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Feb 17

Winter Anime First Episode Impressions

I spend far too much time doing these writeups…

See, told ya I’d write more. A month ago the Winter season kicked off in earnest, and over that time I’ve subjected myself to the first episode of near enough everything that’s airing, like I do every season. Why? Well, quality can come from anywhere, and sometimes shows you had no expectations for whatsoever turn out to be one of the best you’ve ever seen (Shinsekai Yori is my go to example). Of course, for every diamond in the rough there’s a crock of rubbish that gets dismissed out of hand or left to pursue at a later date rather than being must-sees of the moment. So in this post I’m gonna rundown my opinions on every show I watched this season. From Buddy Complex to Z/X Ignition, they’re all here, so let’s get this massive rundown started.

Before we begin, for your convenience, here’s links to each show writeup if you just want to read a few or see what’s covered. Otherwise scroll past them and begin the 38 show marathon.

Buddy Complex; Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren; D-Frag!; Double Circle; Go! Go! 575; Hamatora; Houzuki no Reitetsu; Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha; Mahou Sensou; Maken-Ki! Tsuu; Mikakunin de Shinkoukei; Minna Atsumare! Falcom Gakuen; Nisekoi; Nobunaga the Fool; Nobunagun; Noragami; Nourin; Onee-chan ga Kita; pupa; Pupipou!; Robot Girls Z; Saikin, Imouto no Yousu ga Chotto Okaishiin Da Ga; Saki Zenkoku-hen; Sakura Trick; Seitokai Yakuindomo *; Sekai Seifuku ~Bouryaku no Zvezda~; Silver Spoon Second Season; SoniAni -Super Sonico The Animation-; Space Dandy; Strange+; Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta; Tonari no Seki-kun; Wake Up, Girls!; Witch Craft Works; Wizard Barristers ~ Benmashi Cecil; Wooser no Sono Higurashi Kakusei Hen; Youkai Watch; Z/X Ignition

Buddy Complex

Starting off with mechs, glorious mechs, with added time travel shenanigans for good measure. Actually, the mech fighting was the highlight here, looking pretty solid while the show’s writing did all it could to derail the production. Be it the main baddie of the episode being totally unable to kill either a human  or a half-broken mech in his powered up machine to the regular police thinking pulling up in a few cars around it would deter him in any way to that age old classic of a 5 minute countdown self-destruct clock because I’ll be damned if that cliché hasn’t been overused to hell. I’d look past this if the main characters were at all interesting, but you have the clueless male lead who is suddenly pulled into this world because this is when he was taken to the future (oh yeah, there’s time travel, so expect paradoxes everywhere), and the girl pulling him into it who remains vague throughout the entire show because why would you ever clue somebody in to what’s happening, that’d be useful or something. The episode ends with him going to her future sans her and the baddie, so will presumably take place there for the rest of its duration, but after 2013’s mech tag team of Valvrave and Gargantia, this isn’t anything to get excited about.

UNLIKELY

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren

I adored the first season of Chuunibyou. Prior to its finale, it was a contender for Anime of the Year, battling it out with Psycho-Pass and Shinsekai Yori. Sadly, the last two episodes were a bit of a misfire knocking it down the list, but it was still a great show and the best thing KyoAni’s put out post-Haruhi. So hype levels were at maximum for a second season after being told the original didn’t even cover all the content in the light novel. This season begins by timeskipping ahead a bit. Yuuta and Rikka have been dating for a while but are still too awkward to go anywhere meaning they revert back to their original selves (screw that character development which made the first season such a standout), while other characters have either changed hairstyle or moved elsewhere. Due to that, our two leads have ended up living together while Rikka looks for a new place to crash. But the problem is more with what hasn’t changed. You’ll be noticing a lot of reused humour from the first time around, and characters acting more as tropes of themselves and vehicles for jokes. Maybe I’m being overly harsh on this because of a slow start and it redeems itself as time goes on, the animations still as luscious as ever (though I have no clue why Nibutani joins in the delusion fight at one point), and while the opening and ending aren’t as good as Sparkling Daydream or Inside Identity, they’re still decent. I’ll probably end up watching it because of sequel bias (this write up alone shows I’m still passionate about the show), but I can’t see it reaching those same highs.

POSSIBLY

D-Frag!

