Spring 2012 Anime First Impressions – Part 1

No matter how strong or weak a season of anime appears to be at the onset, one can always count on at least a couple of gems each season. As a result, I’m not at all surprised that, once again, the makers of anime continue to defy their prophesied doom by creating several series that are well on their way to excellence. What does astound me is the width and depth of quality displayed by this season’s roster of anime series. I could trim out the four best series (so far) and this season would still be a very strong one. In fact, it would take trimming out 7, maybe 8, of the best series before this season would look merely decent with the resulting group of series. I can’t remember another season this strong in the last 6+ years that I’ve been following new anime by the season.

(The closest competitor, that I can remember, is the Summer 2009 season which featured – Bakemonogatari, Spice and Wolf 2, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei 3, Aoi Hana, Canaan, Umineko no Naku Koro Ni, Hetalia 2, Taishou Baseball Girls, GA: Art Design Class and Sora no Manimani – but, even that season can’t compete in terms of the number of different types of series airing this season.)

On the downside (if you want to call it that), all these outstanding shows have made it difficult to find the time to write about them. It seems like every time I look there’s more episodes waiting to be watched or the realization that I should probably also give anime X or Y a shot as well. It’s crazy, I hope there’s at least a few good series left for the upcoming summer and winter seasons.

Normally, I like to rank the series from worst to best when I write a post such as this but this time I felt like doing something else; so, instead, I’ve grouped the 20 new series I’ve watched into small groups with other series that share a similar trait.

Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

There’s no better way to gauge how successful the animation studio Shaft has become then to see how other animation studios (both new and old) have started partaking from Shaft’s playbook.

Acchi Kocchi

Rating for episodes 1 to 3 – 5/12  C+

Acchi Kocchi is studio AIC’s latest anime set in the now familiar genre of light comedy 4-panel comic adaptation taking place in a school and featuring a group of friends that lead lives full of hilarity (hopefully). Groundbreaking? Not really, but excellent execution can still yield a very enjoyable series. The problem with Acchi Kocchi, so far, is the execution has been meh and the result has been a slightly below average series. It’s most noteworthy feature has been its Shaftian visual treatment but, even there, it feels more like someone is merely trying to copy and I’m left wishing for the next season of Hidamari Sketch.

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Sankarea

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 9/12  A-

Did I die or accidentally fall into a bizarro world without realizing it? If neither of those are the case then we might just be living in the End Times. How else to explain Sankarea? Studio Deen and quality anime are like oil and water – they don’t mix. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for Sankarea to slide down to typical Studio Deen quality. Until then, I’ll be happily watching. Helping Sankarea along is it’s visual style with it’s obvious Shaftian influence to it; which, unlike Acchi Kocchi, hasn’t been a mere copying of style but an infusion into a larger unique style.

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Tasogare Otome x Amnesia

Rating for episodes 1 to 3 – 9/12  A-

It’s not astonishing that Dusk Maiden x Amnesia looks Shaftian because it’s from the studio Silver Link, a spin-off of talent from Shaft. At this point, it would have been surprising if it didn’t look Shaftian but just because it looks Shaftian doesn’t mean Silver Link can create a series on par with Shaft. Which has been the problem with their series; they feel almost “there” (like with their last one, C3 – CubexCursedxCurious). I’ve been waiting to see if they can grow and evolve into a top quality studio like their forbears and I think the wait might finally be over; Dusk Maiden x Amnesia looks to be their first true hit. This anime really reminds me of the first season of Natsu no Arashi with it’s mix of mystery, comedy, seriousness and the supernatural. There’s still plenty of time to fail, so the question is will Dusk Maiden x Amnesia continue to balance these various aspects like the first season of Natsu no Arashi or will it eventually fumble like the second season of the same series and end in disappointment?

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In Search of a Charm Point

Because I don’t like to drop anime series, I’ll normally keep watching a mediocre series if there’s at least one thing about it that’s likeable. The following anime series, so far, lack that one thing that will keep me watching.

Sengoku Collection

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 2/12  F

I gladly offer my services to Brain’s Base in facilitating a solution in the matter that is currently forcing them to produce Sengoku Collection because I know there’s no way that Brain’s Base wants to spend time working on this pile of steaming insipid drivel that is Sengoku Collection. Couldn’t they have gotten Yamakan to do it? I heard he’s not busy.

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Medaka Box

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 4/12  C

I guess it’s time to perform Last Rites on Gainax; if Medaka Box is indicative of the quality left at Gainax then they’re not long for this world. Medaka Box might not have the best source material behind it but Shaft/Shinbou just finished showing what can be done when Nisioisin isn’t at his best with their adaptation of Nisemonogatari. So, the failings of making Medaka Box even the slightest bit interesting falls to Gainax with their first mistake being the decision to make the anime look like a low-quality J.C. Staff series.

