Anime Taste Testing: Summer 2015

gangsta
Just in time to catch the start of the familiar drone of cicadas, the new batch of anime is here! Personally, I intend to enjoy it while luxuriating in front of my brand spankin’ new aircon unit – even through I’ll also be internally wincing nearly every single time I come across someone else’s obligatory first impressions post. (You guys do know that ‘summer’ isn’t a proper noun, right? Or maybe you just really like Capitalizing Unnecessary Words, in which case, sorry for prematurely judging you.) Anyhow, onto the shows! As usual, I’ll be going in order of my impressions from worst to best based on the premiere episode of each title.

Classroom Crisis
Score: 4/10 (Dropped)

classroom crisis

This isn’t so much bad as it is profoundly boring, and mostly seems like just an excuse to get a bunch of cute schoolgirls in one place. The plot sounds vaguely promising, but I came to realise almost immediately that the sci-fi aspects of the show are there primarily for the sake of making a pretense of originality, when really this is much more a slice-of-life kind of title. Again, this isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, and in all fairness, it’s not all about the girls and their front-zip body suits – there are at least two main male characters, and several other male supporting characters. However, the main focus looks like it’s going to be on Mizuki and Iris, in whom I have very little interest, and I honestly could not force myself to watch a second episode. It really was just that dull to me.

Rokka no Yuusha/Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

rokka no yuusha

This is a huge waste of some genuinely cool character designs and a wonderfully unique Aztec-inspired setting. If the former didn’t focus on ridiculous body armour and awkward cleavage shots, and if the latter wasn’t quickly glossed over in favour of poorly-delivered exposition, I might have stuck around to watch more. As it is, Rokka’s lovely artwork and promising cultural backdrop take a distant second place to bad scripting and stupid outfit-porn, which is a real shame given what the show could be capable of. I hadn’t remembered that Rokka was based on a male-targeted light novel series until I looked it up again, but somehow that knowledge didn’t come as a surprise.

Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace/Mysterious Stories of Ranpo: Game of Laplace
Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

ranpo kitan: game of laplace

Despite not being much of a horror fan, I was mildly optimistic about Game of Laplace thanks to my heartfelt love affair with Edogawa Ranpo’s Daughter of Twenty Faces, in which Akechi appears as a supporting character. Unfortunately, Akechi as depicted in Laplace is an arrogant, pill-popping high school-aged detective, and even more unfortunately, main character Kobayashi comes across as a total psychopath. The guy’s so profoundly bored with life (sob sob) that his reaction to waking up to the grisly murder of his own homeroom teacher with the murder weapon in his hand is, “Sweet, finally some excitement around here.” I’m impressed with the production values – Laplace has got undeniable visual flair, and the first minute or so looked especially compelling and high-quality – but I found the characters so utterly dislikeable (or in the replacement homeroom teacher’s case, utterly ridiculous) that I’m having trouble coming up with anything else positive to say about it. Objectively, this is probably going to be an okay series. Subjectively, I actively disliked what little I saw of it.

Charlotte
Score: 6/10 (Dropped)

charlotte

On paper, Charlotte is not my kind of show – too moe, too harem-ey. The only reason it was on my radar at all is because of its associations with Angel Beats!, which I know all the cool kids love to hate on but which, despite its flaws, I un-ironically love with every fiber of my being. That said, I’ve never been a fan of P.A. Works, and it seems pretty clear that Charlotte will be filled with a bunch of girls on permanent wish-fulfillment duty. To give credit where it’s due, I do think the timing of the comedy is actually pretty good here – it’s just that the comedy itself caters to a fairly specific taste. I predict that a few select people will adore this show and that everyone else will loathe it to the end of time; much like Sword Art Online, it’s destined to become the new whipping boy of the anime community. Personally, I don’t hate it, but it’s also not really my shtick, so I’ll be dropping this one too.

Working!!!
Score: 7/10

working

As the third season of this show, I doubt there’ll be any surprises here – viewers should know exactly what they’re getting into if they saw anything at all of the previous two seasons, even just a couple of minutes of it. Annoyingly catchy OP? Check. Humour that absolutely shouldn’t work for me but somehow does anyway? Check. Kyoko, Satou, and Souma still easily the best characters of the entire show? Check, check, check. If, like me, you’re perfectly content with more of the same, great. If for some reason you’re expecting anything else, you’ll be wasting your time.