Or “D-Fragments” for… not short. I struggled to work out what this show wanted to be. It begins with a guy getting involved with an all-girl highschool club. Stop me if you’ve heard that premise before. This time around the club was supposedly about creating videogames, to which end each girl had control over a specific element, be it fire (I have a lighter), water (drink til you die) and so forth, using these powers to bully our hapless lead (who’s supposedly the leader of some strong school faction) into joining them. And as you may have guessed this means a lot of zany humour alongside the stereotypes, like the loli having a dark side, the ditsy yet athletic girl, the freakishly strong one and one of the club members actually being a teacher. Okay, that last one did actually catch me off guard. And I haven’t even started on the male cast of the show. There’s so many random elements going on in the 20 minutes of this show, its like they threw everything into a pot and hoped to get a decent slice of life and comedy show out of it, and hey, it’s not as awful as it could be, but it means everything here’s been done better elsewhere.

UNLIKELY

Double Circle

A small group of friends who can transform into mechs G-G-G-G-Gatchamaaaaan style (sorry, I miss that show) team up to fight some weird alien invaders, like the one in this opening who channels Medusa to petrify their local district. Said team includes a chick from space who’s working with them for… some reason, an amazing cyberhacker and… the vanilla lead. Animation managed to just about avoid moe moe trash status, the villain was utterly hopeless and boring, and… well, this was a short show, so I’ve run out of things to say. And all of them were bad. Sums Double Circle up.

DROPPED

Go! Go! 575

I pondered before watching this what the 575 part actually meant. Its referring to haiku, with their five seven five syllable pattern, which came as a pleasant surprise. Sadly that’s where the pleasantness ended, with the show itself turning out to be generic moe little girls doing generic moe things, until one sees a haiku being used to advertise some food product and has an epiphany because of its beauty so decides to spend her time coming up with more haiku’s to describe her life and the world around her. And that’s it. I mean, plus points for making a show about haiku’s, and I know it’s a short, but c’mon, that’s hardly enough to justify a show, is it.

UNLIKELY

Hamatora

If there’s one genre I have a weakness for, its shonen. The vast majority of the manga I read are shonen titles, and a lot of the shows I watch thesedays tend to involve some sort of battle elements at the very least. Anyways, in Hamatora, there exist people who have powers called Minimum, but to use them they have to pay some kind of price wait a minute. This is Darker than Black. Our lead characters run an investigative firm and… holy cow it is Darker than Black. Except while that show did a dang fine job at storytelling, Hamatora isn’t at that level right now. There’s the usual cast of shonen guys with crazy hairdo’s and appearances and a bunch of various powers, some cliché, others not. It also did a fairly good job at dovetailing the two mystery plots into one at the end of the episode. Combine this with solid looking animation, the interesting (if somewhat stolen) premise and… yeah, as I said, I’m weak to shonen. They always offer such possibility in storytelling which most other shows will never have.

POSSIBLY

Houzuki no Reitetsu

Hell. Hell hell hell. There’s a lot of hells and managing them on a day to day basis is… well, hell. With that premise set, we follow the life of our stoic, fairly emotionless and frankly boring hell lord, whom may as well be in charge as only the king is his superior and by the looks of it he’s lazy as all… yeah. He deals with problems, he lives his life, he… grows goldfish trees which are exactly what you imagine. Split into two so it didn’t have to carry one plot throughout the entire 20 minutes, the animation was neat, the opening and ending quite quirky, and it even did the almost impossible feat of getting a laugh or two out of moi. Sadly for the entire rest of the show I was bored out of my mind, looking desperately for something interesting to latch onto and care about. But it was not to be, and without a hook to even vaguely attempt to sustain my interest, its straight in straight out for Hell. All of them.

DROPPED

Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha

Its been a long time since I last saw the Kadokawa splash on something. Sadly, any initial hopes it provided turned out to be in vain. Our lead girl, named after a particular shrine, is a self-aware imbecile, so wishes she could be the amazing girl in her class whom she perceives her crush as being smitten with. And when that wish is granted by her kindly namesake, she comes to realise that outside appearances mean little in life, and that its what’s inside that truly counts, as she fails to find the courage to ask what she assumed would come naturally. And as it turns out, only one wish can be granted per human (wish equality, afterall), so instead the god sacrifices her ability to shapeshift, granting it to our lead. Which she immediately does in a magical girl transformation sequence complete with usual nudity god I hate anime. As for the supporting cast, there’s a lesbian friend, and a lot of transforming dogs which are all the rage. This is probably coming across as harsh. That premise of a girl being able to change shape does have potential, but based off the standard of writing in this first episode, I don’t see it realising that. But hey, I could be wrong, it’s happened before.

