Summer 2014 Mid-Season Anime Report – Part 3: #8 to #1, The Good Stuff

[Vivid-Watashi] Aldnoah Zero - 08 [86B004EC].mkv_snapshot_12.32_[2014.08.25_02.03.12]
whose looking for her John Carter.

Eight titles are left to cover. Seven of these titles are new series with only a single series being a carryover from a previous season. Not bad for a season that typically considered one of the weaker ones. Eagle eyed readers can probably guess which series will be featured and how they will be ordered. Are you one of those eagle eyed readers? Read on to find out.

In case you missed it, here are Part 1 and Part 2.

(8) – Space Dandy 2

Rating for episodes 1 to 7– 10/12 A

space_dandy19937After being mildly disappointed about everything but the animation of the first season of Space Dandy, I was sure the only way to save this second season was to introduce a coherent linked story to the series. That still hasn’t happened; however, the series has cobbled together a very strong run of excellent stand-alone episodes so far this season. I’m scratching my head trying to find some reason for this turn-around other than the people handling these episodes are just better or that, maybe by this point, they’re more comfortable with the concept of the series and have had time to think up better stuff. Whatever the reason, Space Dandy 2 is performing at it’s best case scenario level all while still not having a cast of characters I like.

(7) – Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita

Rating for episodes 1 to 7– 10/12 A

[FFF] Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yatte Mita. - 03 [1E2F4C9B].mkv_snapshot_11.55_[2014.07.18_21.16.22]One of the shows I was surprised to pick up this season was Locodol. As someone who grew up in a city as it slowly (and not so slowly) fell apart when the steel mills closed, the gallows humor and desperation that tinges the humor of this series hits home in a way I don’t often see. This personal connection has bumped Locodol up higher then it probably would have been otherwise. I say probably because the show has developed into a very solid series since I last wrote about it after episode 4 for my first impressions post. Good character chemistry and likeable main characters means one doesn’t mind watching the series. Light comedy that knows how to be funny without being cruel and storytelling that knows how to relax and not to take itself too seriously means one looks forward to watching the next episode. The earnest pursuit of the main characters without being annoying about it calms one’s cynical side and allows one to enjoy Locodol.

(6) – Sabagebu!

Rating for episodes 1 to 7– 10/12 A

[Anime-Koi] Sabagebu! - 01v2 [h264-720p][86C2BC49].mkv_snapshot_09.48_[2014.07.31_00.51.39]All four of the anime series that I wrote first impression posts for have continued to improve, which is a good thing. After overcoming the sophomore episode jinx, when series have a great first episode then have nothing for the follow-up, I expect series to get stronger through the middle. It’s only when we move to the second half of the series that faults can begin to appear again. For comedies like Sabagebu! the most common fault is the creators run out of fresh comedic ideas and the attempts to cover this up by introducing a needless serious story, recycling old material, growing the cast even more, etc., are normally obvious and only ever partially successful. Sabagebu! has the tools to finish strongly – a varied cast, excellent writer/director, strong seiyuu performances, a strong start – and I hope it does.

(5) – Ao Haru Ride

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

[Commie] Ao Haru Ride - 01 [F7550EDB].mkv_snapshot_14.25_[2014.07.28_00.25.18]I’ve noticed as I’ve watched Ao Haru Ride on a weekly basis that a wave of cynicism towards this series slowly builds over the days between episodes. By the time the next episode airs I’ve almost completely convinced myself that this anime is a by-the-book shoujo, lacks originality, blah, blah, yaddah, yaddah and this week will be the week that it stops fooling me otherwise. So I watch every episode on the defensive and every episode it only takes a few minutes before my cold heart is melted and I remember who much I like Ao Haru Ride. It doesn’t do meta humor, 4th wall breaking, genre satirizing, genre deconstruction, or any of the cool/hip things other series do; instead, it focuses on solid fundamentals – characters, writing, storytelling. I know I’m being unfair towards this anime for demanding proof each episode that it isn’t going to fall apart but, in my defense, I’ve now got the confidence to place this anime this high on the list without worrying that it might not belong. The only downside to watching Ao Haru Ride now is having to hope that sales are high enough that a second season gets made because there’s no way every story thread and plot point introduced in this season can get resolved before it ends. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the opening song is one of my favorite of this season.

(4) – Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Rating for episodes 1 to 6– 11/12 A+

[Underwater] Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun - 01 (720p) [C389E67E].mkv_snapshot_00.40_[2014.07.26_03.51.06]After extolling the virtues of an anime series like Ao Haru Ride, what’s the next anime that edged itself past Ao Haru Ride? A shounen comedy series that’s built around playing around with and satirizing the tropes of the shoujo genre. Yeah, not best way to prove a point; however, the appearance of one does not negate the other. I’ve long believed that, regardless of genre, a good show is a good show and will be good even when separated from it’s genre and compared with other series. Ao Haru Ride excels where it excels at and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun excels where it does, namely, comedy derived from its writing. To continue what I said for Sabagebu!, the true test of this series will now be how well the second half finishes. My gut tells me Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun will finish strongly and be yet another hit for the animation company Dogakobo, who has put together a strong string of quality series of late.

