Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2015

arslan senki
The more I think about it, the more it seems fruitless and even slightly ridiculous to compare seasons. You can compare numbers, sure, but in terms of enjoyment, statistics mean absolutely nothing – and unless you’re telling me you tried out every single show of whichever two seasons you’re comparing, these numbers aren’t even accurate to begin with. You can try and compare the highs and/or lows too I suppose, but that’s not exactly what I’d call hard science, especially when you’re only a couple of weeks in.

So none of that for me this time; I’ve decided I’d prefer to just sit back and enjoy whatever the season throws at me, and try to judge shows based solely on their own merits… and/or gaping flaws, of course. As usual, I’ll be going from worst to best – I like to get the bad stuff out of the way first and end on a high note. With the exception of Ninja Slayer, which is a week behind everything else, I’ve now seen two episodes of all the titles listed below.

Ame-iro Cocoa/Rainy Cocoa
Score: 3/10 (Dropped)

ame-iro cocoa

Even at two minutes per episode, this really isn’t worth anyone’s time. The plot consists of a bunch of bishounen talking in a café, and they’re all such bog-standard characters with such lackluster designs that I can’t imagine many people would serious enjoy this, even those viewers who are after nothing but potential eye candy. Literally my deepest thought while watching this was, “Man, that one guy has really big eyebrows.”

Hibike! Euphonium/Sound! Euphonium
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)

Hibike! Euphonium

This show annoyed me, and I can see that I’m only going to get more annoyed if I watch any further, so I won’t bother. On the plus side, Hibike! Euphonium looks pretty, like nearly everything else KyoAni has put out. That much is a given by now; I’m certainly not disputing the production values. However, this isn’t a show about music so much as it is a show about girls with short skirts and scarily high-pitched voices who are apparently interested in music. It might eventually become a show about music, but I honestly don’t have the patience to wait and find out, especially when I’d have to try and ignore high school students referring to themselves in third person and a ton of close-up thigh shots. It feels mostly like fanservice pretending not to be fanservice, and if that’s your thing then great, but it’s really not mine.

Punchline
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)

punchline

Again, looks great, because MAPPA. On the other hand… well, pretty much everything else. I cannot for the life of me figure out why this studio, responsible for several great titles now including Sakamichi no Apollon, Zankyou no Terror, and Shingeki no Bahamut, decided it would be a good idea to get behind this show. One which, incidentally, has absolutely no business airing on noitaminA – a programming block supposedly intended to help broaden the anime target audience beyond the young male demographic. Because Punchline is about panties. There’s no deeper meaning to it, no relevant social commentary, and certainly no inkling of female empowerment or even just plain equal-opportunity fanservice, so forget any comparisons to FLCL or Kill la Kill. This isn’t somehow avant-garde – hell, it’s not even sexy – it’s just crass and juvenile. I’m not morally outraged over the content, I’m just pissed that of all the things that could have been made by these people, Punchline is what we got instead.

Ninja Slayer From Animation
Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

ninja slayer from animation

I assume this is just Trigger having a bit of a laugh at everyone else’s expense. No doubt more than a few viewers are busy doing the I-told-you-so dance right about now, but most will probably hate this, particularly if they were expecting another Kill la Kill. Which isn’t to say that Ninja Slayer is the worst anime to  have come out over recent years – come on, it’s not even the worst anime to have come out this season – but at only fifteen minutes per episode and with visuals that look like they were cooked up in MS Paint, I can understand and even partially sympathise with the frustration. Personally though, I can’t bring myself to much care either way, since it’s doubtful Ninja Slayer would have been my cup of tea to begin with. However, if you can appreciate this specific brand of tongue-in-cheek humour, classically cheesy ‘ninja’ dialogue, and cartoonishly lurid violence, then it could very well be yours.

Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Alternative Architecture
Score: 7/10

ghost in the shell arise alternative architecture

By all rights, Ghost in the Shell should now be a terrible experience. The original manga in 1989, the first film in 1995, the excellent TV show in 2002, the TV sequel as well as another film both in 2004, those four Arise OVA-films between 2013-2014… you’d think Ghost in the Shell would now be a husk of its former self. Even this new TV series, a recompilation of the recent Arise films and set roughly three years prior to the events of Stand Alone Complex, is technically just promo work designed to tie in with yet another film coming out this June – but somehow I’m still watching, and this franchise is still somehow good. There’s enough new material here to make Alternative Architecture worthwhile even if you’ve already seen the four films, and since Production I.G very rarely drops the ball, the show predictably looks and sounds fantastic – seriously, that OP alone is a work of art. Yes, it’s very different to Stand Alone Complex, but I think it’s deeply unfair to compare the two. Alternative Architecture is a completely separate story and should be viewed as such; a solid cyberpunk piece in its own right, and one that doesn’t require any familiarity with anything that came before it in order to enjoy.

Kekkai Sensen/Blood Blockade Battlefront
Score: 7/10

kekkai sensen

Clearly the fan favourite of the season, Kekkai Sensen seems like it’s going to be a cheerfully hectic and somewhat messy show filled with oddball characters, random explosions, and conversations that might not make a whole lot of sense except in retrospect. The energy of the piece is infectious though – somewhere between Durarara!! and Kill la Kill – with a very chic vibe and easily one of the swankiest soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time. The ED is nearly as awesome as Death Parade’s OP was, and since much of the show matches that laidback yet more than slightly crazy kind of tone, it makes for a pretty fun watch. I’m honestly not convinced that Kekkai Sensen won’t end up as style over substance, but that’s mostly because there’s so much style here that it’s difficult to imagine how the substance will quite manage to keep up. It’s also easy for me to see how the combination of all that fast-paced urban fantasy action and fairly large cast could result in things getting a bit sloppy story-wise (much like the second season of Durarara!!), but odds are that the majority of viewers, possibly myself included, won’t really care so long as the series remains so damn cool.

Ore Monogatari!!/My Love Story!!
Score: 7/10

ore monogatari

Finally, a new romantic comedy I can get behind! I had just assumed from the synopsis and the OP that this show would be about a romance between an ‘ugly’ high school guy and a high school girl who’s initially terrified of him because of his appearance. And that might have been okay, but it was a pleasant surprise to discover that our main female protagonist isn’t actually that judgmental – in fact, Ore Monogatari!! is clearly going to be more about Takeo’s misunderstandings than Rinko’s. Her character might perhaps be a little too saccharine-sweet for my taste, but I’m already warming to Takeo’s, because while he might be a little socially awkward, he’s clearly no pushover and not portrayed as some kind of social pariah. His friendship with the extremely handsome but emotionally distant Makoto is one of the highlights of the story for me so far, but just the fact that Takeo isn’t a brooding asshole and that Rinko has enough guts to stand up for herself is a fantastic starting point.

Arslan Senki/The Heroic Legend of Arslan
Score: 7/10

arslan senki

Fans of the historical fantasy genre should definitely be keeping an eye on this one, particularly as the setting isn’t pseudo-European for once but is instead heavily inspired by historical Persia. I’m expecting the pacing to be quite slow throughout the series – the synopsis told us more than the first episode did, which felt more like a prologue than anything else – but if episode two is any indication, I doubt Arslan Senki will be lacking in action even so. I’m quite impressed with the general cinematography of the show thus far, which features a lot of sweeping pan shots and some gorgeous background artwork, but it’s still too soon to be able to say much about the story or the characters, both of which for the most part have yet to be revealed. As a whole, Arslan Senki strikes me as a series with plenty of potential, but it remains to be seen whether or not than potential will actually translate into a good series. For its sake though, I badly hope it does, because while it possibly isn’t going to the best anime of the season and definitely won’t be the most popular, it’s the one I’m currently enjoying the most.

I was also looking forward to trying out the new Digimon and Lupin III, but the latter has likely been delayed until later on in the year, and the former definitely has.

