Winter 2013 Mid-Season Anime Report: Part 1

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Did the 2011 Earthquake not teach the Japanese about the dangers of putting a power plant that close to open water without adequate protection?

Or the Summer mid-season anime report if one happens to live south of the equator. 🙂

Realistically if there were no new good anime series this season would still a fine one with the large number of great and good anime series that are carrying over from the fall season. Without covering all 11 continuing series I’m watching, the two series – Shinsekai Yori and Psycho-pass – that I thought would have strong second halves as they reached their respective climaxes are in the process of doing so. In contrast, the two carryover series – Little Busters and Robotics;Notes – that I thought had a good chance at being, ultimately, a waste of time are in process of proving me right. I guess you can’t win them all.

Let’s see how the new shows stack up.

Mini-sized Series

A recent trend in anime, for a variety of reasons, has been the raise of the 5 minute per episode anime series. The gold standard for this format is the Star Wars Clone Wars micro-series created by Genndy Tartakovsky.

Inferno Cop

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Rating for episodes 1 to 9 – 3/12  D

Inferno Cop is not a particularly good anime. One would be tempted to blame it’s “animation” but that’s not the problem – it’s the terrible story that sinks Inferno Cop. Trigger, the animation studio behind this anime, is a spin-off from Gainax and has the personal to create off-beat, screwball anime that can still tell a coherent story in the midst of the zany parts; so, the inability for Inferno Cop to have both parts is disappointing. The short length of this anime means I’ll keep watching and enjoying the “animation” but that’s it.

Yama no Susume

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Rating for episodes 1 to 8 – 6/12  B-

This could have been a full half hour episode sized series. Granted, it’s not the most high-concept series since it falls firmly in the cute girls doing something (mountain climbing  this time) genre but the quality of execution is what always makes or breaks these types of series. Yama no Susume has shown pretty good execution on the part of the animation staff but the time limit is limiting how good this series could be, which is a shame. A longer episode length would allow the number of characters to increase and allow the series to spend more time on the mountain climbing aspect of this series, which I’m finding interesting. Maybe if this mini-sized series does well the money will step forward for a full series.

The Fallen

I don’t like to drop anime series but, when they refuse to toe-the-line in one of a few aspects, then I will and feel good about it. I’ve not made an exhaustive list of what aspects an anime needs to not fail at for me to watch a series completely but the following three series hit the three biggest.

Senran Kagura

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Rating for episodes 1 to 3 – 3/12  D (Dropped)

There is a time and place for everything. Fan service series like Senran Kagura will never be among my favorite types of anime series to watch but if it’s done right I will watch it. (I like to watch something pleasant after I finish the weekly episode of Shinsekai Yori, for example.) This anime series is not done right because, for one, it fails the cardinal rule of fan service series which is to use attractive looking character designs and use above-average animation. This alone is enough to drop it but it also suffered from characters without personalities, a boring story, and yawn-worthy fan service.

Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru

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Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 4/12  C (Dropped)

This season’s really long titled anime series is about a boy, his girlfriend, and his childhood friend. (I’m sure there’s a bigger cast but I bailed before they were introduced.) In many ways this series starts off like Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai which provided a convenient yardstick to compare this series to. Having such a handy guide helped me realize, rather quickly, that I hated all three of the main characters in Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru. This was the point I dropped it because a character-centered series needs to have likeable characters.

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha

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Rating for episodes 1 to 6 – 6/12  B- (Dropped)

I wanted to really like this anime. If we can’t get a third season of Spice and Wolf then a different series covering economics would be the next best thing. I was willing to overlook the ugly character designs but this series turned out to be a mess. What ultimately convinced me to drop this series was how frustrating it was to watch when it shouldn’t have been. The inability of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha to decide what type of show it is, the shallow world-building and the generic characters that no time is taken to flesh out all help in making this anime a frustrating experience but the real kicker is how close this anime is to being legitimately good. I would even go so far to say that this series is purposely trying to be a frustrating experience (or everyone from the original creator down to the animation staff are just incompetent).

The Mediocres

A better name for the anime series in this section might be the future forgottens. They lack the dubious quality of being so bad that their failure will get remembered. They also lack a varying amount of key elements that would catapult them into the ranks of the good series that people talk about and recommend. Within 2 years, maybe 3, there will almost certainly be nary a mention of any of these series.

