I originally wanted to post this as a single post because it is only 16 anime series, not like the nearly 30 anime series I initially checked out in the spring season, but for many of these anime I had more to say then I originally thought I would. If I had more confidence in my writing, I might assume people reading wouldn’t mind trying get through a 3500+ word post 🙂 .
Before getting to the rest of the countdown I wanted to mention that this double post is just for the new anime series of the season; you’ll have to wait for the season review to see how these anime stack up to spring carryovers.
(8) – Kamisama no Memo-chou
Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 7/12 B
The first of two shows this season with “God” in the title features a female NEET detective (which is an oxymoron, I know) who solves crime using the powah of the Internets.
What a difference two years can make. Two years ago, summer 2009, J.C. Staff was in the midst of a string of hits and fielded not one but two great series – Aoi Hana and Taishou Yakyuu Musume – for the season. Since then, J.C. Staff has struggled and has only been able to produce a grand total of two good series, To Aru Kagaku no Railgun and Tantei Opera Milky Holmes. After producing so many great and memorable series, it pains me to see the slow deterioration of what a J.C. Staff series means. I keep hoping for a turn around but Kamisama no Memo-chou, at best, appears only to slow the decline.
The animation style is their standard style for action series that has pretty much crystallized since at least as far back as Shana season 1 from nearly 6 years ago. It was awesome the first few of times but I’ve gotten to the point that I want to see them try something new. The animation quality is the same level of better-then-average-but-not-great that J.C. Staff seems to be comfortable at with little regard about the ground their losing to the top line animation studios. (Thankfully there’s animation studios like Studio Deen which will always be around to make J.C. Staff look decent in comparison.)
I can ‘t help but compare it to the recently finished Gosick which seems to inhabit the same genre of anime. The mysteries that need solved in Kamisama no Memo-chou look like they’re more thought out then the ones in Gosick which is a definite plus but Gosick had a better female lead in Victorique (thanks in part by a superior vocal performance by Yuuki Aoi). The rest of the cast is pretty much equal in quality between the two. Gosick has the edge in the animation department but Kamisama no Memo-chou has the edge in the story department assuming the source material holds up. So it’s pretty much a wash for right now but I do see the potential in Kamisama no Memo-chou and hope it reaches that full potential.
(7) – Blood-C
Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 8/12 B+
I have not seen the previous incarnations of this franchise nor am I that familiar with Clamp (I did watch Kobato and enjoyed it) so I did not quite know what to expect from this anime. Certain bloggers that I respect, like psgels at Star-Crossed Anime Blog, seemed really excited about Blood-C which was enough for me to give it a try.
So far, I’m still not completely sold on the series but it’s doing better than I thought it would and when the introductions are done and we move onto the larger story this could get very good, very fast. The biggest gripe I have with the show is the one-dimensional, poorly developed side characters that are the main character’s classmates and friends. They aren’t a deal breaker so long as they continue to be used in small doses like they have been and I bet they’ll be in the anime in even smaller doses as the plot develops. At first I was also bothered by the main character’s apparent bi-polar personality between cold-blooded killer of monsters and naive Pollyanna but I decided that there’s probably a good reason for the personality split. I’m guessing that sword is involved.
The biggest thing going for it right now is that Production I.G. is animating Blood-C and it looks great with only an occasion scene where the characters look like they were born on the moon. The action scenes have been well done and satisfying, probably the best of the new anime shows this season. If Blood-C can beat out Nichijou for having the best overall actions scenes still remains to be seen, though.
(6) – Kamisama Dolls
Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 8/12 B+
The second show with “God” in the title and the first of three new anime series from Brains Base is about what happens when a young man (college age this time) decides he wants to leave his rural village with all it’s secrets behind and live a normal life in the big city. Of course, it’s not that easy – it never is. A psychotic killer from his village escapes and decides he wants to see his old friend, the main character, and have some fun.
Kamisama Dolls has shown moments of greatness that almost convince me that this will end up a great anime but it hasn’t quite closed the deal yet. The biggest question that still needs to be answered definitively is how well it can balance it’s serious drama side with it’s slower-paced comedic side. So far it’s done an adequate job handling both sides but there’s still room for improvement. The one area that I thought might a be problem but didn’t turn out to be for this anime is it’s animation quality, not because Brains Base is a poor animation studio but because I think this is the first time they’re working on more than one anime series at a time and I expected something to give. They even had the time to come up with one of my favorite OP this season.
