Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2015 (Part II)

noragami
It’s been an incredibly warm October here in southern rural Japan, but the chill is now finally setting in, and as per usual I’m contemplating my plans for hibernation. Luckily, anime serves as the perfect distraction from life the cold, especially when consumed with copious amounts of Blendy Stick. So, now that at least four episodes of each show has officially aired, let’s take a look at the follow-up to part one of my taste testing line-up.

High School Star Musical
Original Score: 3/10
Current Score: Who cares, I only watched one episode

high school star musical

What can I say, I only have room for one hilariously bad anime per season, and that slot’s been taken up by Dance with Devils. Not that I don’t think Starmu is entertaining in its own way – because it definitely is, and if you’re still watching than kudos to you – but if the choice is between a ridiculous anime musical about idols and a ridiculous anime musical about demons, I think we all know which way I’ll be going.

Young Black Jack
Original Score: 5/10
Current Score: Who cares, I only watched two episodes

young black jack

Again, there can only be one unintentional comedy per season. It’s like candy – addictive, but too much and you’ll ruin your appetite. Young Black Jack obviously isn’t as bad as Starmu or Dance with Devils, and occasionally even showed glimmers of decent writing amidst the sparkly man-flesh and broodingly melodramatic imagery, but it just takes itself soooo seriously that I couldn’t possibly do so myself.

Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru
Original Score: 5/10
Current Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

sakurako-san no ashimoto ni wa shitai ga umatteiru

There were a lot of small, nagging things I didn’t like about this show, but taken individually I probably wouldn’t have minded them so much. The lack of realism surrounding the mysteries, Sakurako’s annoyingly superior attitude, and even the vaguely creepy sexual tension between her and Shoutarou might have been overlooked if they were all that was wrong with this series. However, by far the bigger problem for me is that Sakurako-san thinks its way smarter than it actually is. I’m not saying the show doesn’t have any redeeming qualities – the art direction, for example, is not only pretty but also uniquely compelling at times – but unfortunately the writing can’t come close to matching it, and mostly strikes me as trying too hard (and failing) to be clever.

Concrete Revolutio
Original Score: 5/10
Current Score: 5/10 (Dropped)

concrete revolutio

I gave this a decent try, I really did. And to be fair, the show was starting to feel a great deal more cohesive after the clusterfuck that was the first episode. The artwork was growing on me, the time skips were only awkward as opposed to just plain confusing, and I could see how some of the characters and themes might actually be used effectively if given the chance. In terms of general execution though, Concrete Revolutio seemed sorely lacking, and I had neither the time nor the patience to keep watching in the hopes of this issue being resolved. The ideas were there and the energy was high, but the delivery was a flop. I like Bones, but this show badly needed someone else in the director’s chair, like Imaishi Hiroyuki or Matsumoto Rie – someone who can bring both style and consistency to the table, and who understands the difference between pizzazz and ostentatiousness.

Dance with Devils
Original Score: 4/10
Current Score: 4/10

dance with devils

Why is this show still on my weekly watch-list when it scored lower than most of the above titles? Because entertainment value can’t be measured in points, and should never be taken for granted. (Also because it’s one of my weekly Glorio assignments, and these kinds of shows are so much more fun when you know someone else is watching with you.) Meanwhile, I remain genuinely surprised (but pleased) by the fact that Ritsuka is perfectly capable of expressing her displeasure at the casual invasion of her personal space, clearly has no intention of being wooed by a bunch of bishounen who aren’t accustomed to hearing the word ‘no’, and has not once been referred to by any of the characters as ‘Bitch-chan’.

Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider
Original Score: 6/10
Current Score: 6/10

subete ni f ni naru: the perfect insider

I’m still a little on the fence about this one, because while I like most what I’ve seen so far, the focus of the series feels split between the cast and the mystery. From what I’ve read on various blogs, viewers seem equally split on whether the mystery should take a backseat to the characters or whether the characters should simply act as a vehicle for the central plot. I’m firmly rooting for the former, but I freely admit that I’m no mystery fan to begin with, and will happily take a solid drama over a whodunit every time. The two don’t necessarily need to be mutually exclusive, but I think Perfect Insider does a much better job when it comes to its character dynamics than it does with its mystery, and would probably be a far better show if it didn’t need to keep up the balancing act.

