Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2014

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The fall anime season felt a bit slow to start off with but has been steadily building up steam, and while unlike a lot of bloggers I’m sad to see most of the summer titles behind us – I was honestly really happy with the line-up I had there – it’s always nice in a way to complete a cycle and gain a fresh hand.

Having viewed the premiere episodes (and in some cases more) of 10 fall anime in total, I’ve already dropped 3 of them and will likely keep 5 on for the long haul. See which have been left by the roadside, which I’m singing my praises to, and which I’m still on the fence about below. As usual, I’ll be tackling the worst at the start and leading into the good stuff further down.

Ai Tenchi Muyo!
Score: 2/10

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This anime series is sponsored by the city of Takahashi in Okayama prefecture in order to promote tourism in the area. I now feel profoundly sorry for the people of Takahashi. To be frank, Ai Tenchi Muyo! makes all previous incarnations of the Tenchi franchise seem like works of art by comparison. It also bears little, if any, resemblance to the original OVA series, or of Tenchi Universe or Tenchi in Tokyo for that matter. Even viewed as a standalone piece however, it’s a sad excuse of an anime, and one which makes it easier to count all the scenes where any given female character is not being shamelessly objectified than to count every panty shot on display. Don’t waste your time on a single episode of this drivel – it’s at least four minutes of your life that you will never, ever get back.

Donten ni Warau/Laughing Under the Clouds
Score: 4/10

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While clearly not the worst of the titles listed here, Donten ni Warau is definitely the blandest, and I can’t quite motivate myself to watch any more of it than I already have. The opening episode never managed to make me want to sit up and pay attention until the last minute or so – by which point it was too little, too late. The terrible exposition alone was enough to turn me off right from the start, and for a fantasy-action show, the whole thing felt remarkably dull and uninspired. What’s lacking in atmosphere isn’t made up by style, either; I suppose the artwork is distinctive enough in its own way, but it’s not something I actually personally like and it’s also not striking enough for me to give the series much credit on the production front in any case. This gets a resounding ‘meh’ from me.

Amagi Brilliant Park
Score: 5/10

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KyoAni. Good visuals. Not much substance. What else is new. Honestly, I feel that what little patience I have for moe-centric anime is now stretched very thin indeed. I gave the first episode of Amagi Brilliant Park a shot primarily because director Takemoto Yasuhiro was also in charge of Hyouka back in 2012 – by far and away the finest title that KyoAni has ever come out with. Amagi Brilliant Park doesn’t strike me as terrible, but neither do I see in it anything that they haven’t already done time and time again: ‘quirky’ offbeat characters, a very specific kind of deadpan humour that obviously appeals to many viewers but unfortunately not to me, and loads of cutesy fanservice obviously targeted towards its predominantly male demographic. Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso/Your Lie in April
Score: 5/10

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I want to like this more than I currently do. Okay, so good news first – Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso looks very pretty. It also flows relatively smoothly in terms of story, with little in the way of awkward exposition but some nice drama there that doesn’t feel too overdone. Now for the bad news – much as I’d like to, I can’t overlook how ridiculous a lot of this comes across as. I don’t care how pure of spirit or fabulous a musician our main heroine is, I don’t think summoning pigeons while dancing around barefoot with a cluster of adoring kids makes for a convincing intro scene. Granted, anime isn’t exactly a medium known for its realism, but if we’re going for heartfelt drama set in real-world Japan, then I’ll need something a bit more believable than that. On a more personal note, there’s just something about romances set in junior high school that I really don’t like. Maybe it’s because I actually work there, but these tend to feel incredibly contrived to me, and often a bit squicky to boot. If Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is going to be more of a romance than a music-focused title, as I suspect it will be, then I’m almost certainly out.

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
Score: 6/10

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I should probably admit to myself that I’m just not cut out for this franchise. I’ve never played the visual novel and have no intention of ever doing so, and I completely failed to get into the 2006 anime adaptation. I can easily see that there’ll be a lot to appreciate about Unlimited Blade Works for fans – I like the artwork, the action scenes especially look fantastic, and I even sort of dig the very deliberate pacing – but I just don’t think I’ll have the patience to see this through. Unlike what I assume is the majority of viewers, I don’t have a pre-existing attachment to any of the characters (a couple of whom are already annoying me), and the fact that I’d have to sit through 48-minute episodes isn’t helping matters. I’ll give it another episode, but I’m not holding my breath. I will add however that my lukewarm response shouldn’t be taken as a slight of the anime. I would think that viewers with more of an emotional investment in the franchise than I do have a lot to be happy about here.