(5) – Mayo Chiki
Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 9/12 A-
This season’s most over-achieving anime is definitely Mayo Chiki; it really has no business being as good as it is. A story about a typical high school boy one day discovering the butler of the rich girl who attends his school is actually a girl and has to hide her gender so that she can continue being a butler is not the type of show that one expects high quality from but, somehow, here we are. Actually, that’s not quite true – I understand why Mayo Chiki has been so successful. One, the comedy works. Two, the characters play well off each other and excel in the roles they are being asked to play. And three, Mayo Chiki utilizes the characters and situations behind the premise of the show fully and sometimes even to an absurd level.
The vocal work has also been great. Satoshi Hino, as the main character, hits it perfectly in portraying the typical high school boy with just enough backbone to be likable but not so much that he’s immune to the uncomfortable situations he’s placed in. Kana Hanazawa, as the younger sister, shows that she does have more range than she’s normally given credit for. Eri Kitamura is completely believable as she plays the bored, slightly sadistic rich girl and Yuka Iguchi does a superb job shifting between being masculine and feminine as the butler. The animation quality remains above average and the few action scenes have been animated surprisingly well.
Time will tell if Mayo Chiki can continue performing as well as it has been but I hope it does.
(4) – Dantalian no Shoka
Rating for episodes 1 to 3 – 9/12 A-
Earlier I mentioned how J.C. Staff’s animation style has pretty much crystallized years ago and how it puts their anime at a disadvantage. On the other end of the spectrum is the animation company Gainax and Dantalian no Shoka is the latest example of how they’re willing to experiment with new styles and techniques while still mixing in enough trademark Gainax animation to keep fans happy. I like what they did here and it already feels like the perfect look for this anime.
The real standout in Dantalian no Shoka is actually Daisuke Ono’s vocal work for the main character and how well he plays off Dalian – a real spitfire of a woman, voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, who happens to inhabit the mansion that Daisuke Ono’s character inherits when his grandfather dies. The pair pretty much guarantees that this’ll be an entertaining anime to follow, even if the mysteries and dangers behind the forbidden books of their world turn out to be not the most interesting. (Though they’ve been pretty interesting so far, creating a real mysterious atmosphere seems difficult in anime.)
I’m really looking forward to see where Dantalian no Shoka goes this season and I’m wondering if having a new director helm this anime means their more seasoned directors are fast at work on new projects for Gainax.
(3) – Ikoku Meiro no Croisee
Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 10/12 A
I expected that I’d find Ikoku Meiro no Croisee at least mildly entertaining to watch since I love anime (live action, books, etc.) set in the past; it doesn’t matter the time period or place. What I didn’t expect was how much I’d fall in love with it. It gets the slice-of-life vibe that shows like this and Natsume Yuujinchou need to cultivate absolutely correct. The characters are instantly likeable – Yune is death-by-cuteness personified – and the setting – late 19th century Paris with it’s rapid transitioning of technology – is engaging and different. The focus on the culture shock caused by the clash of East vs. West gives this anime additional depth and helps keep the story moving along.
Ikoku Meiro no Croisee is an example of how not all anime have to try something new and bigger to succeed; all that’s really needed is the perfect execution of a simple idea. I know I’m going to be very sad when Ikoku Meiro no Croisee finishes up.
(2) – Mawaru Penguin Drum
Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 11/12 A+
And Mawaru Penguin Drum showcases how trying something bigger, bolder, and different can pay off. This anime continues a streak of original production anime that have been either the best or nearly the best in each of the anime seasons dating back to Fall 2010. (Panty and Stocking – Fall 2010, Madoka – Winter 2011, Ano Hana – Spring 2011) This is a trend that I hope continues and expands because I think it’s in these original works that the truly great anime are made and their existence means that anime’s future is still bright.
Once again I’m reminded that talking about well-made anime is much more difficult than dissecting why an imperfect anime is imperfect and it doesn’t help that just about everyone is already watching Mawaru Penguin Drum. Instead I close by saying that this anime has a real chance to beat out Natsume Yuujinchou by the end of the season which is really something since Natsume is one of my all-time favorite anime.
(1) – Natsume Yuujinchou 3
Rating for episodes 1 to 5– 11/12 A+
For all my complaining about this season, finally having the third season of Natsume Yuujinchou is all I really need to be happy. The only thing I feel the need to say about Natsume Yuujinchou 3 is that it’s as good as the first two seasons and continues one of the best anime franchises ever.