Anime Summer Season 2014: Final Thoughts

Most shows I started watching for the summer season have now wrapped up, being only 12-13 episodes. A few seem to be running on a 24-ep schedule, but most of them are finished.

So I figured I’d go through all of the ones I mentioned in my early impressions, and also a couple more I picked up since. I’ll go alphabetically this time.

Akame is actually not the protagonist

Akame Ga Kill

This one I picked up pretty late. It’s going to run for 24 episodes, so it’s only halfway yet.

Country-boy Tatsumi has honed his skill at killing Danger Beasts (what the show calls monsters) and sets out for the capital with two friends to join the army and hopefully earn money to send back to their village. After being confronted with the deep corruption of the place, he runs into the titular Akame and her fellow assassins of Night Raid. After some shenanigans he ends up joining them, as they fight to weaken the corrupt power structures of the city.

I’m not sure I’d call this show mature, but it is very brutal. Initially only viscerally brutal, but it starts hitting emotional points as well after a few episodes. It also delves into some very uncomfortable territory in episode 9 and 10. Unfortunately (or perhaps just as well) it doesn’t make much out of it, and seems to play it largely for laughs. I suppose you could say the show seems a little too light-hearted at times, which can provide a rather jarring contrast to the more brutal stuff.

So far I wouldn’t call it a great show, but it’s alright. Doesn’t really feel like it makes the most of its premise, but I can largely forgive that. We’ll see if my opinion changes in the next 12 episodes.

Such a shame.

Aldnoah.Zero

Concluded at 12 episodes.

As I summarised the plot well enough last time, I’ll just copy that:

It’s half past the future, and Martians are in orbit around Earth. There was a war 15 years ago where the Martians shattered the moon, because of course, then a truce was signed, and work is being done on a permanent peace treaty, spear-headed by the Martian princess.

Only these Martians are basically just humans, who at some point in the past left Earth (don’t ask me how), went to Mars, found super-tech, and crowned themselves gods. Now they look down upon the Terrans, believing them inherently inferior in every way, and only the princess really believes in peace.

So of course they arrange an assassination on her so they can restart the war while blaming the humans.

I will admit, I stayed positive on this show throughout most of the season. It was good, yes, but it was also just good at pushing the right buttons for me. Keeping me on the edge of my seat, and holding my attention.

And then the ending happened. The final two minutes or so of the show basically flipped my entire opinion of it. It felt like they won the battle, but lost the war, essentially. Two of my favourite characters are seemingly murdered, because a third character fucks up royally. And then they announce a second season will come next year! After what you did there, I’m not sure I actually want to watch it.

The rest of the show is pretty good, but in hindsight I’d say not good enough to be worth staying until that ending.

Lotsa kids.

Barakamon

Concluded at 12 episodes.

I must admit I was a bit dismissive of this one in my early impressions, but it actually turned out to be quite good.

Plot: Handa Seishou is a hotheaded and immature young calligrapher who gets in trouble when he punches a judge at a contest he’s in, and gets sent off to an island in the middle of nowhere to cool off. There he has to figure out how to deal with the locals, and how to become a better person.

It is heartwarming, and funny, and sometimes a little embarassing, but it means well. It is typically very calm and doesn’t make a fuss, rather focusing on letting the characters shine. Seishou is a real jerk when he first arrives, but he grows admirably. As a fellow creator I can definitely identify with a lot of his struggles when it comes to his art, and as a human I can identify with the struggle to become less horrible. Not to mention pretty much all the islanders are utter darlings in their own way.

Worth a watch if you like that sort of thing.

Leeeeggggggsssssssss.

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Crystal

Still hasn’t gotten farther than episode 6 of a planned 26. So it’s far from finished.

However, since the show started, Usagi has been joined by three other sailor guardians: Ami as Sailor Mercury, Rei as Sailor Mars and Makoto as Sailor Jupiter. I am still not entirely sold on the artstyle, but I’ve gotten used to the voice-actors, at least.

Basically seems like an “evil of the week” show, while also advancing the overall plot bit by bit. I must admit I am starting to get quite invested. One to keep watching, I’d say. Though I do wish they’d switch to a weekly schedule. They even took three weeks in one case.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Free! Eternal Summer

Concluded at 13 episodes.

I will say it surprised me by having a bit more of a plot and stronger writing than the first season. Like, there is more to it than just looking at nicely drawn boys in swimwear. Not anything too important, admittedly, but it’s there if you want it. And it’s quite solid.

