What I’m currently watching: Akame ga Kill!, Ao Haru Ride, Barakamon, Free! Eternal Summer, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Haikyuu!!, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus, Sword Art Online II, Tokyo Ghoul and Zankyou no Terror. (As of August 01 2014)
For a while there, pretty much the only anime I was watching this season was Sword Art Online II. But after I got some important projects out of the way, I suddenly had the time to watch more anime. So I did. And all of a sudden it hit me…
…that there are better anime than Sword Art Online out there. (INORITE?!)
And with that profound realisation out of the way, here are my opinions on the latest anime.
Akame ga Kill!
Probably the most interesting thing about Akame ga Kill! is the kind of mindset it tries to appeal to. This is a story that knows very clearly that it’s a work of fiction. Much of the humour comes from very typical anime gags (“Big boobs!” “She sucks at cooking!” “Oh, no, that gay guy is coming onto me!”) inserted at very atmosphere-breaking intervals. It’s jarring in a way that feels like sloppy, amateur storytelling but all of this is probably completely intended. Not that it stops it from being annoying, mind you.
The real head trick comes at the gory moments. Instead of having its characters indulge in lectures about basic morality, they just go ahead and kill the bad guy without any hesitation. I suppose if you’ve ever watched a movie and thought, “Man, why don’t they just kill that idiot already?” Akame ga Kill! is the sort of story that appeals to that sense of frustration.
I wouldn’t say I despise this sort of material on principle. But it does strike me as very childish and posturing. For once, I actually agree with Flawfinder about something. Whoa.
Best character: Mine. Pink hair? Check. Twin tails? Check. Tsundere? Check. Other than that, she has no real traits to speak of, but shhhhh.
(You can tell how much I’m looking forward to Ore Twin Tail ni Narimasu next season!)
Ao Haru Ride
It’s a shame when people (including myself at times – oops) talk about shojo as if it’s some inherently inferior genre that only immature teenage girls could possibly like. At its best, shojo captures a universal experience, and Ao Haru Ride is one of the rare shojo anime adaptations that manages to understand that pulse. Its themes of nostalgia and longing are expressed with simple yet expressive visual artistry.
While I haven’t read the Ao Haru Ride manga, I have read and enjoyed Strobe Edge, another one of Io Sakisaka’s series. As much as Strobe Edge was buried in cliche, I felt it was deeply earnest and that it understood something raw and fundamental about the experience of first love. So far, Ao Haru Ride is stronger than Strobe Edge – it feels firmer and more confident in its themes. I’m old enough now to understand the pain in a statement like: “We can’t go back to how we used to be.”
I’ve heard from manga readers that Ao Haru Ride takes a turn for the angsty and overly dramatic later, which makes me nervous, but for now it’s one of my top picks of the season.
Best character: Yuuri. She’s adorable. I empathised with the male love interest (Kou) more than I expected to, but Yuuri is by far the most entertaining character to watch.
Slice of life is a genre that really shines when it focuses on a slice of life outside of high school. Barakamon shows an interesting glimpse of what life is like in a Japanese country town, but its main claim to fame is that it’s consistently funny and heartwarmimg. The kids actually act like real kids, for one thing. And I also appreciate how all the villagers speak with an accent.
What gives Barakamon its power is its light touch and empathy. It frequently pokes fun at its uptight protagonist for his fragile ego, but it’s also deeply understanding of his frustrations. I think almost anyone can relate to the idea of hitting a wall or feeling insecure about your abilities. When it comes to inspiring the artistic muse, the therapy Barakamon depicts really does work. A change of scenery and meeting new people can do wonders.
Best character: Handa. I’m a big fan of the whole “making fun of pretty boys” thing. I’m also currently going through something pretty similar to Handa, so that might have something to do with it. But that’s probably a subject for another post.
Free! Eternal Summer
I wouldn’t really call myself a fan of Free! In fact, I actively disliked a good portion of the first season. That said, the second season has been alright so far since it hasn’t focused on any of the overwrought dramatics which soured the series for me. There are warning signs, though. Sousuke’s entire character seems like a walking sob story just waiting to unfold and if it’s anywhere near as bad as the first season, I won’t be sticking around for long.
Now that I have no real expectations for Free!, I feel I can enjoy the slice of life content more easily for what it is. It’s a pleasant waste of time during the best of its episodes. Even though it’s not really “for me”, I guess I can be like iblessall and make my own fanservice.
Best Only Girl.
