Summer 2014 Anime Season Preview

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The spring season is thankfully almost over. I’m not calling it the worst season in recent memory but I do know I routinely had trouble finding worthy series to fill all 5 spots on my weekly Anime Power Ranking ballot for the first time ever, even with watching more then 20 airing series. The biggest disappointment of the season has been JoJo. I appreciate a manga author taking risks by shifting time periods and main characters and powers like Hirohiko Araki has done with JoJo; however, Japanese Jojo and company (not including grandpa Jojo) are the weakest and blandest cast of the franchise and the bad guy of the week format does not allow any of the villains to really become memorable. I’m only going to continue watching because grandpa Jojo is still around; if something happens to him then I think I’m going to sit JoJo out until the next part gets adapted.

That’s enough dwelling on the past. Let’s turn our attention to the near future with the new season of anime. It looks like a pretty good season of anime.

I don’t mind laughing at myself; so, instead of merely listing all the new series or just the series I’m interested in, I’m going to predict which new anime series will rank in my top 10 of the summer 2014 season and revisit this list when we get to end of the season. I’m going to attempt to get this list right and pat myself on the back for my prognostication skills but I suspect its going to be hilariously wrong.

So, coming in at number 1, the anime I think will be the best new anime of summer is …

#1 – Aldnoah. Zero

AldnoahZero

There are two original productions that have serious star power and talent attached to them this season. This isn’t a guarantee for greatness but it’s a great start. Of these two, I’m picking Aldnoah. Zero for the top spot in part because I respect the involvement of writer Gen Urobuchi more. Having been behind the story of Madoka Magica, Gargantia, and Psycho-Pass, I know Aldnoah. Zero is going to have the depth to its story that will keep me thinking about it all season long. I also know that I’ll get a good science fiction story out of it, given the synopsis – In an alternative 1972, humanity finds a hypergate on the Moon and eventually war breaks out between humans on Earth and those that settled on Mars. Also, the music should be very good for Aldnoah. Zero with Hiroyuki Sawano (Kill la Kill, Attack on Titan) handling those duties.

#2 – Barakamon

barakamon

This isn’t the other original production with serious star power and talent attached to it. This is an adaptation of a slice-of-life, comedy manga centered on a young urban calligrapher who gets exiled from Tokyo to a small island where the locals are generally odd in the way country folks are (at least in the eyes of city folk) and how he adapts to this change in lifestyle. I’m choosing this for second on the apparent strength of the manga and how well similar series have done in the past. The only thing that will hold this series back is a weak adaptation that fails to bring out the potential.

#3 – Terror of Resonance

terror-in-tokyo

Okay, here’s the other star-studded anime original production. Many other people would put this at the top of their list and I can’t really blame them. Terror of Resonance will almost assuredly be the most polished anime of the season (Space Dandy 2 might have the best animation, though) with an original high concept story, music by Yoko Kanno, and animation from Studio Mappa. What’s preventing me from placing this at the top is it’s a one cour noitaminA series which means 11/12 episodes which is not a lot of time to do something interesting with the story then end it well. And the multiple examples of failure from noitaminA series with setups like this in the last couple of years hardly help the case. What’s soothing my fears partially is that Studio Mappa is behind the production of it and, if you don’t know, they’re a spin-off from Madhouse containing the creative arm of it who always did the interesting, off-beat, good series no one watched (which happened to be the series that I enjoyed the most from them).

#4 – Tokyo Ghoul

tokyo-ghoul

I’ve already mentioned this anime in an earlier piece and nothing I’ve seen since then makes me any less enthusiastic about it’s chances at being one of the top anime of the season. The animation studio handling it, Studio Pierrot, has never really impressed me with their work. Sure, they can get top-notch animators to create nice fight scenes for their super long shounen series adaptations but that seems like the extent of their talent. Calling in an outside director, Shuhei Morita whose OVA series Freedom I highly enjoyed, to handle Tokyo Ghoul was a really good call on their part and should ensure this anime is at least worth watching. I just hope there’s not too much gratuitous violence.

#5 – Space Dandy Part 2

DandyConfession time – I’m not a huge Shinichiro Watanabe fan. Cowboy Bebop? – Love the idea, the execution lacked something which kept it a good, not great, series. Samurai Champloo? – Love the idea, the dull first half drags this series down to being merely a good series. Kids on the Slope? – Love the idea, the story muddles and fumbles itself enough to deny it greatness and finishes being merely good. See a pattern? The first half of Space Dandy introduced a rather poor cast of characters and the one-off episodes directed by someone different each week made it impossible to build the story in the slightest. Awesome animation aside, there was only 3-4 episodes that I liked enough to ever want to watch again. At this point I see Space Dandy having to struggle to finish a “good series” but I have a gut feeling that this second half will contain a surprise that will allow Space Dandy to finish a good series. Call me an optimist.