UNLIKELY

Mahou Sensou

Or Magical Warfare for those of you not moonrune fluent. Must admit, after the opening, my cynicism was at full strength, with this seemingly fulfilling all the checkboxes to be another Shana clone. But that attitude was soon dispelled. The catch here is that magic in this universe acts more like a virus which the young can contract, with any contact with it converting you into a mage, and similarly there are mechanics for magic users to lose their abilities, such as attacking other magicians in the real, non-magical world. Which helps make the events of this episode a bit more engaging, as a random witch crashes through the barrier and her subsequent rescue by our regular lead and the magic infection spreading through him and his gang of friends. The show also found time to further establish the schools of magic allowing plenty of wizardry to come in future episodes, along with some great (if not always realistic) sword fights between wood and metal blades. The ending also gave us a glimpse to the post-apocalyptic environment the magicians call home which… okay, that one was probably obvious, in hindsight. Not an amazing production, but certainly more than the sum of its parts and one to keep an eye on.

POSSIBLY

Maken-Ki! Tsuu

While this list is in alphabetical order, this was the last show I watched from the season and was hoping to go out with a bang. And with being a sequel show about some highschool defence group of magic users, hopes were high… and then dashed by a fanservice filled opening, followed by a fanservice filled introduction and I knew all too well where this was going. You know the drill by now if you watch modern anime, ecchi and fanservice combined with perverted and exaggeration humour to make the usual gutter trash production that applies to those same people. I think its fair to say that the west gets crude humour bar better than the east, with the only show I’ve ever enjoyed of this ilk from Japan being Gainax’s swansong Panty and Stocking, and hey, it’s not a problem with nudity, as Ghost in the Shell proves. It’s just a simple fact that titillation consumes shows and ensures that every other element of the production is bastardised, creating vapid forgettable tosh.

DROPPED

Mikakunin de Shinkoukei

Engaged to the Unidentified (we’re learning all the Japanese today). The story begins on our leading lady’s 16th birthday, normally a happy occasion, until she discovers her late grandfather has set up a marriage for her and suddenly has to get used to living and being with her husband to be and his little sister. That guy is about what you’d expect for an anime male, very bland and rarely speaks but is full of care for his future bride and fulfils his role as viewer wish fulfillment guy to a tee. The lil’ sister is (surprise surprise) tsundere and does most of the talking for her side of the family, and intelligent enough to be transferred to middle school despite showing a lack of maturity on countless occasions. Don’t let reality get in the way of a good story. Anyway, you can probably imagine the hijinks that ensue, and to give the show some credit, it does pull them off with a certain level of charm. It stayed away from my usual red flags of fanservice and zaniness, despite the elder sister of our lead lady terrorising the loli in that anime way, so the focus was always on the lead and her feelings as her life unravelled around her over the course of their first day or two together. I don’t think it’ll turn out to be a hidden gem or anything like that, but I’ve seen far worse from this season.

UNLIKELY

Minna Atsumare! Falcom Gakuen

Utter rubbish.

Oh, I should probably say a little more. JRPG characters from several franchises like Ys and Trails run around with zany humour occurring as the show points out their original personalities have been completely changed making you wonder what the point of this show even is. Combined with an artstyle that Microsoft Paint could outdo, this was a total waste of 2 whole minutes. I could’ve made a cup of tea in that time. If you need a JRPG humour fix, go watch Senyuu, or better yet, The Hero Yoshihiko, as they’re both vastly better than this tripe.

DROPPED

Nisekoi

With Shaft at the helm, I was braced for absolute insanity, so imagine my surprise at how tame and normal this show seemed by their standards. We start off with an innocent boy and girl promising ten years ago to get married, each wearing a lock and a key necklace so that when they reunite they can live together happily ever after. We then jump forward to the present day where a series of events leads our lead guy to meet with a tsundere gal, and as the heirs of future mobs whom are engaged in gang warfare, the duo whom hate each other must now pretend to be cushy. And the girl whom he promised to marry also attends the same school, unbeknownst to him (despite very obvious hints and him seemingly working it out, all anime protags are dumb in the face of love). But with Shaft in charge, it looks great and has a very clear direction (it might not be mental but it’s still got Shaftisms), although as I mentioned, its not their best. In fact the shows biggest problem is just how… anime… it is. We’ve been here, done this in other shows, but that doesn’t stop the execution from being solid. If you can get invested into the premise, you might well like it, and despite me listing it as an unlikely, I’m probably gonna give the manga a shot, as it’s a Shonen Jump series, meaning… well, there has to be something else here, surely.