Orenchi no Furo Jijou/The Circumstances in My Home’s Bathtub
Score: 6/10

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I’m getting very strong reminders of the single-episode boys love OVA Kono Danshi, Ningyo Hiroimashita (This Boy Caught a Merman) with this one – and that’s by no means a bad thing. Orenchi no Furo Jijou, or Orefuro as it’s more commonly being called, might not have the same artistic charm as the 2012 title, and it’s probably going to play out as plain comedy rather than surprisingly earnest and genuinely felt boys love drama, but I have a feeling I’ll be watching this series of four-minute shorts anyway. Although I would have much rather had a handful of longer episodes as opposed to thirteen very fleeting ones, I guess I’ll take what I can get. While it’s still too soon to know if my persistence will be rewarded, but if nothing else, this looks to be a sweet and inoffensive start to my week.

Sanzoku no Musume Ronja/Ronia the Robber’s Daughter
Score: 6/10

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I’ll try not to say too much here, since as of this writing, the first episode of Ronia hasn’t yet been subbed so far as I know. I hadn’t expected a double-length episode either, and am unsure if this is going to be the norm or if two episodes were spliced together solely for the premiere. Either way though, I think this format works extremely well. I also dig the laidback and light-hearted tone, which seems only fitting for an anime series based on a children’s book. The easy-going humour really pulls things together, and in some ways it feels a little like a child-focused Disney movie. On a similarly positive note, may I also say what a great pleasure it is to see such an obviously doting father as a main character. Put together, these factors would have been more than enough for me to give Ronia a higher score than I currently have, but unfortunately the visuals are nowhere near good enough to match them. An all-CGI affair, I find the animation stilted and jarring, and see it as a lot of wasted potential; I can only imagine how stunning the show could have been with the full Ghibli treatment. That said, I don’t have anything against the character designs, and the voice actors do a great job. Criminally substandard visuals aside, I’ll most likely be sticking this one out.

Akatsuki no Yona/Yona of the Dawn
Score: 6/10

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Original? No, not particularly, but I intend to stick with this one anyway unless I’m given a good reason not to. Reverse harems with an action/adventure bent rather than comedy/drama are few and far between, and anime titles with main female characters who a) aren’t used for the sake of fanservice and b) receive strong and long-term character development aren’t all that thick on the ground either. A lot of people seem to be comparing Akatsuki no Yona to Fushigi Yuugi, but I don’t see that particular comparison as either flattering or accurate; personally, I see more of Saiunkoku Monogatari going on here. While the first episode was perhaps a little lacklustre, episode two felt a bit sturdier, and I think Akatsuki no Yona has a lot of potential overall. I’m willing to give it time for that to come to fruition.

Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu/Parasyte -the maxim-
Score: 7/10

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If I were keener on the horror genre then I’d probably be inclined to give this an additional point, because that was a very strong opening episode. No punches pulled, no ugly censorship or clumsy pacing, Kiseijuu seems intent on simply doing its job, and doing it effectively. I might have hoped for an art style that felt less… ordinary, I suppose, and it’ll be interesting to see whether or not the series will be able to sustain its current level of creepiness without either going overboard or becoming predictable – both major issues that horror anime especially frequently struggles with – but all signs point to an intelligent and potent show. I wouldn’t be surprised if this winds up as the single best horror title that’s come out of the industry in years.

Psycho-Pass 2
Score: 8/10

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Like Kiseijuu, the second season of Psycho-Pass wastes no time in getting to the point and hitting the high notes. I’d of course be happier if Urobuchi was writing again, but he’s still listed as series supervisor, whatever that means. Shiotani Naoyoshi is also back in the director’s chair, which puts at least some of my fears regarding consistency to rest, while the others were by and large settled thanks to a solid first episode. I’ll leave any opinions about the sequel being better or worse than the original series until the anime has finished airing, but for now, I’ve been given no reason to think that Psycho-Pass 2 won’t make for a worthy successor. It looks great, it sounds great, and we’ve already got a well-established cast and an awesome dystopian universe to work with, alongside some new faces and a time-skip of about a year or so to keep things fresh. As one of my most anticipated shows of the fall season, I’m happy to say I’m not disappointed.

Mushishi Zoku Shou 2nd Season
Score: ???

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For the sake of fairness I haven’t put a score down for this, as part two of Mushishi Zoku Shou isn’t due to be officially aired until October 19th, but in all likelihood my score won’t be changing from the previous season – or from the first series come to that. There’s no doubt in my mind that Mushishi will remain consistent as it’s always been. While I’m aware that not everyone agrees, I believe this is a masterpiece not only of anime storytelling but of storytelling in general, and I have little to add about the show that I haven’t already mentioned in previous posts.

Question of the post: What’s the single best and worst title you’ve watched of the new anime season so far? Is the best title the one you predicted it would be, or have you been pleasantly surprised?