#6 – Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Crystal

SailorI have never watched any of the original Sailor Moon anime (though, I did watch about half of the live action version almost 10 years ago) and shoujo anime is the genre that I find hardest to like. That said, I’m excited to see a new adaptation of a classic franchise that was instrumental in shaping anime into what it is today. And hey, maybe Naoko Takeuchi, the original manga author, can wow me in shoujo like her husband, Yoshihiro Togashi, wowed me in shounen with Hunter x Hunter.

#7 – Sengoku Basara – Judge End

SengokuBasaraI’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first two seasons of Sengoku Basara. Sure, the story was never a strong point to the series but it’s always been adequate enough to allow the over-the-top, crazy representations of famous historical characters plenty of fun ways to interact with each other. Throw in a great vocal cast and top-notch animation from Production IG and this series has almost assuredly locked in a spot somewhere on the top 10 at the end of the season.

#8 – Free! Eternal Summer

FreeBeyond all the bluster that the first season caused, Free! was a pretty standard KyoAni series and I generally like the standard KyoAni series. So, shoot me, I kinda liked the first season of Free!. I just hope KyoAni does a better job coming up with the story for the sequel then they did for the sequel of Chuunibyou.

#9 – Glasslip

GlasslipPA Works, like many other animation studios, has allowed themselves to get typecasted about what types of anime they animate. If you have seen their past works then you know what to expect here with Glasslip. As long as the anime is well executed I generally like their series, even if they all start out about the same and look the same. To date, I’ve liked their Mari Okada series (Hanasaku Iroha, Nagi no Asakura) more, with Tari Tari and True Tears being examples of their weaker series. To judge Glasslip’s chances I looked at who is behind it and discovered the director did True Tears and the writer did Tari Tari. So, I’m guessing Glasslip will end up being one of the lesser series from PA Works.

#10 – Kantai Collection

kancolleI have only the vaguest knowledge of this latest phenomenon amongst Japanese fandom; but, as I see it, there are two possibilities for this anime. One, it will be a poorly animated horribly constructed mishmash of various worn-out anime clichés that crashes and burns. Or it will be a decently animated fluffy puff anime that will be perfect to watch after a dark anime like Tokyo Ghoul to cleanse one’s palate. I’m guessing it will be the latter.

So there is my prediction of the best series of the upcoming summer season. We will find out in 13 weeks how I did. There are, of course, many other series airing and the series most likely to upset this list are: Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen, Tokyo ESP, Hanayamata. Each of these anime have something going for them but also apparent problems that barred them from making it into my top 10.

Feel free to leave your own predictions below. There is no better way to say ‘I told you so’ in the future then by leaving a dated written prediction.

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10 thoughts on “Summer 2014 Anime Season Preview”

  1. It’s been a bit of an odd spring season this time around – a lot of the anime bloggers I follow have been saying that it’s one of the best seasons in recent memory, while a few others seem to have been distinctly unimpressed. Since I was left with only Mushishi, Isshuukan Friends, and Knights of Sidonia by the end of it (… well, okay, and Kamigami no Asobi, but I certainly wasn’t putting that on any of the APR spots), I’m with you on this one; it didn’t end up being a particularly good season for me.

    Anyhow, I’ll definitely be checking out nearly all of the above titles (plus a few more) of the upcoming summer anime season – there’s a really nice variety as far as I can tell, and I’m honestly pretty excited for a lot of these.

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  2. All the sports anime ended, except Ace of Diamond, 2 seasons ago.

    “I have never watched any of the original Sailor Moon anime”

    I did, though I didn’t realize what I was watching at the time. It’s probably why I also read romance books. Which probably means visual novels from Japan weren’t such a shock, since they combine romance with a lot of things.

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  3. Sailor Moon is actually the series that brought me into the world of anime as a little girl. I can’t wait for Sailor Moon Crystal! ^_^

    I’m also looking forward to Glasslip, Free! Eternal Summer, Tokyo Ghoul, Barakamon, Aldnoah.Zero, Zankyou no Terror, and Ao Haru Ride (I started reading the manga when only a few chapters had been written. It’s a shoujo, but it’s not too horribly cliché).

    The summer season is finally here!! 🙂

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  4. @Artemis: Expectations and viewing habits might play into how one would grade a season. I think I tend to judge a season by how many series there are that are at least “good” and will watch 15-20 series a season to make sure I find all the “good” anime. Other people seem happy watching 1-3 series and base their judgments around those 1-3 series.

    Probably as an offshoot of watching as much anime as I do, I like variety and that was another thing missing in this spring season.

    @ymarsakar: One of the things I find interesting is, no matter how stylistically odd series by Masaaki Yuasa are, they always contain some sort of love story.

    @Nicole: Would you recommend giving Ao Haru Ride a try then?