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Nobunaga the Fool

The first of two Nobunaga shows from this season, and unusually for the genre (yes, Nobunaga based shows are a genre now) this was really confusing. In the ancient past, some people agree to have their essence scanned as they’re knocking upon death’s door so they can be reincarnated in the future… I think. In said future, there are two worlds, meaning you get a bunch of period designs and names and then amongst them bloody great war mechs and hulking spaceships which fail to gel at all and makes you question the very mechanics of the world, such is the conflict between future and past tech. You get a bunch of classic historical characters like Da Vinci and King Arthur alongside Nobunaga, whom has reverted to anime trope and is a burning passion moron in this show. Heck, despite the entire setup being a hotbed for action, the episode stays away from any real fights until the end, just lots of ferrying characters about and overcomplicating the story. For example, there’s a scene where our heroine (she does very little in this episode, weirdly) and Da Vinci are being taken from one world to the other and given complete hospitality aboard the ship taking them. So they proceed to flee and steal an escape ship. And are then opened fire upon by said friendly ship as they shoot to kill. Sense? What sense. The animation is decent, but otherwise there’s practically nothing to care about, so barring a miracle, this show won’t be worth it.

UNLIKELY

Nobunagun

You may have noticed at this point I’ve not put down any shows I’m actually watching. Well, I too was starting to get worried that this season was going to be full of duds, but then… The other Nobunaga show from this batch, in the past an organisation had gone around extracting and enthusing the DNA of important historical figures… wait, this sounds familiar. In this case, it was to help repel a future alien invasion by having their heirs inherit their legendary powers. We then follow our lead, a fairly typical anime highschool chick who’s shy and a little misunderstood but has a passion for insert object here. That object being military guns and vehicles and the like. When the aliens attack her and her classmates, and Jack The Ripper’s descendant falls in combat, she takes up his power and uses it to channel Nobunaga, whom she’s descended from, wielding his favourite… gun…  whatever. Stylistically this show is league above Fool and most other stuff from the season, able to change on a dime from happy days to the death of all life whenever the alien lifeforms crop up, as the palette and mood changes completely, really giving them a foreboding air. Add in some neat character and baddy designs which I only assume will get better, and more neat touches like pop-up stats for all the weapons which mimic what you’d see in the real thing, and you’ve got a show that oozes coolness and charisma, and won me over.

KEEPER

Noragami

Some gods are famous, some gods are not. The more people whom worship and pray for you, the stronger you are. One little god dreams of being the big fish, and so goes about begging people to request his services. Okay, it’s not original, but its a solid enough premise. Its in one of these requests though that he inadvertently causes the half-death of some random highschool girl (whom was no relation to the school shown in the opening few minutes, which had made me think the show was an all together more interesting beast, ah well), meaning she now lives somewhere between our world and the afterlife, causing her to vacate her body every now and again, as you do. And that was the first episode bar a few fights with weird and wonderful creatures, so presumably this’ll be more of those adventures with the other guy from the opening replacing his initial weapon (Soul Eater humans transform into weapons style), with more fights as they try to restore her to regular humanity. Or full death, that’d be a twist. But yeah, classic shonen fodder, meaning I’m interested (I can’t help myself with this damn genre forgive me). Not a standout, but one to watch from the shadows.

POSSIBLY

Nourin

At first impressions I thought this was an idol show, until our lead lad wakes up and surprise, it’s actually set in an agricultural school. Which sounds great, except it brings it into the direct line of fire of Silver Spoon, which I adored the first season of and had seen the first episode of the second by this point (scroll down a little for those impressions). Sadly, that’s a battle this was never going to win, with its reliance on trope characters and personalities, fanservice and awful humour making this painful to watch. What’s more, the show has zero subtilty meaning you guess the twist a few minutes in and spend the rest of the episode waiting for it to do its “reveal” so the story can move on somewhere. So, spoiler alert, in this show the idol whom our main guy worships is so enamoured with his anonymous gifts of… vegetables… that she quits her job and tracks down the school which they came from, and enrolls while in disguise. Which our lead is obviously too dumb to see through. Cue teribad hijinks. There, I saved you from a season of this rubbish, go watch Silver Spoon instead, its leagues better than this.

DROPPED

Onee-chan ga Kita

“Onee-chan” Nope. Thankfully its only a short show, 20 minutes of this and I’d be suicidal. In case it wasn’t incredibly obvious, this is a show about a brother and sister, where the sister wants to be in a relationship with her sibling. Cue the usual humour of overfamiliarity because we’re family its all good right. And… very supportive parents… if there’s one thing Oreimo did right it was the parents attitudes to the events, whereas here they really don’t give a damn. Much like me about this show. You’re spoilt for choice for siscon shows, and there’s plenty that are actually half-decent, so go watch one of those instead.