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25 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2014

  1. The worst has easily been Cross Ange. Hands down.

    The best? Honestly, it’s probably a toss up between Shirobako and Garo for the title that’s grabbed me the most. I don’t know if I’m looking at a potential AOTS in either of them, but I certainly didn’t predict that these would be the two shows I’d be most impressed with at this point in the season.

    A number of shows I was hoping for big things from have sadly fallen flatter than I’d hoped, Sora no Method and Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso included. However, the former had a solid second episode and the second is still in a odd place.

    I guess I’m a little more underwhelmed than this season than I expected to be at this point. Thank goodness for Chaika, I guess.

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    • I really wish I had liked what I saw of Chaika back when the first season started airing – everyone seems to be having so much fun with it. Unfortunately, it just did nothing for me. But yeah, I defininitely get what you mean about this season feeling rather flat. Summer ended on quite a high note for me, and the start of the fall line-up hasn’t been especially inspiring by comparison.

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  2. I can’t believe I’m saying this but Rage of Bahamut, a mobile game adaptation, might be the best new show this season. I think a lot of people wrote it off (including myself) because of the source but the first two episodes have been great. It’s got an interesting mix of medieval fantasy and old Western movies and a really nice looking, cinematic presentation.

    Worst show is Cross Ange, which was gross and somehow ruined robots fighting dragons. All the visual novel adaptations I watched were a mess too.

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    • I haven’t had time to watch Rage of Bahamut, but I’ve been noting with interest how many bloggers have great things to say about it. Just goes to show that you can’t judge an anime by its source. If I get the chance then I’ll try it out.

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  3. I know you’re not a Fate person, but I don’t think the UBW series is particularly accessible to newcomers. F/Z can be watched blind though, as can Fate Stay Night (the 2006 one). I actually found the 2006 one ok. All characters are definitely not likeable.

    I do agree though that it’s tedious when any questions about the series are responded to with “read the visual novel”. Some people for legitimate reasons just won’t read the visual novel, and hardcore fans should understand that or tailor their discussions accordingly.

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    • Thank you for the comment – I’m glad it’s not just a case of me stubbornly refusing to like the franchise then. Not that I mind when bloggers and fans of the visual novel have in-depth discussions about that in relation to the anime – they should be able to write about whatever they want to – but speaking purely as an anime fan, it simply doesn’t interest me personally.

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  4. I didn’t know the Fate Stay Night series had another installment. Huh. I thought “Stay Night” was rough at the very best, but “Fate Zero” was a much stronger action/drama than I anticipated. I might give this one a go, but we’ll see. Thanks for yet another list of anime I can’t possibly watch in its entirety :D.

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  5. My closest preferences for best would be Kokkuri-san for comedy, and Chaika Season 2 for the mystery. However, I usually prefer to withhold judgement until the entire show airs, since you get a better overall idea of it then.

    Some trivia on your listed shows:
    1)Ai Tenchi Muyo: The character designer is Suzuhito Yasuda, illustrator of the Durarara! light novel series and creator of Yozakura Quartet.(have you ever watched those titles?)

    2)Amagi: Amagi’s based on a light novel series by Gatoh Shoji, creator of the Full Metal Panic light novel franchise. He claims inspiration from musing over the thankless efforts of amusement park workers, and got much of his info from an anonymous Tokyo Disneyland employee.

    3)Ronia: This is based on the children’s novel of the same name by Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren, creator of Pippi Longstocking. It wwas turned into a popular Swedish live action movie in the 80s.

    4)Yona: Yona’s music composer, Kunihiko Ryo, is an ethnic Korean raised in Japan, whose composition of Korean folk song Arirang was played at both the 2013 South Korean President’s inauguration ceremony. He also played the composition for the handover segment of this year’s Winter Olympics.

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    • I certainly agree that it’s impossible to judge any anime (or book, or movie, etc.) fully unless you’ve seen the entire thing. Still, I find it impossible to withhold from any judgment whatsoever – in fact, whether or not we say so publicly, I don’t think anyone is capable of looking at something in a wholly unbiased manner.

      Yes, I was aware of most of these pieces of trivia. And also yes to Durarara!!, although I haven’t watched any of Yozakura Quartet.

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  6. Well, as you know, I think I’ll be sticking with Akatsuki no Yona because I like a good shoujo fantasy/adventure plot. Otherwise, I’m usually terribly uninvolved in whatever else is going on, and lately can only be moved to watch things based on what friends suggest–no sense in wasting my time on disappointments or crappy productions. So thanks again for sorting through everything, Anime Garbage Lady! Otsukaresama!

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    • Nothing wrong with remaining more or less uninvolved in something – especially when you have your own personal Anime Garbage Person to sort through the dross on your behalf. Luckily, it’s a job I tend to enjoy. 😉

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  7. The worst season premiere I personally managed to get through would go to Ai Tenchi Muyo! as well. Which is a shame, as I really do not like typing that out. For a franchise whose more recent version continue to find new ways to disappoint me, while on a certain core level still finding its earlier versions endearing, one would have thought an immunity would build up! But the virus keeps mutating.