Junjou Romantica 3
Score: 7/10

junjou romantica 3

Otherwise known as Every Single Cliché of the BL Genre Ever. I was honestly surprised to see Junjou Romantica get green-lit for a third season despite its popularity – it’s been close to 7 years since the second season now, and it’s not as though the source material has been lacking over that time – but hey, I’m not complaining. Other BL fans might be, of course, since admittedly this title features some of the most ridiculous, formulaic, and sometimes downright disturbing aspects of the genre; it’s also replaced Gravitation as the gateway drug to BL in general, which doesn’t exactly spell wonders for the fandom. But so help me, I enjoy the show anyway, cheesy stereotypes and all. The humour works for me, at least when it doesn’t delve into creepster territory, and it looks as though Miyagi and Shinobu have been taken out of this season entirely, which I am absolutely okay with – they were by far the least popular pairing for a reason. It’s a bit weird not having Pigstar doing the OP, but that’s about the only thing that bugs me so far.

Durarara!!x2 Ten
Score: 7/10

durararax2 ten

Part two of Durarara’s second season picks up directly from where we left off last time, meaning that if for some reason you’ve only just decided to start watching this show now, you’ll be mighty confused. Like Working, people should know by now exactly what to expect and whether or not they’ll enjoy it, and fans should be pleased to see that little time is wasted getting right back into the swing of things. I don’t know that I care much for either the OP or ED theme, but otherwise, I’m perfectly happy going along for the ride as usual.

Non Non Biyori Repeat
Score: 7/10

non non biyori repeat

D’aww. Again, if you’ve seen the first season of Non Non Biyori then you should know exactly what to expect of Repeat – a light-hearted slice-of-life series with little action or drama of any kind, but with gorgeously lush visuals and a beautifully soothing quality. Moe isn’t usually my thing, but with zero fanservice and a relatively unique setting of extreme rural Japan, I’ve got a soft spot for this show; it’s cute without being cloyingly so, and it’s amusing in a way that I think is pretty accessible to just about any audience. Given the plot (or lack thereof) of this title, prior knowledge of the series won’t be necessary, so even if you haven’t yet seen anything of Non Non Biyori, I recommend Repeat if you’re after something calming, undemanding, and easy on the eyes.

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime/Snow White with the Red Hair
Score: 7/10

akagami no shirayuki-hime

This is a surprisingly easygoing watch – I was expecting something along more melodramatic lines, but I’m glad to see that this show doesn’t try to take itself too seriously. From the laughably narcissistic first prince to the occasionally ridiculous scripting (“I’ve been building up an immunity to poisons slowly in case I ever get poisoned”… uh huh), Shirayuki is obviously not too worried about plausibility. And you know what, I’m pretty okay with that, because coupled with the breezy pacing and light-hearted sense of humour, it somehow all just works. Even better, Shirayuki herself comes across as smart, spunky, and perfectly capable despite her end-of-episode princely ‘rescue’. I’m liking the character designs, too – in true shoujo fashion, they’re pretty and involve plenty of sparkling, but the artwork is simple, clean, and bright. I don’t know whether Shirayuki will continue to remain largely episodic or if there’s going to be a larger story at play throughout most of the show, but either way I’ll probably be happy.

Gangsta
Score: 8/10

gangsta

The name makes me think of the rap genre which is highly unfortunate, but even so, this is easily the front-runner of the summer season for me. It reminds me of Black Lagoon in terms of atmosphere – they’ve got that whole gritty lowlife thing down pat, and there’s plenty of sex, drugs and violence to go round – but thankfully, Gangsta doesn’t come across like it’s trying too hard to be “dark” and “edgy” like some shows I could name (looking at you, Elfen Lied/Deadman Wonderland/Shingeki no Kyojin). Gangsta is certainly violent and unsentimental, but I don’t think it depicts all of its unsavoury content just to seem cool; for the moment at least, I’m crediting it with more subtlety than that. I also approve of its attention to detail with Nic’s character, who is deaf and communicates mostly in sign language, and whose speech is therefore slurred and indistinct whenever he chooses to communicate verbally. His brotherly, comradely relationship with work partner Worick gives me the warm fuzzies despite the fact that both men are essentially psychopathic, and for me will likely be one of the show’s main highlights.

Note that I’ll also be giving Makura no Danshi/Pillow Boys a watch when that starts airing in a few days – it sounds hilarious, and I’m genuinely curious as to how it’s going to work… or not work, either way. As a series of 4-minute shorts though, I’m not too bothered about whether or not I end up talking about it here. Other than that, there you have it: 10 shows sampled and 6 shows kept, 4 of which are sequels. For me, that’s about average for the summer season. Since I’m also still watching Arslan Senki and Ore Monogatari from spring, my current weekly anime viewing schedule is comfortably full.

Question of the post: How’s the new season shaping up for you? Any titles I missed out on that you’d consider a must-watch?

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21 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Summer 2015

  1. “Angel Beats!, which I know all the cool kids love to hate on but which, despite its flaws, I un-ironically love with every fiber of my being.”—-> Excellent description of Angel Beats as I feel the same. Sometimes an anime ends up better than the sum of it’s parts simply because it’s either memorable (Angel Beats) or just fuuuuuun (Samurai Champloo/Code Geass).