Lupin III
Original Score: 6/10
Current Score: 6/10

lupin iii 2015

Just as indicated from the first episode, Lupin has settled into a perfectly decent episodic series that’s more interested in being fun than dramatic, and candidly ditches any sense of realism for its mostly lighthearted shenanigans. Some episodes are certainly better than others of course, and Lupin and Jigen have been getting much more in the way of screentime than Fujiko or Goemon, which depending on your character preferences is either a bonus or a disappointment. Personally, I’d prefer more of a full team effort, but I’m not really complaining – this is a fine show that provides enough easygoing entertainment to make it worth my time, and while it doesn’t push itself any further than that, I don’t get the sense that it’s trying to.

Osomatsu-san
Score: 7/10

osomatsu-san

I doubt I would have bothered watching this if it weren’t for a comment from Beobachter on my previous post, but the show has effortlessly taken up a place in my top three picks of the season. All the more so because it’s pretty rare for me to find an anime comedy I really love – and that goes double for anime parodies, which more often than not only annoy me with their lazy, self-indulgent, and fanservice-ridden gags. In contrast, Osomatsu-san is a breath of fresh air, and easily the funniest thing I’ve seen since last year’s Nozaki-kun. I’d rather not give too much away for readers who haven’t yet tried this, especially since explaining a joke is a sure-fire way to ruin one, but trust me when I say that if you haven’t already seen at least the first episode of Osomatsu-san, you’re missing out on one of the very best premieres of the fall. Don’t look it up first – just go in completely cold and enjoy the ride.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Original Score: 7/10
Current Score: 7/10

mobile suit gundam: iron-blooded orphans

Frankly, I’m still in a state of shock at the knowledge that I’m actually looking forward to watching the latest episode of a Gundam series every week. That’s not a dig at the genre – I just don’t care at all for mecha, or even sci-fi for that matter, and I’m not used to thinking of a Gundam show as being legitimately compelling. Yet that’s what Iron-Blooded Orphans is, and what’s more, it’s tightly scripted and (at times) downright subtle as well – now there’s a word I never thought I’d use in such a context. The show doesn’t entirely chuck all its usual conventions out the window, mind you, so there’s still the obligatory Ridiculous Hair and Hero Kids vs. Dastardly Adults tropes. However, it also looks and feels far grittier than the majority of past Gundam titles, and comes across as significantly more believable to me as well, particularly in terms of world-building. I guess the main issue I’ve had with most shows like these in the past (other than my lack of passion for giant space robots) is that they’ve never felt consistently emotionally convincing, and in that regard, Iron-Blooded Orphans has proven itself to be a wonderful exception.

Noragami Aragoto
Original Score: 8/10
Current Score: 8/10

noragami yato

There have been one or two minor annoyances, but in general I’m thoroughly enjoying what the second season Noragami has come up with so far, and at this rate it may well end up being stronger than the first – definitely not something you can say about a lot of shows. I’m a little disappointed that Hiyori’s main role has essentially now been relegated to damsel-in-distress, but if I’m being honest, Yato and Yukine have always been the bigger draws for me, and the ongoing drama between them and Bishamon is really well crafted – heated, suspenseful, and very much in line with their respective characters. This is an excellent series, and I have little doubt it will remain so.

Question of the post: Agree? Disagree? Are there any shows you’ve changed your mind about now that the introductions are well and truly out of the way?

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24 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Fall 2015 (Part II)

  1. >Yukine

    Why would he be a draw? He’s a frustrating plot device, doing whatever random shouty thing he has to in order to ramp up the angst in this series. The series would be better off without him, with Hiyori just being his sword when she’s in spirit-form (or in a coma and in spirit-form all the time). He’s the most obnoxious kind of useless character.

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    • I like Yukine, but I’ve already said quite a bit about how Hiyori’s downgrade has been pretty frustrating. She’s the viewpoint character for pete’s sake, why can’t she get even a smidgen of agency? Now we see she can’t even defend herself against properly armed Regalia, let alone a Phantom or Divine threat. I think there is still plenty of room for this show to bring her into the fight, but it just never seems like it’s going to happen.

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      • Yeah, that does frustrate me as well, and I’m largely in agreement with you. I wish the show would flesh out Hiyori’s character more and give her something to do besides constantly being put in danger and used as a kind of hostage against Yato, but you’re right – I don’t really think that’s ever going to happen.

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    • If that’s how you feel then I’m not going to be able to change your mind, and I’m not going to try. However, I don’t see Yukine as either annoying or useless – you’re free to dislike him if you want, but I personally enjoy his character a lot. I think it has a great deal more subtlety than Hiyori’s (who, incidentally, is always the one getting kidnapped or used as a hostage against Yato or what have you, so if you’re going to talk about being useless…) I also really like the relationship between Yukine and Yato, which has showed far more growth than that of, say, Hiyori and Yato.

