involving mostly aviation and floating islands. That said, I wasn’t especially put off. Maybe it was the lovely backgrounds, or the nicely integrated CGI for those aerial scenes, or the fact that, for whatever reason, I found the whole courtship thing actually kind of sweet. I suppose the latter could be seen as being rushed, but with only 12 episodes to get through a dramatic and ostensibly quite ambitious storyline, I’d say it’s a good thing that the series isn’t wasting any time.

Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha
Score: 6/10

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It’s certainly been a good time for fox deities in anime. Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha is half school romance and half supernatural comedy, and I quite liked the first episode – I may even be bumping the score up a bit later on down the road. My prediction based on the synopsis was that it would be a relatively light-hearted and easily digestible watch, and I’d still say that’s about right. It’s got a vaguely similar vibe to Gingitsune (although the plot is quite different), and also puts me a little in mind of Kamisama Hajimemashita in terms of its general silliness. However, it seems more charming to me than both of these titles, and is perhaps even slightly reminiscent of Cardcaptor Sakura… although that may only be due to the appearance of the (protective?) older brother who, funnily enough, can also see spirits and is named Touka.

Wake Up, Girls!
Score: 5/10

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I highly doubt I’ll be keeping up with this one, though I’ll freely admit to being completely biased since I don’t generally like idol shows (or indeed actual idols) to begin with. This one has the advantage of being a slightly more realistic depiction of things, but unfortunately for me, that also translates as boring. To be honest, the only reason I put this series on my watch-list at all was because I thought it might have something interesting to say about Japan’s music industry, which I do have an interest in. And Wake Up, Girls! could very well do that, but I simply don’t have the patience to stick around and find out. Frankly, I had enough trouble focusing my attention on just the first episode. Also, yes, I’m perfectly aware that the movie is a prequel and should be viewed as the pilot for the whole thing, but I haven’t watched it and don’t intend to. I resent the fact that I should necessarily spend almost an hour on something prior to the first episode of a TV show just so that I can properly ‘get’ it. (Note that for all my complaining, there’s nothing inherently ‘wrong’ about the series that I’ve seen so far, so I’m hesitant to trash it by giving it a super low rating. It’s just that I have so little personal interest.)

Pupa
Score: 3/10

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Oh dear. Alright, where do I start? First of all, I’m guessing that 4-minute episodes (3-minute really, once you’ve subtracted the OP and ED) weren’t what everyone was hoping for. I absolutely don’t have anything against these types of shorts – usually they’re straight comedies, sure, but 2013’s Yami Shibai more or less proved that this format can potentially work for horror as well. The difference there however is that Yami Shibai is strictly episodic, whereas Pupa has a major overarching story. That’s the most obvious problem. The second is the god-awful censoring, which basically renders the horror aspect of the series utterly pointless. The third… well, it’s just not that great a show. The artwork is actually kind of interesting, but the animation is crap and the pacing is just so all over the place that it’s practically non-existent. Otherwise, there’s surprisingly little to say for a title that initially attracted so much attention. It hardly qualifies as worst anime ever or anything silly like that, but it also lacks any kind of punch whatsoever.

Sailor Moon

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Cue the sounds of absolutely nobody being surprised at the news of yet another delay. This show – a retelling of the original manga but targeted at older fans – is now scheduled for release in July. I was excited, once. At this point though, it’s become like some rare and quite possibly mythological creature; sure, everybody claims it’s out there, but it’s never actually been spotted and maybe never will.

And now, onto the OVAs and specials. I won’t be scoring these ones, mostly because I feel that there’s too little material to base them on.

Zetsumetsu Kigu Shoujo: Amazing Twins

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Hmm… no. It’s not terrible, but no. I gave it a look because anything directed by Sato Junichi (Sailor Moon, Princess Tutu, Aria) is probably deserving of one, and there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with it per se, but I just can’t bring myself to care, either about the characters or even much of the story. However, if I was to hear that this was a precursor to a full series, then I’d happily give that a try. (I’ll also be watching the second OVA episode when it comes out, mostly because I can’t think of a good reason not to.)