Question of the post: Any big surprises this season, either for good or for ill? Which title has impressed you the most so far?

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26 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2015

  1. Haven’t started the season yet (apart from UBW), but feel… relieved, I suppose, by Ninja Slayer’s quality matching what I felt from initial previews (at least, if your and other posts are any indication) – there are enough promising shows as is.

    About Arslan, have you seen the 90s OVAs? People have been recommending those over the current incarnation, and the art style there does appeal to me.

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    • Yeah, I’m happy enough with the line-up I’ve got going, so the fact that Ninja Slayer isn’t a must-watch doesn’t bother me.

      No, I’m not familiar with any of Arslan Senki’s adaptations. I may go back at some point and watch the 90s OVA, but I’ve got nothing against the art style of this current series. In any case, I’d actually prefer to know as little about the story as possible for now, so that I can watch with fresh eyes and judge it without having to make any comparisons.

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      • I don’t mind Arakawa Hiromu’s art, although her legacy of Fullmetal Alchemist has been the greatest handicap in selling the show. People say it’s like watching FMA characters dressed up as different characters.
        They’ve also accused her art of being too pedestrian and lacking the exotic high fantasy look of the 90’s OVA, whose designs were based on the source Arslan novel illustrations by artist Amano Yoshitaka (illustrator for early Final Fantasy games and Vampire Hunter D). Here’s a sample of his artwork for the novels:
        http://forums.animesuki.com/showpost.php?p=5493878&postcount=66

        Personally, I’m watching for the epic music. The composer, Iwashiro Taro, did the music for 2013’s Gargantia anime, and the soundtracks for 2 John Woo-directed historical epics, 2008’s Red Cliff and the recent The Crossing. In fact, the music makes Arslan’s battle sequences look a lot like Red Cliff’s!!

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        • Personally, I’d be watching Arslan Senki regardless of which names were attached to it, because the synopsis interested me and I just really dig historical fiction as well as fantasy. I’d be lying if I said the Arakawa Hiromu factor didn’t also excite me a little, because I’m a huge fan of FMA (well, FMA Brotherhood anyway), but that’s not why I’m watching the show. In any case, I quite like the artwork, but yes, I can definitely see some similarities there.

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  2. While I understand he is a career criminal, I need Lupin to get his act together. I think the particular kind of username I wear demands it!

    I’ve played pretty conservative this season so far, as there are multiple shows from Winter I was holding in reserve until they finished their runs. So, the things I was hoping to like have delivered, and the kinda-sorta neutral material has done about as expected.

    As it turns out then the most surprising thing for me, really, has ended up being The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. I don’t have very strong feelings for the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise (though I don’t hate it either), Satelight as a studio I have a rocky track record with, the series director has never handled a full TV show before, and the gimmick of the series is an easy concept to fumble. But at least so far it’s been this fluffy, harmless little weekend thing about Yuki crushing on a boy and really wanting to eat turkey.

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    • If it means Lupin will be a better series for it, I don’t really mind the delay – although I do very much hope that this is going to be the only one. Along with Arslan Senki, it was one of the spring shows I was most hyped about.

      Yeah, I’m likewise one of those anime fans who doesn’t have any strong feelings for the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise either way. I’ve heard reasonably good things about The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan from other viewers as well though, which I guess now that I think about it is indeed pretty surprising. I have little experience with Satelight (just Arjuna and Heat Guy J), but I guess I just assumed Yuki-chan would be moe trash. It’s not something I have any real interest in watching, but it’s still nice to hear that it’s a harmless and amusing enough show.

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  3. Other than Arslan, I’m surprisingly enjoying Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darō ka?(marketed as Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? in the West) It’s fun enough, and the character designs are by Suzuhito Yasuda of Durarara!! So if you’re still seeking some Durarara fixes, this could be something for you to check out briefly.