Da Capo III

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Rating for episodes 1 to 7 – 4/12  C

The first Da Capo series, way back in the summer of 2003, was one of the very first series I watched as I transitioned from being a pure brick’n’mortar anime fan to a mainly online anime fan. It wasn’t the greatest series (thereby helping cement my weariness of harem series) but I did enjoy the backdrop of having cherry trees that were eternally flowering and a couple of the characters were interesting. I dropped the sequel and skipped the two parts to the second series which doesn’t put this franchise on the firmest footing. In a stronger season I would have skipped over this series as well. However, I had some space, thanks to dropping a couple of other series, and a bit of curiosity to see if this franchise had improved over the years. The answer is that it hasn’t. The main character is dull and the various girls have paper-thin personalities and are more like a collection of traits then real people. Strangely enough, though, watching this show feels nostalgic. I won’t ever mistake this for a good anime series but, for this winter season, I have the room to watch a series that invokes these nostalgic feelings (while hoping this type of series stays out of vogue).

Vivid Red Operation

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Rating for episodes 1 to 7 – 5/12  C+

After an initial thrill Vivid Red Operation has settled down into a formulaic, generic groove that leaves it knocking around with the likes of Da Capo III and Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman. The overwhelming sense I get is that this series was half thought-out then rushed to TV. For example, there’s only so many times one can use the butt-cam in a series before it becomes just another way to frame a shot. Couldn’t a little variety have been introduced? Also, the fight scenes seem awkward when there’s four heroes but only two (Red + someone) do the actual fighting and the other two merely float around with nothing to do. Couldn’t someone in the production committee have spent some time figuring out how to work all of them into the fight?

Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman

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Rating for episodes 1 to 7 – 5/12  C+

This series has two things to it that keep me interested enough that I’ll continue watching to the end. The first is the main character, Roman, is voiced by Kazuya Nakai – who voiced Date Masamune in Sengoku Basara and Retro in Chihayafuru – and is a joy to listen to here as well. The second is that I do enjoy anime set in historical time periods as this anime is (end of the Edo period, mid-19th century). The above average OP/ED actually makes it three things. As for the show itself it’s been very average to slightly below average. Put in terms of Lupin III (with designs by Monkey Punch and animation from the studio that does Lupin this an apt comparison), it feels like mid-range Lupin material minus the memorable characters from Lupin. There has been some hinting to a deeper plot driving this series and if this is the case and it’s handled well then I could easily see Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman finishing strong.

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke

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Rating for episodes 1 to 7 – 6/12  B-

The more I watch this franchise, the more it feels like a weak facsimile of the X-men franchise. The latest episode, with it’s reveal that our main antagonist’s “tragic” background begins in WWII, further confirms this assessment. Using X-men as a template isn’t a bad thing per se, if it was trying to do something interesting with it but the creators really aren’t. The sole interesting item left to this series is if the undercover ESPer cop will ultimately side with rogue ESPer group or not. My heart weeps a little when Manglobe notches yet another disappointing series on their belt. In hindsight they should have dispended after finishing Samurai Champloo because it’s been a downward slide ever since then.

Part 2 is written and in the can so look for it tomorrow.

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8 thoughts on “Winter 2013 Mid-Season Anime Report: Part 1”

  1. Maoyuu Maou Yuusha should be seen in the original format. http://xreader.net/read-manga/maoyuu-maou-yuusha/chapter%2018/3#viewImage

    As I mentioned before, i would have done a lot of things differently in the anime. It was supposed to have a very high quota of fantasy humour or satire, like Dog Days. Designed to mimic the Hero, goes to a new world from modern Japan, defeats grand evil, after the hero’s journey, etc.

    This is the end of the story for the standard, but the beginning of the new.

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  2. I agree that VividRed Operation is turning into a disappointment, but my main complaint is that Rei is a bundle of angst, and she’s weighing down the show. What made it work, early on, was Akane’s energy and unceasing optimism. But they damn near killed Akane in the most recent episode, and anyway for the last two episodes we’ve been concentrating on how miserable Rei is.

    And that isn’t fun.

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  3. I watched a few episodes. They didn’t really produce a mystery story based upon economics, though. They skipped most of the action scenes. Even though I know what’s already going to happen, the pace seems rushed and a lot of fine details are left out.