Definitely one to watch, as the boys are so perfect I can barely stand it. Can I just collect them all?

Couldn't be more adorable.

Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yatte Mita.

Concluded at 12 episodes. Though an OVA is promised!

Plot:

The average and uncute (complete lies, she is 100% adorable, but that’s how the show paints her view of herself, and how her parents see her too) Nanako, who has a tendency to introduce herself as Nanyako/Nyanako when nervous, teams up with the older and more confident Yukari to become local idols, or locodols, to promote their town. Small towns and districts have troubles with being abandoned by young people and businesses, so this is a ploy to raise the popularity of the area.

Even with other great shows this season, this remained my absolute favourite. And the one I am absolutely saddest about losing. Nanako and Yukari are such darlings together, even though Nanako seems absolutely oblivious to Yukari’s feelings. It is very down-to-earth, and sweet, and utterly adorable. I want more Nanako and Yukari cuddle-time, for sure. And… everything else, too. Just more. Please. My heart yearns!

I have been trying to find the manga, but it’s been difficult to get a hold of, even though I’ve found places that say 3 volumes should be out. Maybe this is one of those rare “anime before manga” things, so the manga isn’t widely distributed yet? With the dancing and singing, I guess it does work a little better with sound and moving pictures.

If you don’t watch this one, I will judge you.

The pen is mightier.

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Concluded at 12 episodes.

Plot:

Sakura Chiyo is hopelessly in love with Nozaki Umetarō, and is determined to ask him out. However, she bungles it up and states that she’s his fan. Which ends up with her becoming the beta (like an inker, I think?) for his manga.

Oh, what am I to do… this ended up being one of the absolute highlights of this season. Rarely have I watched a show so genuinely funny and full of joy. Yes, it makes no sense, and yes, it hops around a lot. No doubt an artefact of its 4-Koma roots. But I just adore it so, so much. It never fails to put a smile on my face, to make me grin just by thinking about it, to have me burst out laughing without warning.

I have also gone and read all of the manga it’s based on, and I really, truly, deeply hope there will be a second season. Now I don’t know what to do with myself.

Along with a couple of friends on Twitter we have formed a “People who want to punch Nozaki” support group, because he’s so astoundingly oblivious.

If you don’t watch this one, you are doing yourself a huge disfavour.

Yosakoi!

Hanayamata

Concluded at 12 episodes.

Naru is a shy high-school girl who never stands out at anything. She sees herself as painfully average, and her escape is the world of books. Fairy tales, especially. Nothing special really happens until she runs into Hana, a transfer student from the US who is determined that what she wants most is to dance Yosakoi, a Japanese folk dance, with other people. She manages to drag Naru into it, and a few others eventually. They seek refuge in the dancing and eachother’s company as they deal with various insecurities and gradually discover happiness.

Biggest tear-jerker of the season. It’s so lovely, and adorable, and I cried so much. I can’t even write this without tearing up.

If you’re prepared for that, I really do recommend checking it out. It’s beautiful.

We are rawr!

Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen

Currently at episode 12 of a planned 24.

Plot: It’s a mecha show where the more mecha-like Argevollen goes up against mechs closer to what you’d find in Battletech. There’s a war going on, and our heroes are on one side of it.

This show continues to just sit quite comfortably in the ‘good’ category, never really excelling at anything, though not really doing anything bad either.

I suppose maybe the lack of clarity can be an issue. As I mentioned in my early impressions, the show is fairly light on tropes, and seems to stick to realism to a surprising degree. The top brass in both militaries are basically portrayed as arseholes with hidden agendas, and there’s even a secret cabal of capitalists pulling the strings behind the scenes. Both sides have decent people and bad people. It’s hard to tell who the good guys are supposed to be, which is probably one of the more realistic portrayals of war I’ve seen (maybe except the cabal). It doesn’t really make for very entertaining watching all the time, though. That’s why these stories often get a bit more dramatic flair.

Still, I like it enough to keep watching for another 12 episodes, probably.

Such serious. Much gun.

Sword Art Online II

I dropped this partway through episode 8. Only show I completely gave up on this season. Credible sources say it gets worse later.

I did really like the first half of the first season of Sword Art Online. Enough to stick around for the second half, even when it got really uncomfortable.

Season 2 continues the trend of being weirdly uncomfortable in places, and adds an unhealthy dose of tonedeafness that I just couldn’t stand. I gave it way more of a chance than it deserved.