    I’m looking forward to Gangsta too but haven’t watched yet. I like the mob genre of anime–Gungrave, Phantom, Michiko and like you say Black Lagoon. They’re not that many but they’re usually done surprisingly well. I hope Gangsta keeps the tradition.

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    • Yeah, now that you mention it, a lot of mobster-based anime has turned out really well – I like all those titles you mentioned, but especially Michiko to Hatchin. So far at least, I think Gangsta shows plenty of promise.

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      • Gonna take this chance to shamelessly plug Baccano again, if mobster action is something that interests you.

        As far as this season goes, nothing jumps out that you haven’t talked about other than Crowds Insight, which certainly does require you watched the first season.

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        • Don’t worry, I have watched Baccano, which I enjoyed to a certain extent. Or was that aimed at the above commenter?

          Yeah, I haven’t watched any of Gatchaman Crowds yet. I don’t really know why – maybe I’ll give it a try at some point, when I have more time up my sleeve.

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  2. I’m not sure about dropping a series after just one episode. For some that already have a predestined formula, sure, but Charlotte has been penned by Jun Maeda, a master of subverting expectations and quickly changing the feel of a series (hence his skills when it comes to nakige VNs, and why people love Angel Beats!). I’d at least give it time to fully introduce its cast before you decide it’s not your thing, as a lot of the first episode was focused on elements of the show that, while important, are things we won’t be seeing again. As the MC moves into a new life, the show may quickly change its tone too.

    I really don’t get how ‘it seems pretty clear that Charlotte will be filled with a bunch of girls on permanent wish-fulfillment duty’. That’s the opposite of what I felt from the episode, with the whole theme of puberty surrounding all the powers.

    That being said, I’m probably going to not enjoy Classroom Crisis’ second episode unless it quickly uses the premise it spent the whole of the first episode establishing for something I can get excited about, so I won’t begrudge anyone for giving up on that so quickly.

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    • I admit I’m being rather ruthless this season with what I watch and what I dump. I just don’t have the time to invest in too much, and I certainly don’t have the time to invest in something that I think will be only average. While I get that Maeda is particularly well known for subverting expectations, I wouldn’t actually consider myself a fan of his works as such. It’s true that I adore Angel Beats, but I didn’t care much at all for any of his other titles. As for my comment on the wish fulfillment, that’s just the feeling I got from episode 1, at least in part due to the annoyingly perky sister – though I see there’s also an idol singer and several other teenage girls we have yet to be introduced to.

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      • Fair enough if you feel like you need to be harsh this season. The main thing going for Charlotte, for me, is that it and Angel Beats! are Maeda’s only anime-original works, and he’s even said he’s improving on the faults that have been commonly complained about in Charlotte’s spiritual predecessor.

        I also had a friend give up on Angel Beats! for the exact reasons you’re giving up on Charlotte, so I just thought I’d recommend that you’d at least give it one more episode before you’re settled in your impressions. It could end up having just as much popularity – or even more – than the show you already love.

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        • That’s quite true. I may well end going back to Charlotte later on and giving it another shot, if only to satisfy the 3-episode rule everyone seems so fond of, but for now I’m not lacking in entertainment material. I’ll also shortly be leaving the country for a month, so I just don’t have a lot of time to give to shows that don’t immediately catch my attention.

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  3. I actually really enjoyed the first episode of Charlotte. Glasslip and Red Data Girl had a weak start and didn’t live up to the expectations I have with P.A. Works shows.

    Akagami had a decent start, but I’m not really hyped for anything in particular this season. Charlotte seems like the show I’ll enjoy most, but it remains to be seen how the plot develops.

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    • I remember watching all of Red Data Girl back when it was airing. Like most P.A. Work shows, it looked great but I was getting thoroughly bored by the end of it. I think the only two shows from that studio that I’ve wholeheartedly loved from beginning to end were Angel Beats and Uchouten Kazoku.

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  4. I’ve been watching “Is it okay to pick up girls in a dungeon?” If you haven’t heard of it, yes, that’s a real title. It’s either in its first season or its only season, as I’m on ep 11 of 13. Pretty darn fanservice-y, which isn’t my thing, but it keeps redeeming itself with fun action, b-e-a-utiful animation, and a main character who is at one moment sympathetic and sad and the next pant-wettingly awesome. It’s like an RPG video game brought to life and it’s surprisingly clever that way. Plus, the main character’s Japanese voice actor is superb. His squeals of shock and horror had me rewinding over and over for more laughs. If there’s ever an English dub, that dude has his work cut out for him. I hope there’s more than one season.
    And yeah, Elfen Leid, while good at its core, tried waaaay too hard with the shock value.