DROPPED

pupa

This is incredibly bittersweet to write. I had high hopes for this. It was one of my ten to watch for this year, afterall. I couldn’t wait in Autumn, discovered it was delayed because of nobody wanting to sponsor such a depraved show, but then had hope restored as a Winter airing was promised. Sadly, the hoops this has had to jump through to get to airing have crippled it. Reduced to a few minute short, any attempts at pacing or storytelling are immediately abandoned, leaving you with the barest of bones which assume you’ve seen the original source material else you’ll have no clue whatsoever about what’s happening. It’s not that the show doesn’t look good, the artstyle works, but the format combined with the censoring (it’s a show about cannibalism and mild incest, why pick it up if you’re going to censor it…) destroys any chance this had of being a cult classic. And that depresses me so, so much. For the first time, I might have to read a manga scanlation just to see what should’ve been.

UNLIKELY

Pupipou!

A poor little girl can see ghosts, leading to a load of nasty rumours being spread by some of the weirdest and most terrifyingly designed little kids I’ve ever seen… anyway, this continues until an occult enthusiast students transfers in and decides to become her friend not giving a crap about the warnings of her classmates. And then at the end our lead character finds some weird pink blob… thing… The designs were the weakest point of the show, terrifying though some were they all looked like they’d been phoned in, and the ghosts were essentially undetailed blobs except for when they were required for a joke. As for the lead, she had had some time put into here but plenty of times upon close-ups she looked just as odd. It’s not a completely irredeemable show, but there was nothing here to really get behind or care about.

UNLIKELY

Robot Girls Z

I hope you’ve got your Toei mecha guidebooks on standby, because boy will you need them for this show. As such, all the references to past titles went sailing over my head. But that didn’t stop Robot Girls Z from having some solid animation, cool humour and a good idea of the humour style it was gunning for (one of the attacks is Breast Flame, so I’ll let you guess), but as seems to be becoming the norm for shorts it abandoned substance in favour of style and humour, although considering this is only a few episodes long, I guess that’s to be expected. Basically, I’m not the target audience, but if you have any investment in Toei’s past works or just want to kill a little time on something silly, this could sate that itch.

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Saikin, Imouto no Yousu ga Chotto Okaishiin Da Ga

“One day I suddenly awoke to find out I had a little sister.” Oh. Oh no. But sadly, yes, here’s another imouto show for all your siscon’s out there. And much to their delight, this is a show that doesn’t hold back in any way. The little sister is haunted by a ghost whom loves to take control of her, and forces her to wear a chastity belt. And guess what, a chunk of the first episode is dedicated to the “how am I meant to pee” gag. More surprisingly due to the ghost being perverse there’s lesbian sex scenes (yes, really). Well, as much as they can get away with on a TV airing anyway, so censoring and cut aways to random parts of the room as the sound effects and text explain the rest, so you’ll have to wait for the BluRays to see the 18+ version. I suppose it makes a difference from fanservice by just skipping that and going straight to… well, yeah. If you want your anime porn to have a plot, this might give it a try, although it’ll probably never rise to more than background noise. Still, I mildly respect a show that just goes “fuck it”… quite literally… not enough to watch, but enough to remember it.

UNLIKELY

Saki Zenkoku-hen

Oh goddamnit. I’ve avoided watching Saki for as long as I can remember. Cutesy little girls playing mahjong never appealed to me in the slightest. But for the sake of fairness, I had to give this a shot. I don’t even know where abouts in the plot are, they’re getting ready for nationals and there’s a lot of characters by this point, so if you wanted to drop in at this point then don’t bother. What I also didn’t expect was this show to be so utterly tedious. I mean, maybe it’s because they had to do a recap of a gigantic cast so didn’t have time for ultra tense mahjong, but I expected some game playing, not “and blah’s qualified, moving on”. And just like every game centric show this stuff is televised, has commentators and is treated as the be all and end all of sport and entertainment. But I have no idea how this rose above the pack. Everyone looked bland and seemed soulless, the animation was meh, and without any actual battles to showcase what this series could do made it a complete no-sell except to its ardent fanbase who love this tosh. If you’re one of them, please do tell me the appeal.