    For example, a Yuusha is usually someone who is strong, perhaps both in magic as well as the sword, but seeing what little of his powers before, when the plot wasn’t about fighting at all, made the actual first fights as the Dark Knight pretty interesting. It became a reverse genre. The Good Hero that fights for humanity, suddenly becomes the Dark Knight for Maou. Again, it is a satire on conventional fantasy tropes in Japanese novels.

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  4. @scdb: Yes, it’s not fun enough anymore. Above a certain level of fun and things like plot holes and bad writing don’t matter much but now they do for VividRed Operation. It’s kinda like how the Battleship movie was one of the highlights to me from Hollywood last year because it was alot of fun. (Having 80-90 year old WW2 vets getting the USS Missouri going was a special type of awesome that I wish was more prevalent.)

    Rei’s story is another example of them half thinking things through. She’s sent to Earth to augment the Alone with her anger and if the Alone win she gets her family back. It’s completely unthinkable that her handlers then would force her to go to school because the moment she starts empathizing with the people on the planet she has to blow-up is the moment she’s not going to succeed and all this angst is just wasted time – we know she’s not going to do it.

    @ymarsakar: I could somehow tell that a lot of the fine details were being left out and the plot was rushed but it’s good to see that the source material was better. That’s what helped make it so frustrating to watch.

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  5. The original story, as might be expected, is better. That is true. Seeing how modifying the food production of a small village has impacts on national politics, that is almost like playing a grand strategy game yourself, except the motive characters are not your generals and diplomats, but the independent Yuusha and the enemy’s King, as well as your ally’s King.

    Not every anime is going to be able to adapt to an original, quirky, longer format source successfully. It’s just something to be accepted. I deal with it by only viewing the original source. Or as close to it as humanly possible for someone that doesn’t know how to read or write in Japanese yet.

    I do prefer the art over the anime’s artistic direction. Recently people have been more open to modifying the “look” of the source, so to speak, which I think is good. Sometimes people go off the true path however as a result. It’s another case where “aesthetics” of the look and the music, determines the vast majority of an anime’s content being “good” or “bad” for me.

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  6. Also, I got to say, that Japanese hierarchy still applies. The original author is not given any better authority merely because his art pays the bills, so to speak. The original author almost always allows the Project heads to come up with their own adaptations, because what makes the original author original is their foundation of being independent, small time, non professional based. Thus they lack the artistic experience to direct an anime project of any scale, and they and the Team knows this.

    Which is why when the story is directed and led by the in project leader and team, things can become very good. If the person leading the team is the one that writes the story, there is no conflict.

    There is always friction in war, as war makes the simplest things, very hard to do. The same is true for large projects of economy and media.

    Ore Imouto portrayed some of this as well, where the original author can make suggestions, but because they don’t know how to apply those suggestions with the Project’s resources, their “suggestions” are seen as unrealistic. Of course, I knew some of this went on before when I saw the credits. I always wondered if the result was because the Project leaders listened too much to the original author or not enough. If the original author of the story didn’t know how to make useful suggestions that would lead to the correct result, then neither option would matter in the end.

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  7. Thanks so much for providing these a fascinating and one of a
    kind insight into this intriguing and debatable matter!

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  8. I have to make a correction. I found out where Arms got the material for their adaptation and it seems it was the light novel rather than the web comic. Strangely enough, the light novel is said to be by the same author as the original web comic, yet the web comic’s plot cohesion, action sequences, storyline renditions, and artwork seemed far stronger than the later light novel. I wonder if that is due to editor or publisher or some other “influence”, or merely due to the lack of writing ability on the author’s part. No matter, what this means is that Arms, whose previous work on Hagure Yuusha and Elfen Lied I found to be of quality, did not make the mistake as ZEXCs in Chrome Shelled Regios; that of modifying the original material for some self perceived marketing goal or New Aesthetic. Their only mistake was perhaps in mistaking the popular demographic appeal of the web comic for the light novel, when they seem to be very different animals. Perhaps ARMs would have done better with the web comic, perhaps not, but the priority on the weird comedic and artistic character elements, were from the light novel.

    In this case, the production studio had good odds and experience on their side, but the source material of their… source material was not in their hands.

    They even seemed to have gotten some of the same VAs from Spice and Wolf. The stage was set on the studio’s side but… in an ironic twist of fate, it was the source itself that became flawed and impure.

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