Final Impressions of the Spring 2014 Anime Season, Part 4 of 4

[Commie] Ping Pong - 11 [CD248944].mkv_snapshot_15.25_[2014.06.26_03.09.17]

If you’ve been keeping track of where the already covered anime series have placed then you’ve noticed that none of the top anime series have been covered. Give yourselves a pat on the back. Now, if you’ve realized that this season’s last place anime hasn’t been covered as well then you deserve a gold star and feel free to head down to the nearest office supply store and buy one, just one. So, here’s the best and worst of the Spring 2014 anime season.

Mari Okada Swings and Misses

[Chyuu] M3 - Sono Kuroki Hagane - 01 [720p][1E854627].mkv_snapshot_10.04_[2014.05.17_22.50.14](25) – M3 – Sono Kuroki Hagane

Seasonal Score – 1/12 Epic Fail

Mari Okada catches a lot of grief from certain sections of anime fandom and a lot of praise in others. I fall more so in the latter camp, especially with the streak she’s been on lately, though I’ll be the first to admit that she sometimes creates a real stinker. Well, it looks like her string of successes has ended; M3 is an all-around horrible anime without a single saving grace. What’s really baffling is that one of Mari Okada’s strengths is creating interesting characters that one can latch onto, even if the story and/or plot is mediocre to terrible, and that’s completely missing here. There’s not one interesting or sympathetic or 2-dimensional (forget 3-dimensional) character in the entire cast. M3 could have overcome the character problem if it had an interesting, well-constructed plot to fall back on but it doesn’t have that either. The new summer SF series Aldnoah.Zero has done a better job articulating its SF setting and laying out its story in one episode then M3 has done in a season. I know there’s still another cour of episodes to go for M3 to turn itself around but I don’t see that happening.

[HorribleSubs] selector infected WIXOSS - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_08.17_[2014.05.16_02.44.25](11) – Selector Infected Wixoss

Series Rating – 6/12 B-

The other Mari Okada series of the season fared better in comparison to M3 but still has a long ways to go before I’d feel comfortable calling it “good”. One of JC Staff’s best recent anime series was the tie-in anime Milky Holmes Seasons 1 & 2; so, going in, I wasn’t worried that Selector Infected Wixoss was a tie-in anime for a card game and my initial impression of the series was very positive. I liked the ominous undercurrent of the series and how the card game was being portrayed in a less than savory manner. Cracks in the façade started to appear as time went on, though. Outside of Grandma, Weak Sauce (which is how one pronounces Wixoss) developed none of the characters into interesting or compelling characters. There are a couple adequate characters but they are hardly the stuff to hang a franchise off of. Also, the promising story began to do a better job squandering it’s assets as the characters took the series in random time-wasting narrative dead ends. The series, as a whole. is still assuredly salvable but it will need a very good second half to do so (and we’ll find out this fall if it can pull it out or not).

The Best of the Best

[Underwater] Knights of Sidonia - 12 (720p) [E9F116EF].mkv_snapshot_21.18_[2014.06.27_01.31.44](4) – Knights of Sidonia

Series Rating – 11/12 A+

One of the reasons I continue to give anime so much time and attention is because most of the great science fiction series that have been made over the last 10 years have been anime series. The list is a rather long one and Knights of Sidonia now joins this list. It wasn’t a perfect show (hence the almost perfect score) but it was very close. I still would have preferred a non-CG style for the people but I have to admit that the CG style animation was jaw-dropping good for the action scenes set in space between the mechs and the aliens. As a result, the animation style only had a little effect on lowering Sidonia’s series rating. What had the greatest influence was the main character. I didn’t have the issue with him to the degree that some people had – his skill comes from being obsessively trained by Sidonia’s greatest hero and was limited to the old style mech (they showed his inability to pilot the new mechs), his personality was probably a product of his social isolation or maybe from having Asperger’s, and the girls fall for him because he’s Sidonia’s best pilot (or maybe on a genetic level the girls prefer that he’s a baseline human over the genetically modified males that can photosynthesize). My issue was that he could have been a much better character; it was like if the creator created the main character just proficient enough to be the MC and planned on fleshing him out later and then forgot to do so. Therefore, I just couldn’t give it a perfect score. This is not to take away from the most excellent world building and tons of interesting SF elements that are incorporated. I’m almost literally dying to see how the second season unfolds and how all those SF bits get used.