Sword Art Online: Extra Addition

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I’m not going to get into any debates about how good/bad the series is or whether you love/hate it – that’s what my full reviews are for, so please be taking those sorts of comments over there if you still have any. I don’t think there’s much to say about the special, since it functions primarily as a big recap in order to bridge the first season with the upcoming second one, and then as a means of shoving fanservice in our faces. Because I didn’t need the recap, and because the fanservicey parts of SAO aren’t what I like about the show, I think very little of the special but am also aware that it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, so whatever.

Natsume Yuujinchou: Itsuka Yuki no Hi ni

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A franchise I’m head over heels for despite its length, and without a doubt my favourite supernatural slice-of-life anime out there. I don’t know if this single episode is set to be a direct sequel of some kind or just your basic fun extra, but I’ll be watching it regardless. Release date is February 5th.

Question of the post: How’s the winter season shaping up for you? Are there any major stand-outs, surprises, or disappointments?

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35 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Winter 2013/14

  1. There’s a whole bunch I classify as “Ok, follow for now” and another group (led by Imocho) classified as “HELL NO!”.

    The only real standout so far is, surprisingly, Nobunagun which followed an OK first episode with a strong character piece in the second. Of the winter shows to date this, Nagi no Asukara & Log Horizon are the most likely to survive the time crunch of returning to work next week.

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    • Yeah, you’re not the first blogger I follow to have been surprised but pleased by Nobunagun. I have my plate full for now, but perhaps I’ll get around to it someday.

      I never did get around to watching anything of either Nagi no Asukara or Log Horizon, so the only shows I’m carrying over from the fall season are Kill la Kill and Samurai Flamenco.

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        • … I like Sword Art Online. I know, I know, it has flaws a plenty, and it’s really popular to hate on it – and rightfully so for a few good reasons. I like it anyway. In any case, I’d never compare Log Horizon with SAO, since even a look at the OP and trailer tells me it’s a different beast entirely. I’ve seen Spice and Wolf, but neither loved nor hated it.

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  2. The Winter season seems decent. Like you, Silver Spoon and Space Dandy are my two favourites at the moment, but if I ranked my anime I’m currently watching the previous season’s carry-overs would take most of the top positions. Apart from those two, nothing has stood out in a big way so far (although Tonari no Seki-kun has been charming and Sekai Seifuki crazy but good), but I’m hoping to be surprised as later episodes come out! I haven’t been really disappointed by much except for Pupa, which was much worse than I expected, as you pointed out.

    I gotta agree with your description of “solid” for the season – there’s no Kill la Kill WOW yet, just a bunch of fairly decent shows, most of which I’ve liked enough to keep on going with.

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    • With the possible exception of Space Dandy, I wasn’t really expecting any outstanding titles for the winter anime season, so I can’t say I’m disappointed. The consistency is certainly appreciated at any rate – I truly wasn’t expecting nearly every show I picked up to be as good as they are. Wake Up, Girls! was only ever a tentative thing for me, so my only disappointment is with Pupa, which makes for a pretty good run in total. 🙂

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  3. I really enjoy Noragami so far. The ending song is really great and I like the characters. Nisekoi was absolutely briliant in the first episode. The visuals were outstanding, creating a unique look and feel. Those are the two that really stood out for me. You should really pick up Nisekoi. Chuunibyou S2 seems decent so far, the visuals are top notch as expected.

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    • Assuming I stick with the titles I’ve already got through to the end, I won’t pick up any more just because my plate is already full. But you never know, I may get around to the likes of Nisekoi and Chuunibyou. I haven’t even watched the first season of that one yet.