    A lot of the show’s attention is focused on Yasuda’s design of the character Hestia, whose design (especially the chest ribbon) has inspired plenty of artworks on the Japanese otaku art scene. Hopefully his design doesn’t lower your opinions of Yasuda’s art too much.

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    • I’d prefer just to get my Durarara!! fix from the actual show. 😀 I’ll need to wait until the summer anime season for new episodes of course, but that’s okay, I’m sure I can handle it.

      And yup, it’s been pretty difficult to ignore that whole chest ribbon thing. I haven’t seen any of the show myself and probably still won’t, because even good moe still isn’t generally my thing. You’re not the only person who’s said it’s a surprisingly fun title though, so I’m inclined to believe you there.

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  4. +1 for Ore Monogatari!!/My Love Story!! for taking a stance against sexual harassment in it’s first episode.

    Though I still have trouble not seeing Takeo as a 30 year old businessmen which makes it fairly creepy. He just doesn’t look and feel (or sound) like a teenager at all for me (he may act like one, but then again a lot of older men do that …).

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    • Agreed, whole-heartedly. Especially since Yamato had the guts to speak up herself as well.

      I feel like that’s sort of the point of Takeo’s character? He’s perceived as undesirable to most girls not just because he’s monstrously tall and completely un-bishounen-like, but also because he has this really assertive and manly persona, which is reflected in his voice and speech patterns as well as his general appearance. I don’t get the businessman vibe from him at all, but he does indeed look and sound quite a bit older than his peers, which I guess is the whole idea. Yamato is, I assume, the only girl thus far to look past these traits and see Takeo for the kind of person he really is.

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  5. Well, I think most people, and certainly me, when we compare seasons, we’re hardly claiming to be scientific about it, and are very much comparing our personal enjoyment of one versus the other. It’s not very useful, but it’s not any less useful than general comparison of two airing shows, or two unairing shows, provided everyone involved already watched them all and doesn’t have to decide between watching one or the other next.

    Also, judging from your scores, I suspect it’s partially to not feel down on the show, and take it on its own merit, which is a fine idea. Though as always, it does also compete with our never-shrinking backlogs.

    Ameiro Cocoa

    I’m definitely sad that the more, well, women-targeted fan-servicey/fujoshi shows recently have mostly been crap, or more hardcore than most men-oriented fan-service shows 😦

    And yes, this one really seemed bad. I am growing to think shorts that are bad can be even worse than lengthier bads, cause there’s just nothing to bite into.

    I laughed at the eyebrows comment, though, so I got everything I could out of the show sans watching, so thanks 😉

    Sound! Euphonium

    “Especially when I’d have to try and ignore high school students referring to themselves in third person and a ton of close-up thigh shots.”

    Oh, good, a chance to ask! I’ve noticed in a lot of anime it’s very normal for people to use their names instead of the first-person pronouns, or the name of whoever they were talking to instead of “you”, and most subbers just translate it to the simple “I/me”, is that not a thing? If it is, where does it differ here? I definitely lack context/knowledge of this bit.

    Punchline and NoitaminA

    Hey, if you peel back all the nonsense, it’s sort of like The Tatami Galaxy! More seriously, we’ve had Nanana’s Buried Treasure for NoitaminA recently. I treat their shows as I do any other. Less heartache, it seems. Even DC comics’ Vertigo imprint which has so much stuff I like, I don’t have hopes for their releases just because they’re theirs.

    And yes, I suspect Punchline will change at some point, but I don’t feel inclined to wage through all the crap until that point, or wage through the crap it throws alongside whatever better content it has, from when it reaches said point. Especially with the real worry it’ll never be truly interested to get there. I personally feel the show has so many good building blocks, and keeps hinting it has more going on, but it all keeps drowning in the stupid and juvenile.