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Kore wa Zombie Desu ka – Of the Dead

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 4/12  C

I knew I was pushing it. I was astonished when I was able to finish the first season of this Studio Deen series and I should have quit while I was ahead. What helped make the first watchable was the storyline featuring the silent necromancer. With that resolved at the end of the first season, there’s a need for another somewhat decent storyline but that’s apparently not in the cards for this season. Instead, it’s been a random comedy series that hasn’t been all that funny.

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With Great Power

There’s always room for a good action series to help balance out the laid back slice-of-life series and the comedy series. This season there’s quite a few that aspire to fill that role but to succeed, these series can’t forget the action scenes need to well-done and the viewers need to like the characters.

Jormungand

Rating for episodes 1 to 3 – 7/12  B

I don’t think Jormungand has fully shown what its capable of yet; but, thus far this story of an off-beat arms dealer and her posse has been pretty good. It’s hitting a good vibe for this type of anime and I look forward to watching more. The only thing that tempers my enthusiasm for Jormungand is the fire-fight in episode 3 seemed to stretch credibility a bit too far. The hefty amount of bullets that were fired by supposed very quality gunmen in such a constrained space should have resulted in a lot more carnage. It wasn’t game-breaking at this point; but, the more handwavium I have to accept from the animators, the less I’ll take the series seriously as an action series and the harder it’ll be to like it.

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Accel World

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 9/12  A-

I gave Accel World a chance out of respect for Sunrise actually animating the loser male main character in such a way that he looks like a loser compared to the rest of the characters and its making me glad I did. The near-future setting with it’s augmented reality, police-state surveillance, and it’s machine-human interfacing is actually pretty well done and interesting. The way the Brain Burst program has been introduced and shrouded in mystery is enticing (always a good thing in getting viewers to come back). The characters are a good fit for the story they’ve been thrown into and appear to be on-track towards becoming fully interesting characters. The plotting has been brisk so far, probably signaling the creators are feeling ambitious, and has been relatively excellent. It hasn’t been perfect but if it can, at least, emulate last year’s Sunrise series Tiger and Bunny which remained a very good series even if the plotting was a bit rough then it’ll be a great series to watch.

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Fate/Zero Part 2

Rating for episodes 1 to 3 – 9/12  A-

I know I’m not the best person to gauge how good Fate/Zero truly is because of my total unfamiliarity with the franchise before the first part of Fate/Zero aired but with the second half finally airing I can, at least, see how the characters that I’ve come to like will fare. And it’s been a thrilling start; I just hope there’s still bigger and better stuff left to get too and plenty of Rider screen time, as well or else the second half is going to feel like a letdown. If I want to get nitpicky about Fate/Zero then I’d complain that, even though this anime probably looks the best right now when it’s standing still (which is saying something this season), I’m just not thrilled by the raw animation level of it. Nothing in Fate/Zero has done has been able to get near the stellar animation of the fist fight in episode 1 of Sakamichi no Apollon.

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Look for Part 2 covering the rest of new anime series, from the guilty pleasures to the truly heavy-hitters, in a near future :) .

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4 thoughts on “Spring 2012 Anime First Impressions – Part 1”

  1. I never finished the first season of Fate/Zero. It’s one of those shows that I will take time to watch when I have watched my favorites. Accel World is the other on this list that I have started watching and though a little taken aback by the main character, I have found him lovable so far. I’ve been meaning to check out Jormungand but I haven’t found it streaming legally anywhere so I’ve left it alone for now. I like how you did your first impressions; nice compilation.

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  2. The main draw of Fate Zero is telling the backstory that was mentioned but not explored behind Illia and Shiro’s upraising and other such events. It’s also another chance to see the Holy Grail in all its (putrid) magnificence. Most of the fight mechanics is described using words in the visual novel format, although FZero is a light novel.

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  3. Accel World and Zombie Desu Ka are both originally light novels. Thus the world building and the unique weird stuff that is in it is a direct consequence of the writer’s artistic vision. The best way to handle light novels, in my view, is to keep up the plot pace. Because if you do not, you’ll never have enough episodes to do the ending properly. The ending is one of the best features of a light novel. For a visual novel, the best way to handle it is to focus on world building, the way Legend of the Galactic Heroes did. This allows the combat to fit more smoothly into the world, in a way that makes sense. Visual novels aren’t typically character driven, like many comedic anime where most of the fun comes from character interactions. The appeal of visual novels is first and foremost in seeing a new world, and only secondly seeing how characters behave in that world. If an anime director does not paint the world correctly and consistently, then the behavior of the characters will become illogical and insane.

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  4. Accel World is better than I thought. Some truly emotional scenes. Reading the light novel will probably fill in some more details for the inner thoughts of the characters (always a plus when the plot centers around personal development), but I’l let that aside for now.

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