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  4. I’ve been incredibly lame this season, since I only picked up two shows that aren’t holdovers (Space Dandy and Pupa) due to scheduling reasons and wanting to tackle some larger projects. Ordinarily I’d have probably grabbed the next installment of Silver Spoon, as I enjoyed it the first time around, but I’ll save that for when the whole season is out and I can just binge on it with blankets on the sofa or something. Similar situation with Wizard Barristers, in that I feel it may play better to me just running through the whole series of court procedurals in one go.

    The biggest disappointment for me personally is the Sailor Scouts are out drifting in some kind of time-space continuum nightmare zone, and nobody seems to be able to locate them or figure out how to get them back. We don’t even have production art to put on milk cartons.

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    • Silver Spoon is exactly the sort of anime that would be good for binging with blankets on the couch. I’m actually sortof envious.

      I dig the fact that I’m comparing the new Sailor Moon to a mythological creature and you’re comparing it to a lost child (of the 1980s judging by your milk carton reference). 😄 Seriously though, it is odd and not cool that there hasn’t been a single official picture released yet. The team really aren’t doing themselves any favours there.

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    • Ahh, I completely forgot to add that to this post. I too loved the OVA – nothing less from the awesomeness that is Mushishi – and eagerly await the second season also.

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  5. That has to be the best and most accurate description of Space Dandy I’ve seen yet. A hearty tip of my hat. I’ve been watching it and Pupa (because dammit, when I pick something I WILL watch it). Everything else has left me pretty cold, with a tiny bit of curiosity over Nobunagun and (guiltily) Buddy Complex.
    Definitely carrying over Samumenco, and finally poking a toe into the madness of Kill la Kill, and those two have me way more excited than anything on offer this season. That’s the Winter for you though, huh? I am wondering if my relative cool towards the new Sailor Moon (if it never comes out, I shall not despair) is due to nostalgic preference for the changes from manga to the original anime, or if I just want everyone to be excited about the new Lupin as the franchise revival of choice.

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    • Thank you for saying so. I try to mix personal entertainment preference with objectivity – I’m glad it worked out with Space Dandy.

      I’m likewise carrying Kill la Kill and Samurai Flamenco over from the fall season, while everything else is new. I’d be especially interested in hearing your opinion on the former when it’s done airing.

      I honestly doubt that the new Lupin will ever eclipse the new Sailor Moon in terms of popularity, either in Japan or overseas. But I can also appreciate your point of view in that, and while I’m not a Lupin fan myself (… yet), I hope it does well nonetheless.

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      • If I can turn that ‘yet’ into a proper affirmative, then I will consider my entire blog project a success. 😉
        I have a Kill la Kill blog post on the horizon, but I want to watch a bit more so that my thoughts are actually grounded.

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  6. I made a list of titles I might watch or write about and just about threw up my hands in despair. As you said, nothing really stands out, but very few are bad enough to drop. Nisekoi and Chu2koi2 lead the pack, Sekai Seifuku etc and Mikakunin de Shinkoukei are my sleeper picks. But there are so much potential out there! This time last year I was wondering if any show at all would be any good.

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    • I don’t think I’ve seen an anime season yet where there are literally no shows that I think are good. Sometimes it really is just a matter of picking your way through the dross though – and there’s always plenty of that. Still, I guess you could say it makes the search for good anime all the more rewarding? 😉

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  7. Much of what is strong in this season is comprised of shows continuing from Fall (NagiAsu, Kill la Kill) or new seasons of shows I like (Gin no Saji, Chuunibyou).

    On that front, the “new show” line-up is semi-week, but… we’re not even at week 3, and I hadn’t watched quite a few shows’ second episodes (about to do so now), so it’s a bit hard to tell.

    Also, unlike Fall 2013, which had very little when it came to RomCom or well-drawn popcorn shows, this season delivers on both, but is giving us less “proper dramas/exceptional shows”. Can’t have them all!

    I like quite a few shows in this season alright, even if I’m not floored, it’s a very enjoyable season, for the most part.

