In Medias Res: Spring 2015 Anime (Part 1)

We’ve reached that halfway-ish point in the season, and now it’s time I reflect on the degree to which I regret what I’ve watched these last 7-ish weeks. Thankfully, there are a few really strong anime this season that make up for the utter vileness I unwisely put in my eyes for testing purposes.

arslan1

Arslan Senki: It’s appropriate that they’re making a Dynasty Warriors game for this series, since it has very similar plot elements; I am certainly expecting many a face-off between two master strategists in the future, since seeing the yield of well-employed strategies has been the high point of the first 6 episodes. A lot depends on where this show is going, since as of now it’s proven to be good at keeping the viewer’s attention with the overall plot, but not so good at executing details in the moment. My largest specific qualm is Arslan’s father: is there any more transparently in-the-wrong character? He’s a complete ass whenever he shows up on screen, and then gets killed in half a second when he meets a decent fighter—if anything, it’s a wonder that Pars hasn’t been annihilated before now with that guy at the helm. His poor characterization also sucks the drama out of the whole slavery issue; as a viewer, it would take a heck of a lot for me to relate to the country that’s still keeping slaves (even if the other guys are also jerks), and the king’s “BECAUSE I SAID SO” explanation is not exactly compelling. Arslan’s naivety is slightly better, since based on that we can assume that the people of Pars don’t free the slaves because they just don’t know any better, but overall there isn’t a lot to keep the viewer from siding with the opposing force. And that’s how we end up with the need for a comically maniacal opposing force, including a priest who licks his lips creepily before beating the crap out of a guy and some other dude who says stuff like “I sometimes wonder if spearing babies maybe isn’t the best way to be loved by God.” Like, seriously. I’m holding out for the man in the silver mask to have some compelling reasons of his own, so that when he meets up with Arslan we can finally have some properly nuanced conflict. Preferably some that doesn’t require CG, because for the love of god the CG in this show is terrible.

Thankfully, the main characters, at least, are well written and sympathetic. I’m surprised Arslan didn’t turn out to be more of a stereotypical well-meaning weakling, but overwhelmingly pleased that he is shown in every episode to have both the resilience of a hero and the temperament of a just ruler through his small actions. The current three members of his group are equally endearing, so luckily I can root for Arslan himself despite not feeling particularly weepy about Pars’s possible destruction.

fateUBW1

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works: I remain pleased that I picked this up despite my original aversion to Fate/Anything (developed from watching the original travesty of a Fate/Stay Night anime). I still have some complaints—ok, mostly my only complaint is that Shinji is a terrible character and I wish he’d died ages ago. His only motivation seems to be a desire to be as awful as possible, which makes him particularly lackluster in comparison to the show’s other villains like Caster and Archer. Otherwise, though, the series has been pretty high quality throughout: the art and animation are fantastic, and the battle scenes are delightful. The abrupt way in which confrontations typically end was surprising to me at first, given that anime tends to drag things out as long as possible, but it doesn’t feel out of place in this series, and actually adds a sense of brutal realism to the fantastical events. The characters are solid, as well: Rin, though tsundere, is defined by a lot more than just that characteristic, and the progression of Shirou’s focus from ideals to actions has made him a better protagonist than I imagined when the series began.  And wow, I did not see that twist with Archer coming. All-in-all, it’s been fun to watch every week, and as the conclusion approaches I feel satisfied with this adaptation.

gunslingerstratos

Gunslinger Stratos: I didn’t hate the first two episodes of this show, but I also haven’t been compelled to keep watching since then. The premise is vaguely interesting, and the characters aren’t terrible. At the same time, the show does a poor job of convincing the viewer to be invested in those characters and the universe they inhabit, so the threat that it will be destroyed in favor of their other selves’ universe doesn’t have a lot of weight. Perhaps I’ll pick this up again before the end of the season, but it’s definitely a backburner-level show.