DROPPED

Sakura Trick

This show actually had me a little curious. Lauded by some as a progressive piece due to its lesbian focus, I wanted to see whether that’d hold true or the age old inability of weeaboos to understand how you tell a good story would hold true. And my scepticism was right. We’re introduced to our two leads (they have brightly coloured hair, this is their most distinguishing feature), and our given a look into their happy lives and the friendship they’ve made over the years, before they decide to make a memory they’ll never forget. So kiss. Which they enjoy so the show turns into a gagreel of one or t’other girl trying to find opportunities for a quick (or not so quick) peck. So to summarise, its slice of life with a yuri slant. Sadly this appears to have been the end of the creative process, with a bland and vapid cast. Don’t get me wrong here, its nice to have a show with actual relationships and kissing (yes I’m really saying this isn’t anime a great medium), and the gay prominence is nice, but there’s better slice of life, and in terms of lesbian storytelling, Girlfriends is still leagues ahead. Hopefully that’ll get animated one day so you can see. But until then, there’s nothing here to make Sakura Trick a good show, sorry, and the pitiful joke is this show is bettered by one which is selling itself off of lesbian sex…

DROPPED

Seitokai Yakuindomo *

Within the opening minute or two, this show had unleashed terrible Engrish and awful crude humour, shattering any expectations I had as I prepared for 20 minutes of crap. In this show our committee loves crude humour and saying naughty words in a highschool which forbids dating because isn’t that hilarious and entertaining and exactly what everybody finds funny? No, me neither. Like I said for the Maken-Ki, you want crude humour done well, go watch Panty and Stocking, and live a better life for not seeing this, while the worst of weeaboos congregate to it. Better yet, somebody develop the portable cliff dispenser, it’d help out for situations like this where I find out somebody watches this kind of garbage.

DROPPED

Sekai Seifuku ~Bouryaku no Zvezda~

This was another show I had mild interest in, mainly due to the seasonal chart having a cool pic for this, and after how most of the season was shaping up, anything else to get invested in would be a bonus. And the opening was promising, discussing how hard it actually is to achieve world conquest, and how terrifying it was for the populace when it occurred, showing a wasteland where the world used to be. And then we head back to the events before that, Sekai Seifuku remembers it’s an anime and here comes the tsundere loli, the bland male lead and a female cast in various revealing clothes, although to give the show a bone it didn’t proceed to have that be the focus and devolve into fanservice. Anyway, the loli dreams of world domination and heads up a weird cult where they all have crazy powers in her attempts to do it, labelling all she strikes with a conquered symbol, dragging the lead into it as she goes along. So while the rest of the show didn’t quite live up to the opening, it avoided the numerous pitfalls that send me off on one (you should be able to guess what those are by now), and with some good looking animation and the potential for massive scaling up ala Code Geass or TTGL (don’t worry, I’m aware it won’t best those two), this is another show worthy of keeping an eye on, if not diving straight into.

POSSIBLY

Silver Spoon Second Season

“Please don’t drop the ball please be good please make me happy again” A combination of those thoughts was running through my mind as I sat down for Silver Spoon 2. Spoiler alert, the originals gonna be pretty high up on my Anime of the Year 2013 list. But any worries I had were needless, SS remained on the top of its game. The continuation of Haciken’s (yes, I remember his name, that’s always a good sign) life through agricultural school continued at full force, with him being promoted to Vice Chairman of his club (no, it’s not one of those shows, calm down) and trying to step up and become a guy people can rely on. People like his crush whom early in the episode you see in tears with another guy. In its spare moments the show progresses some of the subplots of the first season too (good writing in an anime, dun dun duuun). And with a brilliant new opening and ending I can’t wait to hear in full, this noitaminA heavyweight is out to double down on good AotY list performances. Will the product as a whole live up to its excellent predecessor? I can only hope.

KEEPER

SoniAni -Super Sonico The Animation-

Hey everybody, meet Sonico! She’s a late riser! She owns lots of cats! She’s smart! She’s ditsy! She’s honest! She’s a hard worker! She’s a model! She’s attractive! She’s good with people! She plays guitar! She’s passionate! She’s fun loving! She’s abso-fricking-perfect so why am I watching this. Jokes aside, this show is just a day in the life of a chick who might as well be called Mary Sue. In the usual slice of life style there’s some vague attempts at comedy, and the odd splash of fanservice to help ensure those figure sales, but ultimately this is just a really vanilla forgettable show with no hook or reason to care. Sorry Sonico.

