Spring 2013 Mid-Season Anime Report – Part 3: #8 to #1, The Top Eight

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Well, that took longer then I expected, I almost retitled this last post the 2/3rds season report since a few of these series are now on their eighth episode.

I was initially rather worried about the overall quality of this season going into it because it just didn’t look like it could match the overall strength shown in the Winter 2013 season. However, the few series that continued into this season plus a couple of surprises plus the series that were expected to carry the season actually doing so made for a pretty strong season. The only thing that still mars this season in the lack of new noitaminA series which had become a regular fixture for many a year now. In this, I can’t wait for the summer season. Actually, the upcoming summer season looks rather strong. I wonder if the relative few number of anime series continuing into summer is partly the reason.

Whatever the reason, let’s move to last part of the countdown.

(8) – Space Brothers

Rating for episodes 53 to 59 – 10/12  A

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I never expected to still be writing about Space Brothers. When it was first announced, the stated run length meant that the winter 2013 season would be it’s last; however, during that last season it was announced that Space Brothers would be moving to a better time slot at the start of the spring season and, obviously, continue on. For how long, I don’t know but I do know that the anime I named the best anime series of 2012 continues to motor along in 2013 making awesome seem like an easy thing to do. The change in time slot necessitated a recap which ran for 3 episodes. I was not thrilled with sitting through a 3 episode recap, which explains why Space Brothers is ranked this low, but it was worth enduring if that meant that Space Brothers would continue for many more seasons.

(7) – Yuyushiki

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

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In the last part of my mid-season report, I mentioned that while my gut was right about Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san it missed two other series that turned out to be surprise hits. The first series was Yuyushiki; a slice-of-life comedy following three high school girls that make up the Data Processing Club. What is a Data Processing Club? Apparently it’s a club where the members look things up on Wikipedia that interest them. Which, in the right hands, is a recipe for some real funny comedy. For example, in the most recent episode, the main characters uncovered, while reading about eyes, the fact that cats don’t see red very well but can see green very vividly which segued into a joke about cats preferring Green Jacket Lupin over Red Jacket Lupin. This earned a strong chuckle from me and was trumped a few moments later by an even better joke that I won’t spoil here. What potential viewers should know about Yuyushiki is that it’s an example of how quality execution can trump a generic setup. The three main characters – two troublemakers and one straight man – fit together perfectly and the animation staff knows how to do comedic timing and how to find comedy in the simplest things. This would be on track to be the most unexpectantly good show if it wasn’t the presence of another show.

(6) – Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199

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

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The lack of awareness by anime fans for Yamato 2199, when the other high quality science fiction series of this season – Shinjeki no Kyojin, To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S, and Suisei no Gargantia – are among the most talked about and watched, is criminal plain and simple. The set-up for this anime, much like Shinjeki no Kyojin, is big, awesome, and literally pulls the viewer into wanting to see it. Yamato takes place in a year 2199 where a galactic empire has terraformed Pluto and made it their base to subjugate Earth. To accomplish this, they fire large asteroids at the Earth and the many impact events have burned away Earth’s oceans and crashed our biosphere. At best humanity has a year left before being completely wiped out. Hope is extinguished until Earth receives a message from an alien claiming her race has a device that can save Earth and make it habitable again. The alien race cannot come to us with this device but they can help us come to them; so, with their technical expertise, the Japanese battleship Yamato – which sank during WW2 – is retrofitted into an intergalactic space ship and crewed with Earth’s best people for this last-ditch mission to save humanity. See what I’m saying; this just screams the need to be watched now. If the set-up doesn’t convince you then there’s the most excellent animation quality paired with the attractive ship designs and animation style. And the interesting cast of characters that range from the curmudgeony old captain to the frequently drunk doctor to the female hot-shot pilot whose one of the best fighter pilots they have to our main character who wants revenge after the alien galactic empire killed his brother, to name just a few. Set to run 26 episodes, once the story for Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 gets going in earnest than I’m almost positive that this anime can still climb even higher.