pleiades

Houkago no Pleiades: As with Gunslinger Stratos, I’m finding myself struggling to get further than the first few episodes of this one. It’s not atrocious, just bland. Everything takes far too long, and while there are some creative additions like the drive shaft, can mostly be categorized as “magical girls doing magical girl stuff” (and not in a fun way). Also, the fact that pink-hair and red-hair don’t recognize each other despite the fact that they don’t look at all different when in disguise is just ridiculous.

dungeonde

Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: I have no idea why I started watching this, or why I’m still watching it, but I’m pleased that it’s picked up somewhat in the last few episodes. The first episodes were abominably boring, particularly the part about Hestia’s knife; honestly, the time Hestia spent not giving Bell the damn knife when they were about to die was long enough for me to go from concerned to “ok can you please just die then,” and then stay in the latter mood for a good 10 minutes before things got resolved. Thankfully, things got better with the introduction of Lili and her role as both the hunter and the hunted, and Bell got a chance to become slightly less dull himself in stubbornly insisting on getting wrapped up in her problems. There’s still a lot of pointless nonsense we’d be better off without—mainly every girl on earth being in love with Bell and not shutting up about it—but there’s just enough charm and potential to keep things watchable for now. Oh, and Loki is best goddess.

kekkaisensen

Kekkai Sensen: This was a bit difficult to get into due to just the sheer amount of stuff going on at any one time. I absolutely cannot watch it when I’m tired or distracted, and I’m often confused as all hell. Regardless, I am super glad that I made the effort, because this show is unbelievably fun and I love it. Every episode is like an explosion of pure creativity, on a beautifully surreal backdrop of unfamiliar familiarity rendered in unusually nice detail. It’s a rare gem that embraces the absurd and has a frenetic energy that makes every second enjoyable (plus, the ending animation is adorable to the nth degree). Kekkai Sensen reminds me of a brighter, less melancholic FLCL, though whether it will end up having as strong an overarching trajectory and themes as FLCL remains to be seen. Either way, I know I’m going to be watching it at least twice to digest everything.

Rinne

Kyoukai no Rinne: I couldn’t dislike this show if I tried, as it’s based on one of my favorite manga by my very favorite manga-ka, Rumiko Takahashi. No unbiased review will be found here, but you’ll have a biased one and you’ll like it: Kyoukai no Rinne is a classically funny series, very much what one would expect from the creator of Urusei Yatsura and Ranma 1/2. From what we’ve seen thus far, the anime does a surprisingly nice job with the comedic timing, and the voice acting never fails to hit the right note. So far I’ve particularly enjoyed Ryouhei Kimura as Juumonji; episode 4 had me in tears. And Kappei Yamaguchi will be playing Sabato, Rinne’s father, so I can barely restrain my glee when thinking about future episodes. It’s definitely a solid anime so far, and from my knowledge of the manga, I know it only gets better. That said, there are definitely elements of the anime that make me shake my head. As I’m not the first blogger to point out, there is very little movement in most of the shots, and too much time is spent with just talking heads in the frame. The art is nice, but could we please have some dynamic animation as well? The opening animation is lovely, and I’m hoping that some of the future more action-oriented arcs look more like that than what we’ve seen in the first 6 episodes. I have some qualms with the episode order that I’m planning to expand on in a future post as well, but suffice it to say that using the less quirky and unusual spirits like toire no hanako and the bakeneko before approaching any of the odder stuff does the series a disservice, because Takahashi’s unique interpretation of mythology and history is the cornerstone of her manga’s charm. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’ve found the last couple of episodes a bit dull, keep watching. And if you haven’t started this show yet, do!

Part 2 will cover the following, and possibly end in my vowing to never sample so many anime in one season ever again:

  • Ore Monogatari
  • Owari no Seraph
  • Plastic Memories
  • Punch Line
  • Re-kan
  • Shokugeki no Souma
  • Sound! Euphonium
  • The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan
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