DROPPED

Space Dandy

After anime was “saved” by Kill la Kill, it apparently got imperiled again because here comes another saviour. From the mind of the man who made Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, armed with a kickass opening and ending and being simultaneously dubbed for Western audiences, this had to be amazing right? Nope. Reaf’s already talked about why this is not a good show, so here’s my take. This is a show that tries so, so hard to be funny that it loses all sight of substance and just goes straight for as much style as you can cram into 20 minutes. The opening is filled with fanservice, and while the show does a one-liner about how people into that are assholes, it has the same problem Kill la Kill does that it doesn’t redeem you for using it as a crutch. After they finally left the “breastaurant” (pass the arsenic) the show did start to veer back on course, remembering plot and characters are things you need, before going “fuck it” and descending into lolrandom exaggerated rubbish, kicking to the curb any dying hopes I had for Dandy. And then stomping on them with a “and they all died, see ya next week” ending. To give the show some credit, it is from a stylistic viewpoint, amazing. Its has good music, great animation, a cool (if sidelined for no reason whatsoever) world setting, you’d never say it was lacking pizzazz. Just more fundamental things like a good cast or interesting narrative. Y’know, those things that ensure shows are good watches. I’ll pass, and I never thought I’d say that about a show with the Statue of Liberties head as a spaceship.

UNLIKELY

Strange+

Another short, because there’s a lot of them this season for some reason. A detective agency solves mysteries in the few minutes of runtime. Which means, yes, you guessed it, random throwaway gag after random throwaway gag for people who can’t get enough of them. I swear there must come a point of saturation for these things. How many lel so wacky ecks dee shows can you watch before your brain turns off to it all? Add in snippets of fanservice and butts galore and you’ve lost my interest from now until the end of time. Next.

DROPPED

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta

Holy crap its A Certain no I’m afraid not, you’ll have to wait a bit longer for your next Raildex fix. Wanting to solve the mysteries of creation, an army of kid pilots are sent off on a floating island along with its inhabitants to find the edge of the sky, which will presumably answer all their questions. Our lead is as ordinary as you’d expect, bar his sudden spontaneous hatred of one girl. Guess there’s some backstory there, its hard to tell with anime thesedays. Then there’s his little sister whom seems to be along for the ride mainly to give the lead someone to monologue with, then there’s a guy with grey hair who hates our lead for… no reason too, christ there’s a lot of hatred and angst in this show. Rounding off what I assume is the main cast is his love interest, a random chick whom he meets and hits it off with almost instantly. The animation is really neat, and this show does a better job than most in fusing art and music to really help set the tone of the world and the show. Sadly, I didn’t see enough to make it unmissable, but when I get free time this is certainly one I’ll come back to.

POSSIBLY

Tonari no Seki-kun

This shortish show (so 7 to 8 minutes) involves our random lead girl watching on in hapless terror as the guy next to him builds things. Such as, in this episode, a domino circuit out of erasers. And she proceeds to get in trouble from both him and her teacher for the chaos he unfolds, because that’s hilario-oh I can’t even joke about this crap anymore. It looks ass, the jokes are non-existent, and the attempts at “oh my god dun dun duuuuuuuuuuun” to cover up for those flaws fall flat on their face. An absolute must-miss series.

DROPPED

Wake Up, Girls!

So a guy wakes up after dreaming about his idol… wait, didn’t I review this one already? Now, as a warning, this show has a prequel movie which I’ve not seen, which is why it has a backstory to dip into as needed. But it’s not necessary viewing, as this show did a great job of introducing you to its cast and making sure you were never lost, even though it meant few really had a chance to develop much personality in the runtime of this first episode. So what is Wake Up Girls? Well, it’s an idol group show. But without fanservice (well bar a few shots at the end, but it was ignorable) and no kawaii desudesu crap, just a bunch of girls doing what they enjoy and trying to make a living off of it. What it did have was pretty good music and an interesting ending (along with a live action next episode preview featuring the real voice actors, that’s different), and the animation… well, most of the time it looked fine but every now and then it just seemed… off. The eyes, the faces, the proportions, something was out of whack and it was an annoying fly in an otherwise sweet ointment. But not nearly enough to truly detract from the show as a whole. I wouldn’t go as far to say its a must-see (I swear I’ve gotten more reserved since Fall), but Love Live did a great job in turning my opinion of these shows on its head, so its something I’ll endeavour to watch sooner rather than later.

POSSIBLY

Witch Craft Works

I’ve always struggled with magical girl shows, bar Cardcaptors none have ever really managed to engage me. And WCW didn’t quite manage to break that mould (just like the wrestling comp-oh whats the point none of you will get that). One day our bland and generic but special for some reason male lead is protected by the ultra powerful ultra popular (if nothing else you will remember how damn popular this girl is) female lead against… well, other witches, in this case. I didn’t see it coming either. Luckily elsewhere this show decided to rack up the points, with some great animation in the action scenes, neat quirks like the personalities of the robo-rabbit army and the villain witch leading them and… y’know, I think this’ll be one of those shows where everybody bar the leads will be the interesting characters. Not sure if I’ll give it a punt, but for a final thought the ending song utilising witch mythology was cool.