    Ninja Slayer From Animation

    Anything and everything about it didn’t scream “Kill la Kill” at me, but “Inferno Cop.” I hated Inferno Cop, and was glad I avoided this 😀

    Ghost in the Shell

    You know, I own the GitS 2 manga, Man-Machine Interface (1991-1997). I still need to read it. I’ll prolly do so soon. The original manga was so dense, it felt more like 80s manga, or like the Blade Runner film. I think part of the GitS success is that it never felt like a deluge of material, or as if they released material at all costs? It all feels so very thoughtful.

    I decided to skip Arise Alternative and watch the original film version, at some point. I’m surprised there’s enough new material to make it worthwhile, because the run-time is actually going to be shorter, so what of all the material skipped? Or should one watch both? As that’s not an enticing proposition to me.

    Questions!

    First, almost certainly that Lupin is delayed. Hey, less stuff to watch is always good, right? Wait, I think I’ve got it mixed up, it’s not like we have to watch a show as it aired.

    I’ll say Denpa Kyoushi (Ultimate Otaku Teacher) surprised me, because I expected it to be a harem RomCom, and to not have any hint of that in the first two episodes? Very much a failure. It was also a terrible show, which I didn’t expect, but wasn’t all too surprised by.

    I’most impressed by OreGairu season 2 thus far, which managed to far surpass its first season in terms of insight and how quickly it goes along. Might be a question of having the entire first season to build upon, but still.

    I was also super impressed by the first episode of Plastic Memories, that managed to combine comedy, drama, and good sci-fi ideas into one tight package. The 2nd episode lagged far behind, but I hope it’ll get back to its earlier strengths.

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    • The guy with the big eyebrows was the one vaguely amusing thing I got out of Ame-iro Cocoa too. So yes, you’re very much not missing out on anything here, even if you actually were into shows targeting the female demographic.

      In Japan, people very often do refer to other people by their names as opposed to “you”, because that’s just being polite and natural. Unless you’re being purposefully casual or don’t know someone’s name yet, you’re usually supposed to refer to them by their name. However, referring to yourself by your own name is really childish. The only people who do it with any kind of seriousness other than toddlers are people who are intentionally trying to come across as ultra-cutesy (an affectation which most people seem to dislike).

      Thing thing with peeling back all the nonsense in Punchline is that there’s basically nothing but nonsense there to begin with. Take it away and you’d literally have almost nothing left.

      Yeah, everyone’s making the Inferno Cop comparisons, and I can certainly see why. As I’ve never watched Inferno Cop myself though and have no intention of doing so, I didn’t feel the need to also make it.

      I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to work out, but Alternative Architecture is supposed to have material that wasn’t there in the Arise films. Perhaps they’re going to scrap some of the more inconsequential stuff from the movies and then use that time to pad out other scenes in the TV show. It’s the same basic stories in both though, so there’d be no need to watch both unless you wanted to.

      I was really looking forward to Lupin, but if it means it’s going to be a better show for it, then I guess I don’t mind the delay too much. I haven’t watched anything of Denpa Kyoushi or season 2 of OreGairu, mostly because I’m super fussy about my romcoms and normally end up hating them. I did try out a couple of episodes of the first season of OreGairu, but the fanservice just felt icky to me so I had to stop. I have heard pretty good things about Plastic Memories, or at least the first episode of it, but as you point out, the second episode didn’t seem anywhere near as well-received.

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      • The second episode of Plastic Memories felt like the real introduction, so it’d depend on where it goes from here.

        OreGairu’s first season with early fan-service? I rewatched the show recently, and I’m not really sure what you’re referring to, huh… I also really wouldn’t define the show as a RomCom. It gives totally the wrong impression for the show, IMO.

        As for Denpa Kyoushi, it’s terrible. Stay away.

        Also, thanks for the answer about using names, it’s so common in anime that I don’t recall who’s used it to refer to themselves now, but I’ll pay more attention from now on 🙂

        Also, I often like shoujo and josei romance shows, so it’s not like I’m entirely against shows targeting the female demographic, heh. Just not that much into the “eye-candy/BL” side of things.

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        • Oh god, my bad – I just realised I got OreGairu mixed up with Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo for some reason. No idea how that happened, but sorry!