(3) – Barakamon

Rating for episodes 1 to 7– 11.5/12 Near Perfect

[Underwater] Barakamon - 01v2 (720p) [685C1315].mkv_snapshot_02.07_[2014.08.29_03.19.15]I had Barakamon listed as my number 2 new series for my summer season preview post because it belongs to one of the types of series that I love to watch and the only question it needed to answer was how competent was the production staff. I have read some rumbling from manga readers about not being entirely happy but this anime only viewer is completely satisfied. Barakamon does not break any new ground for series like this but that’s hardly a requirement for a great series. It does have a great cast of characters, nicely varied with enough unique traits to feel like actual people, and is content to let them drive the series along at just the right pacing – not too slow, so that paint drying is more exciting, and not too fast, so that we don’t have time to consider the lilies in the field. Barakamon might be the closest we ever get to a Yotsuba! anime but it’s not really the same. As awesome as Naru is, this anime isn’t told from her viewpoint and it’s not about her discovering all the wonderful things in life. It’s about the adult Handa rediscovering all the wonderful things in life and applying it to his calligraphy so it stops being imitative and starts being truly creative pieces of art. This anime also has great production values. I applaud the move to have an actual kid voice Naru, it confers an authentic quality to Naru’s character that would have been near impossible to replicate. And speaking of Naru, the short clip of her opening the door at the start of the opening song is my favorite piece of animation this season, so far. I love it; it puts a smile on face every time I see it.

(2) – Aldnoah.Zero

Rating for episodes 1 to 7– 12/12 Perfect

[Vivid-Watashi] Aldnoah Zero - 01 [FF3C94D2].mkv_snapshot_03.04_[2014.08.29_03.10.27]I’m sure many people reading this would probably agree that I should swap the rankings of Aldnoah.Zero and #11 Zankyou no Terror, based on what I’ve been reading. They’d point to problems with the characters and plot as reasons why I should and to this I’d respond – aren’t you talking about Zankyou no Terror. I think the characters in Aldnoah.Zero are great – I love Inaho and can’t understand the hate directed towards him – the plot is superb so far, the world building is interesting, the pacing has been just about perfect. It’s Zankyou no Terror that lacks good characters and a good, believable plot. Another criticism of the show I just don’t get is people are complaining about how one dimensionally hateful the majority of the Martians are portrayed to be. Have you not been watching the current news in the slightest? There are a depressingly sufficient number of places these Martians would fit right in that their behavior should not be considered odd in the slightest, especially if one factors in the huge inferiority complex they have. I hope Aldnoah.Zero finishes strongly but even if it does there’s very little chance of improving to the top spot.

(1) – Hunter x Hunter

Rating for episodes 1 to 143– 12/12 Perfect

[HorribleSubs] Hunter X Hunter - 140 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.58_[2014.07.30_01.49.10]Was there any doubt that Hunter x Hunter would be at the sitting here at number 1. Even just looking at this season’s episodes (which is what these seasonal posts do), Hunter x Hunter is operating at a distinctly higher level then even the other nearly perfect and perfect anime series. When Hunter x Hunter ends it’s run in a few episodes, I’m going to be mighty tempted to place it into my top 10, even though doing so would break my self-imposed rules. What I love about this latest arc of Hunter x Hunter is that we see the consequences of decisions made during the Chimera Ant Arc play out to their conclusions. Actually, I lied – I love many different things about this Election Arc. I love how the apparently pretty boring story arc at the beginning of the series that featured Killua’s family (as I saw it at the time) turned out to be laying the groundwork for this arc and was instrumental in not bogging this arc down. I love how this story arc is driving home how obviously twisted the Chimera Ant Arc left it’s viewers when watching Hisoka kill people puts a smile on our faces because it feels nostalgic and light hearted compared to what we were just watching. I love the return of Leorio and the other cameos. I love how Yoshihiro Togashi can still surprise us with cool Nen abilities. I love how the series can completely shift gears and go from the Chimera Ants threatening human extinction to focusing on political wheeling’n’dealing. I also kinda love how Yoshihiro Togashi has become the George R.R. Martin of manga with the Hunter x Hunter manga.

Overall Season Average at the halfway point – 6.826/12 B

That’s it for part 3. It took a little longer to write part 3 than I had hoped. Next I hope to write something about the latest season of Avatar and maybe begin looking at the upcoming anime for the Fall season preview post.

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