(5) – To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S

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

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One of anime’s most bi-polar franchises is back with the next installment of it’s better side – Railgun – and it’s doing an admirable job of getting viewers to forget about the other, much inferior, half (which shall remain nameless here). The biggest complaint that could be lodged against it right now is that the story is moving too slow. I’ve seen this opinion pop-up around the blogosphere and my sister has also said this to me but I don’t ascribe to it myself. Then again, I said in the first impressions post for this anime that I’d like Railgun if it was just a slice-of-life series and I thought the first Hobbit movie could have been longer. Moving on, I’ve been giving this anime some thought and I realized that the creators of this anime (from the original author forward) need to be applauded for how well the story for Railgun is constructed. It would be very easy to construct a series where the main character is as overwhelmingly strong as in Railgun and not find villains that would be a credible threat to the main character. This would be a problem because without credible villains the series would be underwhelming and not very good; but, that’s not the problem here with Railgun. Sure there’s the other Level 5’s who could stand up to the Railgun but we’ve also seen everyone from the government/science complex that runs the city down to street gangs who could also stand up to her under the right conditions and planning.

(4) – Chihayafuru 2

Rating for episodes 13 to 20 – 11/12  A+

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One of the reasons why I’m not a huge fan of anime series that involve playing a sport is that in real life sports competition rarely go the way everyone thinks it will – that’s why they play the games in the first place – and it’s this unpredictability that I so often find lacking in sports anime. There are workarounds. For example, the marvelous Cross Game never really became an anime series about the baseball itself, instead it was about the characters in and around a high school baseball team. The first season of Chihayafuru followed a similar pattern. It was about a group of kids who happen to play a 1000 year old Japanese card game and not about Karuta itself. Even so, I noted that I cared about the outcomes of the games more than I should have and was often surprised how they turned out. This was laying the foundation for the second season where Chihayafuru began focusing more on Karuta itself. They still wove the character interactions and development into it and there was no dip in quality but Karuta was now a much bigger part of the series. I’m fine with this change because a) I care for these characters and want to see them succeed and b) the writer preserved the feeling of unpredictability in the results. Take episode 19 and how it ended. Never in a million years did I see that ending actually happening; a week later and I still can’t believe it ended the way it did. I’m praying that whoever and whatever was behind Chihayafuru getting a second season will decide a third season is needed, like I think it does.

(3) – Shingeki no Kyojin

Rating for episodes 1 to 8 – 11/12  A+

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I often talk about an anime surprising me but Attack on Titan has been the antithesis of this. From the moment I saw the publicity poster of our hero looking at a giant peering down over a very tall wall, my mind churned up a set of expectations for a show that would feature a shot like this and, sitting eight episodes in, I’m grinning at how this anime has been exactly what I expected. Which sounds a bit boring – it met expectations – however, in truth, I kept piling on what I expected from Attack on Titan to the point that even an above average anime would have felt like a disappointment. So saying that I’m not disappointed is a huge victory for this anime. The way Attack on Titan succeeded was by including just about everything I like seeing in an anime. There’s the attractive animation style, the stellar seiyuu cast (the addition of Yuu Kobayashi was a brilliant move, btw), the big idea science fiction that is the backdrop for the series, the focus on creating interesting characters (I like seeing people acting like heroes and also the very human reactions others had upon first meeting the Titans), the jaw-dropping animation (I hope real world logistical problems won’t adversely harm this too much), a story that is smart and won’t pull it’s punches, and there are other reasons but this sentence as gone on long enough. 🙂 Shingeki no Kyojin remains the anime most likely of this season to be remembered years from now as being a “great” anime work of 2013.

(2) – Hataraku Maou-Sama

Rating for episodes 1 to 8 – 11.5/12  Near Perfect

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I would like to quote what I said about this anime back in my seasonal preview post – “I don’t want to bet against them [White Fox] but a comedy series about a demon lord coming to our world and working at a McDonald’s knock-off and directed by the guy that handled the second season of Minami-ke (which is one of the two I pretend do not exist) does not instill much confidence in me. I would like to be proven wrong but I have the feeling this will turn out to be another one of those unfunny comedy series that rear their ugly heads every so often, like Godzilla come to destroy Tokyo.” I wasn’t proven wrong about Hataraku Maou-Sama – I was eviscerated and each episode just twists the knife in deeper. I’m glad I was because it means that there’s a genuinely funny comedy with serious chops to watch and love. I mentioned that Yuyushiki would have been this season’s most unexpectantly good show if it wasn’t for another series and Hataraku Maou-Sama was that series. It would have been nice if I’d had some clue how good this series was going to be because I could have added it to my Fantasy Anime League team.