    I am kind indecisive on the strongest front, as I have only watched a select few premieres from this season so far due some recent schedule shenanigans. So I do not have many options yet to feel confident enough to raise one up.

    I hope The Circumstances in My Home’s Bathtub turns out cute. I read elsewhere that the bathroom’s rubber duck is like the series narrator or the like? So they’ve got me there, ideally it turns into something I can hit up for fun when it has a larger backlog.

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    • Yeah, Ai Tenchi Muyo… I can only assume there’s actually an audience for this, but I shudder at the idea. I personally still have a nostalgic attachment to the original OVA series, and I even found things to like about the far more inferior Tenchi in Tokyo, but Ai Tenchi Muyo really takes things to an all new level of awful.

      I don’t think The Circumstances in My Home’s Bathtub will by any means turn out to be a terrific series (even if I did happen to be a fan of the 4-minute format, which I’m not, I don’t think it suits the story at all), but it is indeed cute. Short though it is, I look forward to watching every week.

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  8. Your opinion of Donten ni Warau is about the same as mine. It was just bland and boring. The second episode was a little better, but I am likely to drop it after episode three.

    Amagi Brilliant Park actually reminded me of Outbreak Company, one of my favorites from last year and the only harem that I would say is legitimately good. Thus far, the concept of Amagi Brilliant Park is interesting me, and I the humor did appeal to me, but I get why you did not like it.

    Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso’s first episode did not do all that much for me either. However, the recent second episode had some beautiful classical music using my favorite instrument, the violin.

    Unlimited Blade Works is really a series made for those that are fans of Fate/Zero and Kara no Kyōkai, so if you have not seen either of them, I can get why you are not a fan of this new adaptation.

    Orenchi no Furo Jijou had such a weird concept that I had to watch, and I think it is fine thus far. Providing it does not get into the BL territory, I will probably continue to watch since it is so short.

    Sanzoku no Musume Ronja is a series that I will continue just because it is from Studio Ghibli. However, I agree, that CGI animation is jarring! It almost reminds me more of western animated kid’s shows. Too bad we could not have gotten a Ghibli series even with half the quality of their usual animation.

    Despite the lackluster first episode, Akatsuki no Yona’s second episode impressed me quite a bit. Having not seen another like it, I cannot say anything about its lack of originality. However, if it is as good as I hope it is, it should be a top series.

    Of the non-sequels, Parasyte is my favorite. I agree with what you said about the first episode not pulling its punches and not having the annoying censorship. If what is said about the manga is correct, this should be a great series!

    I am just glad to have more Psycho-Pass, and this second season is off to a solid start. I agree that I am a bit disappointed that Urobuchi is not writing the season.

    In preparation for Mushishi Zoku Shou 2nd Season, I marathoned the original Mushishi and the recent first season, and I have to say that it is one of the best anime that I have ever seen. I agree 100% about Mushishi being a masterpiece of storytelling. It is an easy Top 10 All-Time for me.

    Excellent blog! I have enjoyed reading it.

    To answer your question at the end, the best original title is Parasyte for me. As for sequels, that would be Unlimited Blade Works, because Mushishi has yet to air.

    As for worst, I have to say World Trigger for being an ugly and boring cliched shounen, and Donten ni Warau for doing absolutely nothing thus far. That being said, I have not seen Ai Tenchi Muyo.

    -James

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    • Thank you for the detailed response – I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said.

      I never went back for a second episode of Donten ni Warau, and I have no plans to. Neither do I plan to watch any more of Amagi Brilliant Park, but like you, I can see the appeal even if it doesn’t work for me personally.

      I didn’t mind the second episode of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso as much as I did the first, but it still strikes me as being really contrived, particularly in the romance department. If this is going to be a show that’s more romance-focused than music-focused (as I suspect will be the case), then I’ll very likely drop it by the end of next week’s episode.

      I highly doubt Orenchi no Furo Jijou will be getting into overt BL territory. If nothing else, there just isn’t time for that within these 4-minute snippets, and it’s still listed as plain comedy on all the sites I’ve seen.

      I definitely agree that Akatsuki no Yona’s second episode was better than the first. I don’t think this series will be winning any awards – it’s just too derivative and not overly good in the production department either – but I like it quite a bit anyway.

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    • Personally, I think it’s a fairly average line-up. I agree you’ll always get a certain amount of dull or uninspired titles such as Donten ni Warau no matter how good or bad a season is, but these aside, the 2014 fall season just strikes me as being a little flat.

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  9. Pingback: Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2014 (Part II) | OTAKU LOUNGE

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