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    • I’ve definitely heard of that one – tons of people were blogging about it last season, and tons more were kicking up an endless fuss about the costuming choices. Personally, I didn’t end up watching any of it as it didn’t really look like it would be my thing. It may be that I give it a try at some point when I have more time up my sleeve. I’m not exactly lacking in other entertainment material right now. 🙂

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  5. Definitely watching Gatchaman Crowds Insight – quite eager to see what social message it intends to impart this season! If you ever pick this up, Artemis, I strongly advise you to watch the director’s cut of Season 1’s final episode. The broadcasted finale ran into production problems and a lot of content was removed – later restored into the cut.

    Rokka: Perhaps you’re being a bit too harsh in judging Rokka, Artemis. Its source light novel readers say Ep 1 is just an extended intro from Book 1; they still haven’t reached the real meat of the story, the whodunit mystery. Basically:
    – 7 people turn up instead of the expected 6
    – suspicion arises the 7th is an agent of the demons, sent to stop them
    – everyone’s a suspect, finger-pointing ensues

    The Aztec setting appears to be anime-original – the novels were quite vague in describing the settings. Which is good, because that setting complements the light novel designs more than a Euro-fantasy backdrop ever could!

    Akagami: A Season 2 is scheduled for 2016; word is so Bones can free itself up for the Autumn anime.
    The author states she was inspired by the actual Snow White fairytale in writing the 1st chapter fo the manga (which Ep 1 covered), but only used a few basic themes since she didn’t want to do a full-on adaptation.

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    • Yes, I’ve read the synopsis for Rokka and thought it sounded interesting. However, the most interesting plot in the world can’t save an anime from bad writing, and while I won’t judge the entire anime based on a single episode, I am judging that the exposition in that episode was absolutely cringe-worthy. The setting is great, but otherwise I simply wasn’t impressed by what I saw, and while I’m aware that the show could well improve, I just don’t have the time to invest in a bunch of shows that I don’t like from the get-go.

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      • You’ve a good point, Artemis! 😉
        It’s a pity not all anime can grab you from the get-go and maintain itself throughout its run; that way viewers wouldn’t miss slow-starting anime that became good later, and avoid the animes that erode and break down each episode.
        (Pandering animes are more likely to break this pattern, but more often than not I find they always cater to lowbrow tastes – like To Love-Ru:you know exactly what you’ll get there.)

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  6. I tried watching the 2 episodes of Ranpo Kitan after reading your review – I see how the personalities of Akechi and Kobayashi could turn viewers away.

    However, the artistic arrangement of the bodies, treating corpses as art and psychopathy are highly similar to the new Hannibal TV series from the USA (with Mads Mikkelsen as the titular cannibal), without the gourmet cannibalism. Have you seen it yet? Highly disturbing, but also highly artistic (the food porn & styling are to die for. 😉 )

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    • Like I said, not much of a horror fan, so I know of the Hannibal TV series but have little desire to watch it. Anime horror is a lot easier for me to stomach, but it’s still not usually my preferred genre.

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

  8. Based on your impression with Rokka no Yuusha, is it safe to assume you struggled to watch it Because I certainly did. Everything you wrote was what I thought about it too. I had a hard time going past episode 2. I’m surprised myself that I managed to still keep on watching it (actually it’s mainly because an acquaintance insisted I don’t give up on it too soon). It took 5 episodes for the plot to actually get moving albeit still bad scriptwriting. I started out with 2/10, now it’s… 3/10–maybe I’m too harsh about it.

    I agree how I’m also reminded of Black Lagoon with Gangsta. although for some reason I feel Michiko to Hatchin is a little closer to it? When I was hoping for an anime adaptation Manglobe was the first to come into mind mostly because of that series. (lol) But maybe a combination of both Black Lagoon and Michiko to Hatchin? Regards to the supervision of Tokyo Federation in Gangsta., that’s pretty interesting–I didn’t know about that! Even though I shouldn’t really be surprised as I expected them to not make up some sign language animation for it. What did you think about Nicolas Brown’s VA Tsuda Kenjirou? I personally think he definitely brought to life his character; his voice acting is impressive.

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    • I definitely struggled to watch Rokka, and while I did in the end watch one more episode, it didn’t do anything to raise my expectations so I never watched anymore after that. I found the pacing extremely tedious mostly, and the blatant exposition annoyed me.

      That’s another good comparison in regards to Gangsta – Michiko to Hatchin is a favourite of mine, too. And I do very much appreciate the voice acting in Gangsta now that you mention it, although as I’m currently away overseas with only my phone and very patchy access to wi-fi, I’m way behind on watching. I’ll marathon the rest of the show when I get back in September.

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