POSSIBLY

Wizard Barristers ~ Benmashi Cecil

Wizard discrimination is the name of the game here (filthy non-muggle scum), with this show focusing on wizard court and the wizard barristers who defend… wizards… Our (supposedly) cute lead is the usual airheaded but full of passion moron, able to cite the wizard code word for word and with a hunger to defend all wizards from us horrible regular humans. Including the people who attack her in this episode. Oookaaay. Hard to judge the rest of the magically inclined cast in this episode, they got little time to do more than introductions, but none of them seemed to have what we would call a personality. However, the human detective pair, whom the opening is focused on and I originally thought were the leads sadly went from interesting to “grrr we hate wizards” after a few minutes. Combine this with fanservice, surprisingly lacklustre animation even in the action scenes (there’s a train explosion because why not) and forgettable writing, and its hard to find stuff in this show to get excited over. There were a few neat backstory elements and the premise is decent, so I wouldn’t reject this outright, but its got a lot of work to do to rise above the boring experience I foresee it being.

UNLIKELY

Wooser no Sono Higurashi Kakusei Hen

Wooser strikes back! I remember watching the first season of this after its first episode did the impossible and gave me some laughs, but sadly that turned out to be the highlight with the rest of it failing to live up to what I hoped. So this time around they changed up the formula a bit. It’s still a short show, but the animation is now far more anime, which did wonders on the human cast which the show focused more on, but did little to make Wooser, a very simplistic character, look at all decent. Until the end of the episode where he pulled off his inflatable suit he’d been wearing the whole episode to reveal his classic appearance. Well played. Unfortunately this show’s pervert tendencies flared up again with two of the three skits being fanservice based, which in case you hadn’t realised does not leave me roflmaoing, but the opening and ending were cool and the last skit got a rise out of me so… maybe I’ll give Wooser another chance to humour me.

POSSIBLY

Youkai Watch

Just a quick preamble, this is a kid’s show, so I probably shouldn’t have been holding it to the same standards as everything else. Anyway, a lil’ tyke gets lost in the woods and in the middle of a clearing finds a ghost vending machine (don’t ask, the show won’t tell) and becomes able to see the world of ghosts and the way they impact the world we live in. So cue various wacky scenarios and hijinks where ghosts are the culprits so it’s up to our kid friend to fix relationships and save the day. And with this aimed at youngsters, the boy is obviously hardworking and the ghosts silly, in what I’m sure is vintage Japanese straight man funny man humour. Sadly, there’s only so much you can do in a format for the young. For example, the second scenario takes place at a crossroad where “sudden stops” occur, because we can’t have death in a kids show. With ghosts. It’s not poorly made, I’d go as far to say it’d appeal well to its target audience, but… that ain’t me. For moi its too benign and juvenile and I’d go crazy as the gritty, mature fan I apparently am.

DROPPED

Z/X Ignition

Last one! Opening up with humanity being invaded by creatures from another dimension through mysterious dark portals that open up everywhere, we call these creatures… “zillions of monster X” or ZX for short because apparently we’re all bloody terrible at naming things in this universe. All attempts at resistance from humanity were crushed within a week. And so we jump into this show’s timeline where… people with ZX’s are fighting each other and they’re talking about the different worlds they came from and… er… did I miss something here? Poor writing does little to nothing to help clarify what the heck’s going on, so you have no clue who the good and bad guys are, who’s human and who’s ZX, and how life managed to carry on after being supposedly decimated several years ago. There’s one flashback about how our lead guy met his angelic ZX, but that does nothing to help with the backstory questions you actually have, and the whole show leaves a bitter taste in your throat as you watch on in a bewildered state. And I thought I was a sucker for all shonen, thanks for disproving that ZX. Go watch one of the better offerings from this season if you need a fighting fix.

DROPPED

And there you have it. 2 keepers and 9 shows on my reserve list, but out of 38 there’s no doubt this is the crappest season of anime we’ve had in a long while, in main thanks to almost nothing deciding to experiment. I know Winter is never a hotbed for interesting new shows, but after last year having Zettai Karen Children and Love Live, I guess I was hoping for more. Gives me all the time I need to catch up with my backlog of shows though, and maybe watch a few reserves from 2013 before I write my top ten list. Stay tuned for more articles in the future, where I don’t have to write about several dozen bloody shows…