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    • That’s a good way of putting it – I agree that while there’s nothing here this season in the way of being floored, it’s still a very enjoyable line-up. The word I keep coming back to is ‘consistency’, which I’d be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate, even if that does mean we don’t have any truly exceptional titles this time around.

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      • Well, who knows, Gatchaman Crowds only floored me by week 2 🙂 Nobunagun to me is “exceptional”, but more in “Exceptionally fun” 😀

        Sekai Seifuku still has a good shot of being that “exceptional show”, by the by. And well, we still have plenty of good-to-great continuing/returning shows, such as Gin no Saji, Nagi no Asukara, and Chuunibyou, to name a few. Yeah, too early to count this season out 🙂

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  8. Some pretty watchable shows I think you didn’t mention:
    Engaged to the Unidentified – it’s lightweight, but the direction seems to integrate the separate pieces very well.

    Hozuki no Reitetsu – probably my favorite show of the season.

    Tonari no Seki-kun – I liked the 2nd ep more than the 1st.

    Wizard Barristers – it’s too soon to tell if I’ll really like it, but I hope it will be good.

    Strange+ – It’s pretty shoddy, but it’s just a couple of minutes of silly humor.

    Pupipo – It’s very short, but I love it.

    Gakkatsu – It’s short, and I desperately crave more of it.

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    • I’d probably watch more if I could, but what with these plus the two titles I’m carrying over from the fall season (Kill la Kill and Samurai Flamenco), I don’t really have the time to do more. Maybe someday I’ll get around to those titles you’ve mentioned, but unfortunately probably not anytime soon.

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  9. Kinda a shame you found Amazing Twins to be rather mediocre, but to be honest, it actually kinda is. For a first OVA episode I found it overall well done and entertaining enough though, and yup, will be waiting for the second OVA episode as well.

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    • I may well change my mind based on the second episode, but as it stands now… yeah, just wasn’t all that impressed. It wasn’t bad per se, but I definitely found it lacking in a lot of areas.

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  10. Given how downright awful Pupa is I’m surprised by how high you ranked it. Forgive me if I appear to be aggressive. It’s just after following Pupa struggle to find a station to air their show on to have it end up like… that is just demoralizing to say the least.

    I’m also going to have to echo what a couple of other people have been saying. Hozuki no Reitetsu is hands-down my favorite show the season. Depending on how the rest of the series plays out it may be one of my all-time favorite shows. You need to give it a shot!

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    • I don’t think I ranked Pupa high – I gave it a 4, which is below average but not terrible. If I was ranking things purely on my own personal entertainment value, I’d probably give it a lower score. Since I’m also taking into account a slightly more objective criticism though, 4 is where it ends up. It’s bad, sure, but hardly one of the worst anime I’ve ever seen, or even one of the very worst this season.

      I may indeed give Hozuki no Reitetsu a try at some point. As it stands now though, what with the anime in this post I’m not dropping plus the two titles I’m carrying over from the fall season (Kill la Kill and Samurai Flamenco), my plate is full.

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  11. This anime season has been a series of ups and downs.

    Space Dandy: Still on the fence about this one. I mean, absurd hype aside, I have to figure out for myself whether or not this show is for me and if I really like it. So far, it’s meh…I just feel like it’s trying much too hard.

    Nagi no Asukara: Dat timeskip, tho….I mean, I saw it coming, but I’m not completely sold on whether or not I LIKE it…the story is still early in the running for this second season. But the animation is still good and the characters are interesting, so I’ll ride it out.

    Golden Time: …leaning on the “DROP” button. Ghost Banri needs to meet the Ghostbusters…STAT.

    Silver Spoon: Everything I loved about Season 1 seems to be following over in Season 2! I want more, and I don’t care who knows it!

    Tonari no Seki-Kun: From opening to closing, this show has to be my favorite one out the Winter 2014 season…even though it’s only seven minutes long! I think Seki is a missing member of the Nichi-Bros from “Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou” [Daily Lives of High School Boys].