I recommend you stay away from this one.

Must say I don't remember a bike.

Tokyo ESP

Concluded at 12 episodes.

Tokyo ESP seems to draw obvious parallels to X-Men in its story, characters and the powers they possess. Basic gist: There are these magical golden fish that just swim around in the air. Only visible to a select few. They seem to enter people based on some strange selection process, often if the person is in a dire situation or is feeling some strong emotion. Maybe the manga explains it better than the anime, which doesn’t really explain it at all. Any person who receives a fish suddenly has a new power. Our heroine Urushiba Rinka suddenly gains the power of phasing through solid objects, though it doesn’t seem to work on living things.

Together with a few allies she is all that stands in the way of other Espers that have chosen to use their powers for evil.

The show is not without its stumbling, especially since it rushes so much and occasionally neglects to fill in the blanks. I found episode 9 and 10 to be especially disappointing, for reasons that would probably be too spoilery to go into here. And also just stuff like… why does it seem like every Esper outside of Rinka’s little group just default to evil and join the bad guy’s army, or start a life of crime on their own? Why take the effort to try to humanise the villains that do unspeakably unforgivable things? It’s hard to really try to make a character sympathetic when you see them murdering children with glee.

It raises a lot of questions that it doesn’t seem to care to answer. And I consider that a problem. Even with that said, it does recover a fair deal in the final two episodes, and is probably the best of the action-orientated shows I’ve seen this season. But it is clearly rushed, and probably just used as a vehicle to try to get you to buy the manga, and honestly it might provide a better experience.

Nice mask, bro.

Tokyo Ghoul

Concluded at 12 episodes.

Plot:

It’s roughly now, Tokyo, except in an alternate universe where certain people called Ghouls wander about. They look human, most of the time, but they’re actually stronger in every way, can’t be hurt by most human means, and have to eat human flesh to survive. Any other type of food is basically toxic to them, except for coffee. No, it doesn’t really make sense, but as premises go, I’ve heard worse. A lot of western stories about zombies and ghouls have them only eating humans too, though they’re usually not this… sentient.

Of course the ghouls have their own secret society and stuff, there are special variants, they can sprout unique superpowers, and all that jazz.

Enter Kaneki, a human who gets targeted as the next meal for a ghoul named Rize, who is classified as a Binge Eater. Basically cursed with eternal gluttony, though she seems quite happy about it. Shit goes down, Rize is somehow killed next to a mortally wounded Kaneki, and the first responders for some reason think it’s a great idea to stuff Rize’s organs into Kaneki so he’ll live. As a half-ghoul thing. Which are of course rumoured in ghoul myth to be the strongest ghoul of all, because that’s how these stories work.

Yet another show that started out promising, but lost its way. After finishing the finale, my literal first thought was “what a disappointing waste of a show”. Cue someone telling me to check out the manga because it’s better. So I did. And it is, but… at current the manga stands at chapter 143, which is marked as the [End], and it doesn’t really end on a satisfactory note either. Too much left unresolved, too many questions left to answer. It’s like they just went “yeah, that’s enough”.

Can’t really recommend you watch it. Maybe check out the manga if you’re curious, but even that is of questionable worth.

Bombs and stuff.

Zankyou no Terror

Concluded at 11 episodes.

Two young men who go by Nine and Twelve start committing acts of terror in Tokyo, while they pose riddles to the police to give them a chance to find and stop the bombs. A regular girl named Lisa gets involved, and it turns out the boys used to part of a brutal government program.

The main problem here is that the show started with an interesting premise: Let’s follow a couple of characters who would ordinarily be villains, and try to understand why they do what they do as they play cat and mouse with the police. It stands poised to tackle difficult subjects without flinching, but… then it does seem to actually flinch. It’s like the writers chicken out and feel the need to introduce bigger villains than the protagonists who quickly outdo them in bad deeds, and turn it into more of a standard anti-hero thing, while Lisa ends up being largely inconsequential to everything.

It’s more disappointing than bad, really. At least the ending is somewhat okay. And it still has the best soundtrack this season.

Maybe still worth giving a chance, just don’t expect too much.

And there we go, everything I looked at from the summer season. I do find it strange how it almost seems like a recurring trend that the action/drama shows start out good, or have an interesting premise, but then become disappointing. The season of disappointments.

On the other hand, none of the cute shows let me down. All of them great in different ways.

Now to see what the autumn season brings.

~Wulf

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Posted on September 28, 2014, in Cartoons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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