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  5. I recall Mars was my favorite of the bunch. Since I saw it as a kid, I had a lot of years to think about male and female gender roles, as well as what constitutes a bond of love. It’s probably one of the things that set me off from the math track and made me interested in psychology. Thus instead of over specializing in one field, I became a generalist in many. Similar to the old Renaissance standards. One had to know Greek or Latin to read the classics and consider geometry, as well as utilize warcraft in dueling or battle.

    If so, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z would produce an interesting set of focuses later on. I’m sure all those shounen shows your sister is watching, is also affecting her mentally.

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  6. “shoujo anime is the genre that I find hardest to like”

    Technically it was a mahou shoujo, magickally transforming girl series. If it was primarily a shoujo series, I would expect at least more than 2 or 5 male characters, one for each girl. But that’s not the case, if I recall.

    From what I’ve seen, the shoujo series designed for young girls is more romance based or rather based around the same things as shounen shows, emotional drama except in a female emphasis. So shounen shows prioritize the rivalry between rivals and the antagonism between main and antagonist. But the mahou shoujo series appealed more to aesthetics and it was like a female version of the power rangers type shows for kids. Transforming and battling.

    There was a very strong romantic over arching plot between the main, so the shoujo theme is included. But it felt more like http://www.anime-planet.com/anime/fantastic-children where the focus was on emotional nostalgia. So it feels more like a fairy tale, rather than a modern shoujo theme.

    I was probably too young at the time to develop any male or female specialized ways of thinking. So it’ll be interesting to see what it looks like now. Due to the way the anime series are broadcast in America, there wasn’t any actual continuity, so I’m not sure if I am remembering the middle or the beginning. But I know I never finished the story arc.

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  7. Steelbound, I’m reluctant to recommend because you have such an aversion to shoujo. While it’s not so sickeningly cliché and predictable like some shoujo, it still is definitely a shoujo series. Also, I’m not sure how they’re going to adapt it from the manga, so that could really make it change directions, which also makes me hesitant to recommend it. But. You know. I think you should go for it 🙂

    I’m going to try to watch the first episode of every new series this season then narrow it down from there. I think you should definitely watch the first episode. Honestly, before you give your complete opinion on it, I’d recommend watching the first three episodes. If you’re still against it after that, then I give you permission to quit haha;)

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  8. Watched the first episode of Tokyo Ghoul, since I didn’t read any speculations about it high or low, it was a pleasant experience. A nice psychological setup, reminds me of Chaos;Head the PC VN, where in the middle of the night playing the middle portion, I started feeling paranoid as if something was watching me right around the time when the main character was wondering if his role was that of a computer MMO paladin that somebody else was controlling. Creepy, since I was the one controlling the PC game, playing a PC game where the main character is controlling a PC Paladin…

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  9. You know, it’s almost like the Japanese are preparing their people for a war, because this is the kind of cultural education I would expect in the US if we were going to fight another war. Of course in the US, the MPAA and other media elites are not controlled by interests at the bottom.

    Having watched the first episode of Aldnoah Zero, the setting feels very much like MuvLuv’s alternate history, except the focus here seems to be on humans of a different cultural and techno-planetological mixture.

    The directing seems better at splicing the story concepts, and I like how they show just enough to get the mystery started, but don’t cook the goose by showing too strong of a precursor. Although having watched several Gundam type introductions, I kind of suspected the plot twist in the intro. The Gundam preference for producing introduction episodes, shows through here. The themes are similar, but can’t go into the details without breaching the spoiler gate.

    Unlike Gargantia, I think the plot will develop more towards conflict, and less slice of life. Gargantia had a plot that was like Muv Luv Extra, every day life pretty much but with an added alien but also homelike setting. Whereas the military training in Ald Noah is more like Muv Luv Unlimited. It does fix the setting issue where high school civilian boys somehow get into a military machine and can operate it relatively well (obviously Evangelion pulled that one for a twist too in their plot, unusual to the genre norm).

    Btw, the story in the karuta contest is shoujo orientated, although the plot is more team spirit and sport competition focused. Sport competition for girls, at least. Since Steel like that series, he can tolerate a fair amount. If the main girl vs male romance arcs aren’t setup like a reverse harem, at least.

    Tokyo Ghoul also reminds me of the Japanese tendency to turn off the lights, light some candles, and tell horror and ghost stories to produce “fear”. This is done in the summer, for summer camp outs or summer vacations. Why summer? Obviously so you can get “chilled” as in chills down your spine. It’s like a human techno cultural application of the refrigeration technique.

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  10. Rewatched Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Still reminds me of the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. Although I think the moon thing was better done in Mutineer’s Moon. Science fiction is great for expanding the mind’s horizons though. Breaking through the limits, the ceiling.

    Taiji Chuan is also helping me to look at these limits in physical movements and force vectors. Strangely enough I drew a diagram of vector forces that looks much like the X in Renaissance medicine or Gurren Lagann’s X of drills.

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