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  2. Having read the manga, it’s true Hiyori gets in trouble more than most. She’s not really the fighting/self-defense type despite her claims.
    However, her true role story-wise is as a pillar of moral and psychological support for Yato (and Yukine). She snaps him out of his emotional funks/murderous lapses, encourages him to chase his ambitions of becoming a Fortune God, and teaches him be more independent and mature. In short, she drives Yato’s personal growth. It’s this interrelationship (and others) that primarily drives the manga’s main story and character development.

    Hiyori’s mentoring role is meant to be contrasted to Nora, who’s only interested in keeping Yato stagnant and emotionally stunted as a brutish Calamity God so she (and her True Master) can manipulate and use him for their own agendas. You’ll find out more once the story starts covering Yato’s past. (which should be in the coming arc.)

    Iron-Blooded Orphans: One funny bit was the world map depicting Australia with a huge chunk missing from it (Sydney-New South Wales-Canberra), while the rest of the world still looked OK. Someone must really hate Australia in this universe. (” – -)>

    Happy Halloween, BTW!! As a present, I thought I’d share with you the full version of the ED song of The Asterisk War anime. Hope you enjoy it.

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    • I agree, and I certainly don’t dislike Hiyori’s character. However, I’m frustrated that her character is used so ineffectively, and at times for nothing more than simple plot convenience. I don’t think the anime is currently doing her justice at all.

      Haha, yes I noticed that about Australia as well. I’m from New Zealand, so while Japanese viewers may not have noticed, it seemed blindingly obvious to me.

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  3. This season has really been a disappointment. The only new show that has felt above average is Utawarerumono – Itsuwari no Kamen, though the story hasn’t really gotten going yet. The FL (Kuon) is a really good character and is one of the main reasons I’ve been watching.

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    • Oh, I’m sorry to hear you feel that way. Personally I don’t think this season is any better or worse than most others, but I get that it’s a very subjective thing.

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  4. Hmmm… why do I get the impression that this season has been a very good one for shirtless anime dudes?

    Also, agreed with you on Noragami. This season has been really good so far and in my mind it has already surpassed the first season. It feels a lot more… urgent. I’m also really impressed with the way it has managed to build up conflict. There are no contrived plot devices, just a series of escalating incidences. Everyone on Bishamon’s side (including Bishamon herself) keeps trying to smooth over all the problems by pretending there is no problem at all, so the inevitable breakdown of her relationships really hit me hard.

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    • Well, I’m certainly not complaining about shirtless anime dudes, but it doesn’t make a great deal of difference to me if I don’t like the anime overall. And if I do, the shirtless thing is just a random bonus.

      I agree, the pacing and general tension in Noragami this season is incredibly well balanced, and it makes it very easy to get emotionally invested.

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  5. I still haven’t start Noragami, but I’m loving Osomatsu so far! The later episodes haven’t been as crazy as episode 1, but still managed to be funny nonetheless. I also like how I can distinguish some (some, not all as of yet, unfortunately) of the sextuplets purely just from their character and personality, since all of them looked ENTIRELY the same.

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    • Yeah, their facial expressions often give them away, and of course they all have pretty distinctive personalities. They all have different voice actors too, which is a nice touch – though hearing Ono Daisuke’s voice come out of Jushimatsu’s mouth is hilarious. 😄

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      • Yea, Ono Daisuke usually voices calm characters, so hearing his voice with Jyushimatsu is kinda hilarious xD Kamiya Hiroshi’s great with the straight man role, and he’s spot-on so far with Choromatsu.

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  6. Noragami is certainly also one of my, if not my favourite anime of this season. But i gotta say that Bishamon’s questionable costume actually dragged down the otherwhise strong last episode (5). The intended emotional impact of some of the scenes would have been much stronger if it would not be conflicted as strongly by her wacky sexed up appearance and its complete disconnect of what she is.
    In a more lighthearted context its not that big of a deal, but in ep. 5 it got quite creepy.

    Also, I really want to like Sakurako-san but its giving me a hard time,,, I guess some hope for it to get better remains.

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    • I agree, and I remember pointing that out in part one of my post – Noragami’s a great show, but every now and again its really unnecessary fanservice does the show… well, a disservice. I see it mostly with Hiyori and those occasional panty shots, but Bishamon’s costume is another example.