[Vivid] Tonari no Seki-kun - 01 [16FB3015].mkv_snapshot_06.19_[2014.02.24_23.50.47](3) – Tonari no Seki-kun

Series Rating – 12/12 Perfect

Finally! Someone gets the anime short right. Teekyuu? – too rapid fire and random to be funny. Encouragement to Climb S1? – not enough time per episode for a slice-of-life series. Etc. and etc. Much like the old Looney Tunes episodes, Tonari no Seki-kun focuses on just the right amount of content for the allotted length, not too little for the comedy to drag and not too much so the jokes can’t find the room to breathe, all while keeping the pacing snappy and fresh. And, if I continue the comparison to Looney Tunes, Tonari no Seki-kun had very good voice acting on the part of Kana Hanazawa as she voiced Yokoi, the girl who had to react to the crazy stuff Seki got away with while not wanting to pay attention in school. I am really hoping for a sequel – being the funniest anime in years, it deserves it.

(2) – Ping Pong the Animation

[Commie] Ping Pong - 11 [CD248944].mkv_snapshot_10.52_[2014.06.26_03.03.47]

Series Rating – 12/12 Perfect

In the 8+ years I’ve seriously watched anime in the season it airs as it airs, the anime Ping Pong would have easily sailed into the top spot of the season probably 90% of the time. That it aired in this season where it had absolutely no chance of being this season’s top anime is a bit of a shame; on the plus side, though, it seemed like Ping Pong wasn’t forgotten by anime fandom like Masaaki Yuasa’s earlier masterpiece Kaiba was. I always get a smile when I think about how the people who drop Yuasa’s works like Ping Pong because the animation style is too weird for them are the same people who would most like the sentimental happy endings that Yuasa likes and the “cultured” people who crow their love of Yuasa’s works due to their different animation style are the same people who would savagely criticize his works for their sentimental happy endings if they were more conventionally animated. I’m not passing judgment on either group, it’s just an observation I made while loving the sentimental happy endings and different animation style.

(1) – Hunter x Hunter

[HorribleSubs] Hunter X Hunter - 131 [720p].mkv_snapshot_09.21_[2014.05.28_02.46.16]

Seasonal Score – 12/12 Perfect

I have a fear about anime. It’s a silly fear but year after year it gets a little stronger. It’s this – that there will never be an anime that will be better than my number 1 top anime. So far this fear hasn’t been realized because a new anime has always eventually appeared to surpass my number 1 anime and become the new top anime. This fear started after I watched The Melancholy of Haruhi and was completely blown away at how it ran rings around every anime out there at the time. Nothing could touch it until Gurren Lagann came out and eventually drilled past Haruhi. I had just about convinced myself that nothing was ever going to challenge Gurren Lagann when Puella Magi Madoka Magica popped up and slithered its way past. Once again I began to worry that Madoka would never be surpassed and, for the next 3 years and 200+ anime series I watched, nothing did. Then a series that I’d been watching – Hunter x Hunter – slowly began shedding it’s shounen skin and improving in quality until the latest arc, the Chimera Ant arc, started last year and quickly proclaimed it was something special with every fiber of it’s being. Halfway through I caught myself thinking that maybe, just maybe, I’d finally found a challenger to Madoka. By the 2/3 mark – episode 116, to be exact – I knew the Chimera Ant arc of Hunter x Hunter was going to finally best Madoka if it ended strong. This spring season saw the final part of the Chimera Ant arc play out and it ended even more amazing than I thought possible. This placated my fear for about 15 seconds until I realized I am now going to need an anime better than this arc of Hunter x Hunter to stifle my fear and I’m not sure that’s possible. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a single TV series, live action or animated, that’s better then this 60+ episode Chimera Ant arc of Hunter x Hunter.

Whew, 5000+ words over 2.5 weeks of writing later and that’s all 25 anime series I watched during the spring season. Since I covered them in a random order I’m going to finish by listing these anime in a single list from worst to best. What do you think? Approve or disapprove, I’d love to hear what you think.

25 – M3 – Sono Kuroki Hagane

24 – Mekaku City Actors

23 – Kenzen Robo Daimidaler

22 – Nanana’s Buried Treasure

21 – Akuma no Riddle

20 – Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei

19 – Nobunaga the Fool

18 – Nisekoi

17 – Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara

16 – Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou

15 – Gochuumon wa Usagi Desuka?

14 – Soul Eater Not!

13 – Black Bullet

12 – Hitsugi no Chaika

11 – Selector Infected Wixoss

10 – Captain Earth

9 – No Game, No Life

8 – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders

7 – Brynhildr in the Darkness

6 – Mushishi Zoku Shou

5 – Isshukan Friends

4 – Knights of Sidonia

3 – Tonari no Seki-kun

2 – Ping Pong

1 – Hunter x Hunter

 –

Overall Season Average – 6.16/12 B-

Part 1 – Shaft not being Shaft, Light Novels are the New Bane of Anime

Part 2 – Mild Disappointments, Moderate Disappointments

Part 3 – A Victim of Circumstances, The Fallen

Part 4 – Mari Okada Swings and Misses, The Best

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