    Space Brothers: More!! MORE MORE MORE!!! I don’t care if it is pushing 100 episodes! Heck, if silly shounen shows like Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece can get over 300 episodes with pointless fights and flashbacks and be insanely popular, then Space Brothers with its detailed and intricate story can get 100+ episodes! It’s that good.

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    • Yeah, it’s understandable that Space Dandy just isn’t for everyone. The biggest selling point of the series is clearly the comedy aspects, and if the comedy doesn’t work for someone, then the anime is probably going to come across as fairly average, given that the overarching plot (such as it is) seems just as silly as everything else.

      With you on Silver Spoon. Ah, but I haven’t seen anything of Nagi no Asukara, Tonari no Seki-ken, or Space Brothers yet. I might get around to them, someday. I have seen a little of Golden Time though, and quickly concluded that it just wasn’t my kind of show.

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      • Nagi no Asukara is a beautifully animated romantic drama story, and the setting is very interesting as well. I think you might find it interesting…though if you watch it, please be advised you will hate the male lead, Hikari, for the first couple episodes.

        You’re pretty far behind with “Space Brothers”, admittedly. It’s at or over 90 episodes now, and it’s only going to increase as time goes on, but I highly, HIGHLY recommend it. I also recommend you take a peek at “Tonari No Seki-Kun”. It’s only 7 minutes long, but I’m sure you’ll find it funny!

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        • If I have the time, I’d like to take a look at all 3 of these. 🙂 Unfortunately I doubt it will be for a while, as I can only watch a certain number of shows at once before all my free time is taken up. But I don’t doubt they’re good in their own way – I’ve heard excellent reports about each of them.

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  12. I’m glad I read your article, I missed a couple of the titles you’ve got here and want to go check them out. Of the ones I’ve seen the stand outs for me are Space Dandy, Hamatora, Nisekoi, Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha and Wake Up Girls.

    One nice surprise so far is Wake Up Girls. It’s nice to see an idol show with a slightly different edge after having watched (and dropped) the Idolmaster. I like the way that they’ve already focused on some of the negative sides of the idol industry without only focusing on the sparkles.

    Another one was Tonari no Seki-kun. I wasn’t expecting it to be enjoyable, but I’ve really found Seki’s antics (and his neighbor’s reactions) amusing so far.
    Disappointments, as you’ve mentioned – Pupa was a bit of a let down. I’m hoping it’ll improve later in the season as I’m enjoying the art and think the story’s got potential.

    All in all the season’s shaping up to have some titles I’m sure I’ll follow to the end already (the ones mentioned above), but I’m also iffy about half of them too. It’s great to read your perspective, as always! 🙂

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    • I think I’ll definitely give Tonari no Seki-kun a look at some point, although right now I simply lack the time to do so, despite its short episode length. As for Wake Up, Girls!, the show just isn’t for me. While far better than Idolmaster, which I likewise tried and quickly dropped a while back, I still find Wake Up Girls! both dull and more than slightly disturbing (although as far as the latter goes, I daresay that’s partly the point).

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  13. Great overview on the season! I have yet to start watching Space Dandy or Gin no Saji season 2, but you’ve given me some convincing reasons as to why I should jump to it!

    So far, my favourites of the season are Inari, Konkon, Koi, Iroha and Noragami… Other than that, I’m finding the rest of the shows I’ve sampled mostly good but nothing great, and like you said, nothing groundbreaking. Looking forward to Sailor Moon though! (whenever it finally airs…)

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    • We seem to have similar tastes. 🙂
      Space Dandy isn’t for everyone – I know a lot of people simply don’t find it funny, which is perfectly fair since the type of comedy is quite specific – but I’ll be interested to hear whether it appeals to you.
      Ah, Sailor Moon… at this point, I’ll only believe it when I see it with my own eyes.

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  14. Pingback: Anime Taste Testing: Winter 2013/14 (Part II) | OTAKU LOUNGE

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