What a difference a year makes; last summer I was watching only a handful of shows and thought only a couple were truly great shows – this year there’s so many watchable shows that I’m considering dropping at least a couple B-level titles to free up needed time. I don’t think it’s too early to proclaim this as the best summer season of anime in recent years and there’s a good chance that when it’s over and we look back at it – this could be a golden season like Spring 2006 was.
Below, I collected links to my earlier written impression posts that cover each of the new summer shows that I watched. These were written over the span of many weeks since some shows were easier then others when determining quality and how likely a show could maintain a certain level of quality. I’ve taken this opportunity to rank them by the average score that they earned at the time of the impression post because it provides a quick-n-dirty way to rank the many new shows.
|Tokyo Magnitude 8.0||5 episode average – 10.7/12||2.5/5 anticipation|
|Bakemonogatari||3 episode average – 10.7/12||4.5/5 anticipation|
|Spice and Wolf 2||4 episode average – 10.6/12||4.5/5 anticipation|
|Taishou Yakyuu Musume||3 episode average – 10.3/12||3.5/5 anticipation|
|Aoi Hana||5 episode average – 10/12||3/5 anticipation|
|Sora no Manimani||3 episode average – 9.8/12||3.5/5 anticipation|
|Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei S. 3||2 episode average – 9/12||3/5 anticipation|
|CANAAN||4 episode average – 8.75/12||2/5 anticipation|
|Umineko no Naku Koro ni||2 episode average – 8.5/12||3/5 anticipation|
|Umi Monogatari||2 episode average – 8/12||3/5 anticipation|
|Kanamemo||5 episode average – 6.2/12||2/5 anticipation|
|Needless||5 episode average – 5.6/12||2/5 anticipation|
|Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!!||3 episode average – 2/12||0/5 anticipation|
As you can see, a pretty strong season of new shows and I’d be happy if it was just these shows but there’s also several shows continuing from previous seasons as well that are great as well. So, to get the full picture of how good this season, I want to talk about them before further covering the new shows.
Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood: The first dozen or so episodes of this redo of the Full Metal series condensed 30+ episodes of the first incarnation and as a result it lacked the narrative punch of the first series. Once over that hurdle, the show shifted to new material and I was quickly reminded how good this show can be. The world was expanded – hinting at very interesting future plot points, new characters where introduced, and existing characters where given an awesomeness injection.The results have been spectacular; Episode 19 contains a fight that easily makes my top 5 anime fights of all time and was so good that I seriously had to remember to take a breathe when it was over because I hadn’t in awhile. Then I was worried that I’d be let down but episode 20 came right back with it’s own shocking revelations showing that this series has plenty of curve balls left to throw it’s viewers.
Kemono no Souja Erin: I’ve recently posted how I’ve finally caught up with this series and the few episodes I’ve watched since then just continue to prove to me that this is a great show. Recently the show has been very character driven with the plot fading into the background which has been okay since this show has good characters. I do think the show is getting ready to swing back towards advancing the plot because in the latest subbed episode, episode 30, another time skip occurred and now Erin is 18. Definitely old enough and with enough experience to the save the kingdom like I think she’ll have too (I like that they’ve worked at making Erin a believable hero).
Cross Game: Cross Game continues to chug along, offering it’s viewers the same level of goodness that we’ve grown to love. This season has seen some characters leave unexpectantly, new characters get introduced, and existing characters develop in surprising ways. Something that I’ve really grown to like about this series is how most of the characters that seem to be the “evil” characters of the series are given a chance to rehabilitate their image (at least the non-adults are).
Hayate the Combat Butler, Season 2: This summer J.C. Staff has really hit it’s stride with Hayate. They’re still focusing on advancing the story of the series but the humor level has increased steadily and I’m finding it as funny as the first season. I wish this was going to run ~52 episodes like the first season and not end at 26 episodes, especially since J.C. Staff is proving that they can do 3 shows at once. I’ll guess I’ll have to console myself with saying that J.C. Staff likes to do sequels so maybe a third season will be coming around soon.
Haruhi, Season 1.5: My thoughts about Haruhi would run a full post so I’ll just include a couple. The first is that from the beginning, I’ve refused to call this season 2 and now that we see how the extended episode count was used – it really does feel like a fleshed out first season. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a true season 2 announcement within a month or two. Also, I do think that the fans put Kodakawa and KyoAni in a bind because whatever they did, the fan’s expectations about Haruhi would not be met and much wailing and grinding of teeth would happen.
Phantom ~Requiem of Phantom~: One last huge plot twist means, even after amazing me for 18 episodes with great plot and character development, the show still hasn’t peaked and that the ending promises to be amazing. There has been one immediate side-effect of watching this show; namely, for being so accomplished at creating a realistic feeling plot even with fantastical elements (super-powered assassins) it makes CANAAN’s storyline and it’s attempt at being serious seem laughably fake.
Tears to Tiara: Yes I ended up continuing to watch this show. While I wouldn’t call this a top-tier show, it’s a solid second-tier show. It’s well animated with pretty decent fight scenes and has a touch of humor to itself. I haven’t really gotten wrapped up into the show’s story so how the good guys will prevail isn’t a big concern to me but there’s still plenty to like about Tears to Tiara to keep watching.
Hetalia – Axis Powers: The second season picked right up where the first season stopped. I really wish it was more consistently funny but there’s enough to love about this show to keep watching.