          Yeah, there needs to be more in a show beyond the bishounen eye-candy thing for me to enjoy it. I don’t necessarily mind the eye candy and have even purposefully sought it out from time to time, but for me it’s just not enough on its own.

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  6. For some reason I’m still not sold on Arslan. It might be I’m just watching too much anime like how I missed out on Garo despite it getting a lot of respect from other guys in the Glorio crew. I might start watching it next week since a few shows are on the chopping block for me, and I’ll need something to fill the void.

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    • I get that Arslan made a slow start, and I’m not really one to absolutely insist on someone watching something just because I happen to like it. I very much enjoy the historical fiction and fantasy genres just in general though, and I’m digging the setting for this series, so while the pacing is perhaps too deliberate for some viewers, I’m still pretty excited for the series.

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  7. A recent anime surprise was the latest season of Gintama, whose very first episode blatantly parodied crying politician Nonomura Ryuutaro.

    I’ve heard that this parody was quite shocking to air on TV by Japanese standards. Is it because of Japanese social mores, or something else entirely?

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    • Ah yes, I heard about that one. I’ve never watched Gintama, but Nonomura Ryuutaro’s crying episode was all over the Japanese news, so this blatant parody got plenty of attention. I suppose the parody itself is a little shocking just because the reference is so very obvious, and also because Gintama is popular enough that a relatively big portion of people in Japan would have seen it. Other than that, I can’t really comment.

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  8. Well, episode 2 of Euph had a rather sober look at people doing what other people expect of them, so I’m hoping there’s some depth for it. Besides, I’ve only dropped one KyoAni show in my life, and that was Munto.

    And I’m going to stick with Punchline for at least one more episode, because maybe, it being noitaminA and all, they were flashing those panties ironically.

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    • I don’t doubt that Euph will have at least some depth during its run – I just doubt very much that it will ever cease also being a show about cutesy girls (and their legs).

      Well, let me know how Punchline goes. I think if they were going to be ironic about the whole panties thing then we would have seen it by now, but then again, I’m not exactly the patient type, so I suppose it’s vaguely possible that the show is counting on its viewers to be persistent than that. I remain unconvinced, however – especially following all the repeat jokes and oppai-related dialogue in episode 2.

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  9. Didn’t watch a single show you mentioned here, lol. Atm, I’m watching Danmachi (yea…), Nisekoi (yea…. x2), Plastic Memories and OreGairu Zoku. There are other sequels from past seasons I’m planning to pick up too but not now. If I have some leeway, I’m definitely going to try picking up Kekkai and Ore Monogatari, since I had been hearing good things about these two.

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    • Yeah, I haven’t really heard any negative things about Kekkai Sensen or Ore Monogatari yet from any of the bloggers I follow. Kekkai Sensen seems especially popular though.

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  10. I took this weekend to get caught up on almost all the new shows this season – my favourites are definitely Kekkai Sensen (I cannot contain my excitement when new episodes are released) and Ore Monogatari! I’m also enjoying Plastic Memories, and I actually did like Euph. xD Re-Kan is another cute show… I’m still on the fence regarding Owari no Seraph… and I’m also watching Nisekoi 2 (and impatiently waiting for Digimon D:).

    Punchline was weird to say the least and I don’t think I’ll be sticking with it. =/ And I have yet to watch Arslan Seki!

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    • I just watched episode 3 of Kekkai Sensen this morning, and I must say it impressed me a lot. That and Arslan Senki are my current favourites, but the very sweet Ore Monogatari isn’t too far behind. I wanted to like Euph because it’s been a long time since I’ve come across a music show I’ve really fallen for, but… I just can’t. What I saw of it came across as mostly incredibly forced to me, both the humour and the drama aspects. There were also just way too many awkward leg shots for my tastes. It’s like Euph has a thigh fetish going on.

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  11. Pingback: Anime Taste Testing: Spring 2015 (Part II) | OTAKU LOUNGE

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