(A-actually, my favourite character is Rei…)
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
This show’s pretty cute. I really enjoy the neat little subversions of shojo cliches. So far, the best episode has been episode 4. The way it approached dating sim cliches with a shojo mindset made it one of the most hilarious dating sim parodies in anime – and trust me, anime has more than its fair share of amusing dating sim parodies. For that episode alone, the show is worth watching.
Unfortunately, the rest of the anime is a bit hit and miss. It’s a 4koma adaptation, and while it manages the transitions between gags better than most of its kind, they are occasionally jarring. Still, the characters are all quite charming. I’m really enjoying the interaction between Nozaki and Sakura in particular. Oh, and the OP is great too!
Best character: Mikoshiba. The best shojo heroine ever.
I have changed my mind about Haikyuu!! after I complained about it last season. The show is getting progressively more homo. Always a good sign! But more importantly, the matches actually have stakes and consequences now. I actually care about who wins the points now! It took a while to get going, but I’m fully on board with Haikyuu!! now. The animation is still great, by the way.
Best character: Still Nishinoya. Hinata’s a close second, though.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
Overall, this season of Jojo’s has really dragged its feet, but the hammy theatrics still manage to be entertaining to watch. The best episodes are still the ones that focus on Joseph, but the Polnareff x Enyaba episodes were gold as well. Best couple for sure.
Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus
I’ve only ever watched the anime of Kuroshitsuji, but it’s a franchise I have a certain degree of affection for. Maybe it’s because there is a Kuroshitsuji in my head that is a really awesome and badass Victorian horror story, and whenever I load up Kuroshitsuji I am watching this show in my head rather than what is on the screen. Because the actual Kuroshitsuji is full of weird fanservice (that corset scene, eh?) and dumb, repetitive jokes. I just do my very best to ignore it.
This season of Kuroshitsuji is apparently based off a really well-regarded arc in the manga, although so far it’s been really slow. Three episodes in and all they’ve done is introduce the characters. There will only be ten episodes in this season altogether. Hm.
Best character: …Ciel. (Froggy confirmed shotacon)
Sword Art Online II
The pacing has been all over the place with this season, but so far I’d say SAO II is much more grounded and thoughtfully put together than the first season. That doesn’t stop it from having problems, but I can say that I like SAO without any irony. It’s a fun show to make fun of, but in the end, I’ve grown a lot of genuine affection for it.
Part of the fun comes from how the author now seems to be in on the joke of how ridiculous Kirito is as a character. The best scenes have been the ones which subtly belittle Kirito’s character or show him to be an immature ass.
Sword Art Online is also a great show to watch with other people. I was watching episode 4 at uni when this guy comes up and squints at the screen and asks, “Is this a yuri anime?”
No it isn’t. BUT KIRITO-CHAN IS MAI WAIFU <333
Don’t take what I am about to say next as legitimate criticism about Tokyo Ghoul, since stories aren’t really supposed to work on real-life logic unless otherwise stated.
Why do the ghouls have to hang around a city? Is there some kind of rule stopping them from leaving? If they manage to integrate into society well enough to take positions of power, couldn’t they rig the system so that they can eat naturally deceased bodies, thereby eliminating the need to hunt? Or why not eat dead bodies off a battlefield or something? Humans die every day, after all, and there are plenty of ways to avoid killing innocents. (I know the real moral dilemma is the idea of eating humans at all, not just killing humans for the sake of survival. The series depicts a number of ghouls who don’t hunt and must rely on others to hunt for them. And they also eat suicide victims, apparently.)
Anyway, I find myself thinking various questions instead of really getting engaged with the story and characters, which probably says way more about me than it does about the show. Still, I can’t help but think that I’m watching a cliff notes version of the story. I’ll probably end up dropping the anime and just reading the manga, if only to find out what’s really going on. Either way, it’s pretty B-horror movie with shonen elements (even though it’s a seinen manga). Nothing new to see here.
Best character: Hide. He doesn’t do much of anything, but whatever. He’s a bro.
Zankyou no Terror
This is the critic’s favourite – and for good reason. Zankyou no Terror is slick, purposeful and confident, and it tackles some ambitious themes.
I can’t say Zankyou no Terror really resonates with me personally, but I do admire it from a respectful distance. There’s an interesting theme at the heart of this show about not underestimating teenagers – or perhaps not to underestimate the terror people place on themselves. Because it is that terror which brings them to commit destructive acts. The teenagers in this show are psychological nutcases, but one gets the sense that it’s the lack of perception from the world around them which is even more of the problem. Interesting stuff overall – I always look forward to the next episode a lot.
Best character: This cop. I don’t even know his name, but he’s the best.
That’s it for this season’s roundup! I’ll leave this post up as a sticky until the end of the season. If you want to tell me what terrible taste I have, go ahead.