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  7. I can’t disagree with you on Young Black Jack and Sakurako, but for some reason I have difficulty dropping either of them. I guess I just happen to like the kind of cheese they’re selling, but yeah, they’re not stuff that I’d generally recommend to others (unless they’re really really into Tezuka and/or cheesy procedural…).

    Also, yay on Osomatsu-san love! I’ve been enjoying recent episodes; love the dark undercurrent of its comedy.The random spoofs are really hit-or-miss (even if the wiener gag made me laugh the hardest ever since the premier. Yeah, I’m twelve), but the 2-in-1 story format is good and made me nostalgic for older slice-of-life/comedy anime with similar packaging.

    I kind of want to watch one “hilarious bad” anime per season now… although gotta say the difference between that and “depressing bad” is sometimes so paper thin.

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    • Hey, you like cheese, that’s your prerogative – I don’t mind criticising anime, but I don’t critisise peoples tastes, so I say more power to you.

      I think one of the things I’m liking about Osomatsu-san is that despite the sometimes dark undercurrent in its comedy, the series still manages not to feel particularly bitter or cynical. It’s occasionally biting, but somehow always lighthearted nonetheless.

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  8. I dropped Noragami. Not because I didn’t like it, but because I’ve read the manga and know what’s going to happen. I really looked forward to Bishamon’s arc but I’m not sure I want to go through the experience again. Has that ever happened to you? It’s an interesting problem of reading the source material (LN or manga) before watching the anime. Sometimes it’s because they changed the story from the manga (Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio) or because it’s just too affecting emotionally.

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  9. Oh I’m still on Sakurako…nnnnnnot that there’s any sympathy from me towards a condescending dark haired girl who likes using big words. I do agree the show isn’t as clever as it wants to be, but I’m still getting the feeling this is supposed to, ultimately, be some sort of character study. I suppose the next arc will see that through or not.

    Perfect Insider was set up to be AOTS, I felt, but it’s gotten very…blue-ballish with the whole shebang. The reveals are incredibly slow, and generally things teased at two episodes before that we pieced together already, it’s just the manner in which those events occur that are the relatively surprising parts. Characters seem like they’re going somewhere, but I’ve felt little connection to them, other than Magata, who I’m still not sure if we’re supposed to suspect is alive or not, so the whole arc is very forced for me…”Be proud of me, I used to be indecisive.” and our response is “Uh, sure, I’ll take your word for it”

    Noragami, still a big winner.

    I’m also still watching Valkyrie Drive but they’ve started the whole ero-roadtrip of fetish characters so, most of the promise is gone.

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    • I admit I gave up Sakurako-san pretty quickly – while I have a fairly high tolerance for slow-moving titles, if I dislike something off the bat then I have very little patience in terms of hanging in there to see if it gets better. Which I guess is just a round-about way of me saying that I didn’t care for what little I saw of Sakurako-san, but really have no idea what the show is like as a whole and therefore can’t critisise too much.

      You’re right though, Perfect Insider is testing even my patience for slow pacing right now. I’ll see it through to the end, and I’m still enjoying each episode to at least some degree – because if forced to choose, I’ll take interesting characters over a good and well-paced plot any day – but admittedly the show is certainly taking its sweet time in getting anywhere. If you’re not feeling most of the characters though then you’re not feeling them, and I can’t fault anyone for that.

      Yup, Noragami is still king.

      Uh… I watched episode one of Valkyrie Drive? It’s not my thing, but that’s not really saying much I guess. I had some okay things to say about it actually, which kinda shocked me considering the kind of content it’s delivering, so that’s something at least. That said, I certainly won’t be watching any further – I’ll leave that to the ecchi connoisseurs.

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  10. Personally, I really enjoyed Noragami, It was the highlight of Winter 2014 season. I believe it was the easiest to watch and enjoy as well, for some reason, I was able to just watch episode after episode and was disappointed when it came to an end. Yukine’s character at first irritated me but then you realize he was an important plot device to signify Yato’s change and growth as a character. It showed that no matter what, he was willing to put his life on the line for the ones he cared about, I just loved how they explored his character.

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    • I really enjoyed Noragami as well, both seasons. Yukine is still my favourite character as well – I know a lot of people don’t like him, but his character arc seemed especially strong and compelling to me. 🙂

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      • I actually just started the second season, more like halfway through the first episode lol. I have to admit, I didn’t like Yukine at first but I appreciate the role he plays in the anime, so he grew on me.

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