Winter 2013 Mid-Season Anime Report: Part 2

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Two carryover series that kinda surprised me are Ixion Saga: Dimension Transfer and Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo. I was positive that Ixion Saga: DT had wrung out all the possible comedy to the show during the Fall season and I had all but consigned the series to my dropped series list when it found a secret stash or something and improved enough that I know I’m going to finish watching the series. The other, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, had moments of greatness interspaced between the meh during the Fall season. It was a real uneven rollercoaster that I was expecting to see fall apart during the second half but it too suddenly improved. It’s problems got smoothed out, the pacing became perfect and the storytelling was (is) almost constantly great.

And two more carryover series – Space Brothers and Hunter x Hunter – have been given the go ahead to carry on past this season so I can’t bemoan their impending ends (yet).

I don’t want to turn myself into a liar therefore I won’t cover anymore of the carryover series and will move on now.

The Understory

Sometimes good anime series can’t break through the noise and take their deserved place amongst the big fishes of the anime season. It could be these anime series have a minor defect holding it back or they lack that special je ne sais quoi of a winner or there’s a series amongst the big fishes that does everything just a little better. Whatever the reason, though, these series are worth watching and rooting for.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Next

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Rating for episodes 1 to 7 – 8/12  B+

Whereas the main three characters from OreShura annoyed me, the three main characters from this series – who are very similar in type – are one of it’s strengths. Go figure. With just a few select cuts and a little more time spent on the serious parts relating to the friendless nature of the characters, this series would be a monster hit. Instead, it’s an oddly engrossing anime series that occasionally drops hints of brilliance. I think this season has been a stronger season then the first (though it obviously didn’t receive as large of an animation budget). It’s tempting to point to how the original creator was brought on-board for the second season as the reason but, without access to an alternative world to compare, it’s impossible to know.

Minami-ke Tadaima

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Rating for episodes 1 to 6 – 9/12  A-

After so many years of waiting, one of my favorite comedies – Minami-ke – has finally gotten a second season. I know sites like ANN and MAL insist this is the fourth season but they’re wrong. I would have loved it if the people who worked on the first season of Minami-ke had come back but they’re busy turning Kotoura-san into a financial and creative juggernaut. Instead the very capable Keiichirou Kawaguchi is helming this sequel and is doing a great job. One of the features that this season of Minami-ke gets right is how to handle the large ensemble cast that is attached to the three Minami sisters. (The two sequel seasons that I refuse to acknowledge had the problem of focusing on a small subset of the cast to the detriment of the overall series.) As solid as this series is as a comedy there’s hardly anyone paying attention to it because of Kotoura-san.

The Winners

Every season, no matter how strong or weak it is, has a group of series that are just plain better than everything else airing and this season is no different. Guessing which series will turn out on top is a game most anime bloggers like to play and I’m pleased to see that all four of the series I picked out for the season preview post made it in this group. (Not that it was all that difficult in picking the Shaft series, the KyoAni series, and the two sequels to series that placed in my top 5 for 2012, picking for Spring 2013 is going to be a much tougher task with how weak it looks.)

Tamako Market

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Rating for episodes 1 to 6 – 10/12  A

I waffled a bit on if Tamako Market belongs here or in the previous group. After starting out very strongly it’s settled down into being a pleasant, wistful nostalgic slice-of-life series. It would be easy to dismiss this series as merely a cute girls doing cute things anime but that’s selling this series short. I adore watching the everyday life of a shopping district like the one shown in Tamako Market; it reminds me of the stories my mom tells about the little shops that used to fill the neighborhood when she was little. I suspect there are few places like Tamako Market left even in Japan. If there’s a problem with this series it’s that it’s only a single cour long. Another 13 episodes would have given the series plenty of time to shine the spotlight on all the characters in the shopping district; there all interesting characters and I want to know more about them.

