I don’t know that I buy into the idea of winter (or any one specific season for that matter) being traditionally the worst in terms of new anime releases, but what I can say with confidence is that as far as the sheer number of decent titles go, the line-up this winter is indeed pretty dire. Of the four shows I picked up at the beginning of the season, I’m heartily enjoying two of them, have now dropped one of them, and am continuing to watch the other mostly out of stubbornness.
Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love!/Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!
Original score: 4/10
Current score: 4/10 (dropped)
I finally called it quits on this one after the fourth episode, so I think it’s fair to say I gave it a good shot. I don’t feel strongly enough about this show to say I hate it – it’s just that I don’t find it consistently funny enough to keep my attention. While each episode usually had one or two particular scenes or one-liners that made me smile, as a whole I wasn’t particularly impressed, or even really all that amused. This particular title would likely work much better as a sketch comedy rather than as a longer narrative, because while lampooning magical-girl tropes is all well and good in the short-term, I just don’t think there’s enough decent material here to be spun out into a full story.
Yuri Kuma Arashi/Lily Bear Storm
Original score: 5/10
Current score: 6/10
Keeping this one because… well, probably because I have so few new titles I’m watching this season, and I guess I’m morbidly curious to see where things will end up. And hey, if I’m honest, the last couple of episodes have been quite a bit better (i.e. less repetitive and more coherent) than the first couple were. However, this doesn’t exactly make me a fan of the show. I may not be the biggest fan of Utena or Penguindrum either, but I can respect an anime that uses its imagery (particularly imagery revolving around themes of sexuality) with grace and subtlety. Unfortunately, Yuri Kuma Arashi wields its imagery with all the restraint of a sledgehammer, and while I can appreciate the novelty value, the delivery could use some serious work. At the moment, my favourite parts of the series are the ED (because gosh darnit, that dancing bear is adorable) and any scene involving Life Sexy (because there’s just something about the line “shabadadoo”, spoken with a Japanese accent, that cracks me up every time).
Original score: 7/10
Current score: 8/10
Speaking of subtlety, Death Parade is actually showing some, and I’m also happy to note that the series is mixing up its formula just enough with each episode so that things aren’t growing stale. To my surprise, the show has also now proven that it can do bittersweet nostalgia and psychological intensity just as well as it can do melodramatic and theatrical, mostly thanks to its well-crafted atmosphere and strong sense of style. Neither is much time wasted on exposition – Death Parade knows what it wants to do and doesn’t muck around in doing it, which is extremely refreshing to see in any anime series these days. Although I don’t think Death Parade is showing off huge amounts of innovation or amazingly good writing, it’s a consistently entertaining title on both a visual and narrative level, and is still easily one of this season’s best offerings.
Original score: 9/10
Current score: 9/10
There are some things that only a title like this can get away with, and while parts of Durarara!! would have crossed the line of acceptability for me were they to occur in almost any other anime, they somehow work here precisely because of the show’s own incredibly stylish nonchalance. Overall, this second season of Durarara!! is not as focused as its predecessor (possibly the new additions to the cast is simply making it too large), but it definitely remains in keeping with the same twisted and charmingly idiotic vibe we all know and love – and since Durarara!! has always shone brightest the more ridiculous it gets, I’d say we’re in for a fun ride regardless of where things go in terms of actual plot.
I’m also still watching Ronja, Kiseijuu/Parasyte, and Yona. However, as there have been no great changes since the last post (aside from the fact that I’ve finally dropped the now painfully bad Sailor Moon), I have nothing in particular to add to my previous notes.
Question of the post: Have any of your opinions on the new shows changed drastically since the beginning of the winter season? What are your biggest surprises and disappointments?