Further Thoughts on the New Shows
It used to be, I’d be happy if J.C. Staff could turn out something decent since they were so hit-n-miss with their shows – even within a show (I still can’t reconcile how bad the first half of Shana 2 was with how awesome the second half of Shana 2 was). Recently they’ve done superb work with Toradora and Hatsukoi Limited and promising work with Hayate, so when summer season rolled around – I was cautiously optimistic about their two new shows Aoi Hana and Taishou Yakyuu Musume and sitting at the halfway point I’m really glad that both turned out to be hits. Aoi Hana is a love story done right; it doesn’t take the easy way out by throwing in a bunch fan service or by making things absurdly dramatic – instead, there’s a realism about the characters and how they drive the story forward that is refreshing and enjoyable. Of course the gorgeous animation, great music and voice work along with all the attention to detail only enhances the experience. Taishou Yakyuu Musume has done a very good job of separating itself from the other currently running and recent slice-of-school-life shows. The setting, 1920’s Japan, is helpful in this regard and does make for an interesting twist on things. Also, the focus on the characters having a goal and having to actually work towards it provides all the structure and drive to continue watching. I still don’t see how they can beat that boy’s baseball team but hopefully by the end, they’ll be able to do it.
Another huge question mark about this season was how Shaft would be able to do Bakemonogatari and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei S. 3 at same time. I’d like to say that Shaft was able to flawlessly execute both shows but that would be stretching the truth. I’m currently re-rewatching season 1 of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and being able to compare the two seasons crystallize my observations on the new third season. Namely, the humor and comedic situations have held up well but the art work has definitely suffered this season. It still does it’s job but it feels like what you’d get when an a third party was asked to ape a particular style. Which is probably the case since Bakemonogatari definitely displays the artistic creativity that you’d expect from the Shaft/Shinbo team. Bakemonogatari also is chalk full of witty dialogue and unexpected plot developments – it really is a good match for Shaft/Shinbo’s talents.It always seems to be able to keep the viewers hungry for more, like the recent week where there was no episode, it was a killer wait to get to see the next episode.
A couple of shows (Sora no Manimani and Umi Monogatari) are performing better then I thought they would. I know I gave both relatively high marks initially but I also thought my liking of these series would wane as I watched more episodes. That’s not the case, however. Sora no Manimani has been able to use the astronomy angle to fullest effect, overcoming it’s very poor animation (though it has very good night sky animation) and somewhat clichéd characters/school situations to be an enjoyable series to watch. The informational tidbits about astronomy have also been interesting. In the one example, they explain how to take pictures of stars with just a normal camera and it’s so easy I want to try. For Umi Monogatari; a combination of animation style, some very nice background music tracks, and characters ranging from watchable to scene-stealing has gotten me to like it. That’s not to say it’s a smashing success, the plot feels very generic, even for someone who is not a fan of the magic girl genre and thusly doesn’t which shows have used this type of plot before. There are little touches to the plot that I do like. In a recent episode, the one human character needed to find a family heirloom that has magical powers because it would allow her to breathe underwater. She eventually finds it – the mom had been using it to make their pickles taste better.
I find it funny that as soon as I started to like the characters in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, the story would start to threaten my enjoyment of the series. In episode 5, the brother and sister main characters finally stopped being annoying and I was set to like the rest of the series when the next two episodes pushed the story’s shortcomings forward. The one focused on the woman that’s been helping the young brother and sister since the earthquake. She’s been very admirable so far but she turns down the opportunity to quickly check to see if her own child is okay to stay with the brother and sister. (Heck, she could have driven to where the brother and sister live and see if their parents are okay.) I would call her a very bad parent in real life but since this is an anime, this really felt like a not-so-subtle way to extend the episode count of the series. The other episode was a fairly cute episode featuring robots that were helping in finding survivors trapped in the rubble but again, it felt like the series is trying to extend it’s episode count by using another careless parent. In this case the robot nerd’s parents didn’t see the danger of their child running around a bunch of building that are tittering on the verge of collapse. (This episode also kinda felt like a 25 minute commercial created for a company that makes robots.)
And I can’t forget about Spice and Wolf 2, which proves that anything can be made interesting if done the right way. I’m not much of an economist or merchant;the closest I got was after a college economics class that I aced even with a super hard professor – I received a hand signed letter from the dean of the economics program saying that I should consider changing my major to economics. In the end I didn’t because I thought it would be too dull but maybe I was wrong, though there’d be very little chance of a pagan wolf goddess accompanying me while I worked. :)I can now concur with the general consensus that this season has improved over the first season since I’m now almost done watching the first season but I still don’t understand how so many said the first season was boring.
This time there’s not a huge list of dropped shows. The only for sure one at this point is Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!! (of which I won’t speak of any more). Needless and Kanamemo are on the borderline right now. I have no real desire to watch any more episodes of either (I’ve seen 7 and 6 episodes, respectively) which is normally the point at which I drop a show but it’s not official yet. The only other show that has the chance of being dropped is CANAAN, though that’s very unlikely. There are some very genuine reasons to continue watching this series which will probably get me to continue watching to the end. At the same time, CANAAN’s attempt at being a serious show has so laughably failed that I wish I hadn’t started watching it in the first place.
Looking over this 2300+ word post I realized there’s a facet to being an anime fan that reminds me of being a science fiction fan. Namely, there’s serious grumblings within the last couple of years about the long-term health of the anime industry, with more then a few voices talking about the death of anime. This type of talk has surrounding print SF for the last couple of decades. People would try to get you to believe that soon, maybe only a few years from now, there’ll be no more science fiction. In both circumstances if one just looks at what’s being done – it certainly doesn’t feel like they’re about to die. There’s still too much vibrancy in both to feel like they’re dieing anytime soon.
For reference, this was my preview for this season – it’s interesting to compare the two.