AKB0048 next stage

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Rating for episodes 1 to 7 – 10.5/12  Strong A

The first season had the element of surprise; no one, except the people making it, could have guessed that AKB0048 season 1 was going to be as good as it was. With it’s return, however, AKB0048 has to follow-up with a stronger performance now that there were expectations and it’s done so. Mari Okada takes a fair amount of heat among anime fans but I’ve constantly been delighted by the writing for this anime series. For example, two lingering observations I had during the first season – Chieri’s father is just too rich to not be able to find his daughter and the DES army is rather incompetent at times – were answered here rather deliciously. I love watching anime made by people who know what they’re doing.

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai

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Rating for episodes 1 to 7 – 10.5/12  Strong A

Every other new series this season could be summarized in a short sentence but not Sasami-san@Ganbaranai. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Is it a slice-of-life series? What’s up with all the gods? And so on. It’s only at the half-way point that the vague form of this series is coming into focus. If asked at any earlier point I would have been hard pressed to say anything beyond that it’s a Shaft/Shinbou series. Which it is and the latest episode, number 7, once again reveals why Shaft and Shinbou are one of the most potent combinations in anime today. At this point Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is reminding me of the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman, never a bad thing since it’s one of my favorite books. The fact that this series has been slow to explain itself is not a bad thing or a knock against it, though, it’s a shame how there’s so little time left before the season ends. Oh well, gotta hope Shaft can fit in a sequel between their money printing franchises.

Kotoura-san

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Rating for episodes 1 to 7 – 11/12  A+

Kotoura-san is the surprise hit of the season but I’m not surprised that the surprise hit would be Kotoura-san because the director and writer for this anime sparkled with the first season of Minami-ke. What got so many people’s attention – including mine – was how this series used serious dark drama to set the stage for the comedy. This just isn’t done; the opposite, comedy to set up the serious dark drama, is much more common with the Key/Kyoto Animation series being prime examples of this. It’s worked though. Instead of watching Koutoura-san with the mindset that it better make me laugh, I watch hoping to see Koutoura laugh and be happy. If I do laugh (which actually happens quite often) than I see it as a bonus. This anime is also yet more proof that cool male main characters with backbones make better anime series then those that populate anime series like Robotics;Notes and Maoyuu Maou Yuusha.

Chihayafuru 2

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Rating for episodes 1 to 7 – 12/12  Perfect

Exquisite perfection.

That’s all I need to say about Chihayafuru 2 but I can’t help feeling the need to add a few more superlatives. Such as how the first season was my number 2 top anime for 2012 and I have a strong feeling that this season will finish at least that high for 2013. Or exclaim at how deftly the anime weaves so many character’s stories together into a cohesive whole and makes it look easy. (Space Brothers does this as well as does Downtown Abbey – I’m just getting to the third season so I do not want to read any spoilers from that season – and is one of the reasons both are so good.) Or how this series can bring me to tears during a mere “fluff” episode like episode 7 did. Or how the same series, in the previous episode, can fire me up to the point that I feel my heart pounding as I cheer and scream encouragement at my computer monitor like I was watching my team play in the Super Bowl or the World Series and not a group of animated high school kids playing a card game in a language I can’t speak. That’s how good this series is.

There you go. I started with Inferno Cop and ended with Chihayafuru 2. I’ll cover these and the fall carryovers at the end of the season when I do my mixed seasonal awards and countdown posts.

If there are no last-minute additions to the spring line-up then the next season looks like the weakest in a long time and Chihayafuru 2, as a carryover, will just dominate the weekly anime power rankings.

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2 thoughts on “Winter 2013 Mid-Season Anime Report: Part 2”

  1. Your comment about Kotoura-san reminds me of the Muv Luv trilogy. The first one was a pure romantic comedy. The second one was a military boot camp to crush civilian weaknesses out. The third one was the tragic, dark drama, which I love in its heroic rendition. Those 3 would fit the script for comedy supporting dark drama. But the 4th one in the series, that goes back to 1, a romantic comedy. So now we have dark drama supporting this light romantic comedy where we get to see all the people we lost, back again living lives unknown to a BETA infested world. Very very strange in a way.

    Like

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