The end is fast approaching for The Null Set’s examination of the spring season; all that’s left is the countdown of the top shows of the season. I’ll readily admit that creating such a listing causes one to compare apples to oranges, as the saying goes, or maybe oil and water is a better description. The result probably speaks more about the preparer of the list then it does the actual merits of the shows involved but it seems hardwired into humans to continuously make these types of lists and give importance to the results.
So on that note, let’s head to the countdown and discover which series juuusst squeaked onto the list.
8 – Tiger and Bunny
My opinion of Tiger and Bunny has swung the widest of all the spring anime series; sometimes very high and other times it’s rather low. At various points it seems that Sunrise wants viewers to take Tiger and Bunny seriously and at other points it clearly wants Tiger and Bunny to be considered a silly, over-the-top series. Done right, it’s possible to swing between both but Sunrise hasn’t done the best job getting the tonal shifts right which leaves Tiger and Bunny somewhat frustrating to watch. For example, am I supposed to see the completely ineffectual mayor of Sternbild City (the NYC-like setting of the anime) who looks good on camera but is completely overwhelmed by the demands of the jobs as thinly-veiled political commentary about the current President of the US when Sunrise resolves the Ouroboros storyline, rather absurdly, with the big bad villain having a helicopter fall on him and killing him?
So I’ve needed to do a bit of leveling the mountains and filling in the valleys to get a better read on where Tiger and Bunny actually stands independently and in comparison with the other anime of the season. The result was I realized Tiger and Bunny deserved to make the top anime list for this season because it does lots of things right (sometimes really right) but that it still hasn’t come close to it’s full potential yet and that it has a few elements holding it back.
I’m optimistic about the second half of Tiger and Bunny that airs this summer season. Now that the introductions, character development, and the true forming of the superhero duo of Tiger and Bunny are accomplished, Sunrise can really kick the story in gear. (More Lunatic, please. 🙂 )
7 – Hyouge Mono
One of the disappointments of this season is how Hyouge Mono has fallen through the cracks and ignored by most of the anime fans out there. I’m grateful that there is at least one group willing to sub this show, though it would be wonderful if they had more help, and for the 5 episodes I’ve seen so far. I know for certain that if I’d’ve seen 9 or 10 episodes at this point, I’d be ranking Hyouge Mono much higher.
The animation and vocal work are both above average but the real draw to this show is it’s characters. They are toned down from Sengoku Basara levels enough so that it’s possible to show the political side of the Sengoku time period while still keeping enough eccentricities that the characters are fun to watch. I particularly like the main character because of how conflicted he is and how he tries to balance everything. He prides himself as an aesthetic, particularly about all things related to tea, and he loves his wife and son but the only way to provide the lifestyle they deserve is to fight in the army and try to advance up the ranks to win prestige, power, and money while being totally not cutout for military service. He also realizes that it’s impossible to become a respected aesthetic until he has a collection of treasures showcasing his appreciation of art so he’s very bribable at this point but he seeks to be totally loyal to his lord, Oda Nobunaga aka the Demon King.
And the kicker about Hyouge Mono is how true to history it actually is.
6 – Hanasaku Iroha
Hanasaku Iroha is the latest anime from PA Works who has shown in the past great animation quality but a consistent flatness to it’s characters that impedes the quality of their shows. (I’m still marveling at how I didn’t shed a single tear during Angel Beats but filled buckets over KyoAni’s AIR, Kanon, and Clannad.) As a firm believer in the adage ‘Practice makes perfect,’ I figured at some point that PA Works would get it right and Hanasaku Iroha shows that they’re starting to get it right. It’s still not perfect but there’s tantalizing flashes of brilliance, for instance, pretty much all of episode 13 was perfectly awesome. If it could stay at that level then picking the top show of the season would have been a much tougher task.
One of the smart things they did was to have the main character, Ohana, quickly mature past the whinny, brat stage she was in at the beginning of the series. For one, I don’t think many could have tolerated watching her pout over the unfairness of life as the main character for too long before dropping it. For two, having a cool main character, as Ohana is at this point, increases the show’s overall coolness (always a good thing).
I’m not sure how Hanasaku Iroha will fill another season’s worth episodes, though a couple things have been hinted at, but I definitely will keep watching the daily adventures of the people that run what must be the best little hot springs inn in Japan.
5 – Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko
In hindsight, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko suffered from certain high expectations that have slowly formed about Shaft/Shinbou series. The largest expectation stemmed from the many past series from Shaft/Shinbou that have had a surprising amount of depth to them. When Erio exclaimed that she was an alien, it primed us to expect something like Arakawa Under the Bridge and when it didn’t deliver a show of that depth, it felt like a disappointment. ‘What is the point to this anime,’ was a comment I saw over and over. I thought the same thing but I kept watching and finally I realized the real purpose was just to have a fairly generic male lead spend his time with a variety of different girls/women doing fun things. It’s light entertainment; that’s it.
Once I straightened my expectations out it was a very fun series to follow and after Madoka, I’m okay with something a bit lighter from Shaft/Shinbou. I definitely wouldn’t mind a sequel but there are a few series from Shaft that I rather see a sequel done first.
The top four come next and then it’ll be time to start examining the new summer season 🙂 .