(1) – Suisei no Gargantia

Rating for episodes 1 to 8 – 11.5/12  Near Perfect

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Checking my weekly Anime Power Ranking ballots, I have yet to vote any one episode of Suisei no Gargantia as being the top episode of the week and yet there was no other anime that had a serious chance to challenge this anime for this spot. Granted just about every week it was sitting in second place; be that as it may, what I think this says about Suisei no Gargantia is that the writing and directing are steadily pacing and building a great anime series. Reading all the Monday morning quarterbacking and hand wringing about how this series is spending it’s time and how it will end is starting to get tiresome. I’m not immune to doing this myself from time-to-time so I can’t really thrown stones but a little more faith from everyone (including myself) would be nice. Having a second cour to this anime would, most likely, be a great thing but then we’d probably be in the same boat we were in with Psycho-pass where 2 cours weren’t enough. For both anime I hope sales will be high enough that a motivated production committee will green light a sequel but for now I’m going to focus on the anime I have in front of me and it’s been superb through the first 8 episodes. At this point I expect this anime will be very competitive when I’m look back and talk about the best anime series of 2013.

Well that was a bit longer then I originally intended. Thanks to everyone who read through my thoughts on this season. Now I need to get back to writing my best of Winter 2013 season posts 🙂 and start putting together my Summer 2013 season preview post.

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7 thoughts on “Spring 2013 Mid-Season Anime Report – Part 3: #8 to #1, The Top Eight”

  1. “Reading all the Monday morning quarterbacking and hand wringing about how this series is spending it’s time and how it will end is starting to get tiresome.”

    Human art and creativity is only pulled down by the views of the masses. Those that cannot stand apart or above humanity, cannot judge accurately anything humans do.

    Maou is not so much funny as it is amusing in the sense that of watching kids grow up facing the same life challenges that the elder wise have already faced. In such a fashion, it connects modern reality to modern fantasy stories. It is not the mirror of weak boy goes to fantasy land and becomes strong, but the obverse. As such, it challenges the viewer to question both their own reality as well as the reality of Ente Isle.

    In much the same way that Yahari Ore challenges viewers to look starkly at the fundamental nature of society, social punishment and ostracization, and how humans react to it, so the same can be said for foreigners that drop in the land of Japan. In many fashions, having foreigners drop in your country and learn the language, work in the jobs provided to them, and excel through ambition and virtue, is the highest compliment that can be paid to that society. And the recognition of Japanese monocultural suppression of all dissenting individuals and figures, is the worst description of such a society.

    One is an anti-hero turned hero. The other is a kid turned anti-society thus anti-hero.

    If the strong cannot understand the weak, then a Demon Lord cannot understand humans, and a person that wished away his social barrier and communication facade does not understand the value of defenses in society. Until they lose it all and become the weak, the human, and the one in need of defense against society.

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  2. “Sure there’s the other Level 5’s who could stand up to the Railgun but we’ve also seen everyone from the government/science complex that runs the city down to street gangs who could also stand up to her under the right conditions and planning.”

    There’s also a level 0 that beat Accelerator.

    Academy city in that verse is based around a class hierarchy, something the Japanese understand intuitively, between those students who have gifts and powers vs those who do not. This is not explained or even covered much, but some episodes highlight the problems that come from this disparity.

    It is as much a social commentary as it is a look at people who come from either ends of the spectrum: both the lowest of the low and the highest of the high.

    With power, do people become good or evil? With no power, do people strive to improve themselves or attempt to do something else?

    And what happens when in reality, that one person at the lowest of the rung is actually at the highest?

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  3. Uchuu senkan is an example that the classics are good for a reason. Hunter X Hunter also fills in the same spot. The Japanese value tradition and the elder products, so they don’t go out of their way to produce “art” such as a cross in piss. They didn’t particularly change much about Uchuu Senkan or Hunter X Hunter. Thus they remain good, for a newer generation to experience.

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  4. Yuyushiki – Looks cute, might check it out.
    Space Brothers – a favorite that I let fall off because I got tired of the slow episodes with nothing happening.
    Attack on Titan – my favorite show this season. It has exceeded my expectations because I was worried it would slide down into some SAO.
    Susei no Gargantia – Watching it but annoyed by Amy. I don’t care about her character. At all. I enjoy the scenes without her in them.

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  5. @froggykun: Thanks. They probably will change due to late season surges and slumps and how the various series end.

    Since writing this series of posts Valvrave the Liberator and Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru have shown some impressive gains in quality – at least for me.

    Once the season ends, I’ll try to put up another list with how the various series did by the end of the season.

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