I’ve over extended myself this season; there’s too many watchable anime series to catch that promise, minimally, that they will be worth the time invested. Of the 23 new series that I’ve watched, there is only one – Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation – who has earned enough enmity from me through it’s own incompetence that I’ve dropped it (gladly so, btw). At the same time, there seems to be only a few series with the chops to even attempt attaining the level of being “great” or the slightly lower “very good”. Further, there are only two series that have even a remote chance of pushing themselves up to the “exceptional” category.
Another aspect of this season is how few the number of surprises (good or bad) there have been. The last time I tried to predict which series were going to be the top series of the season (Summer 2014) I was only about half right and made several glaring mistakes. For this season I attempted the same thing and the list I drew up before the season started looks, four weeks in, to be very spot on. Yeah for me, but, boo for this season being so predictable. The high number of sequels, 8 out of the 22 non-dropped series, does play into this lack of surprises. (If the Lupin series does actually air starting in May the sequel number will be bumped to 9/23 or ~39% of the series for the season.)
That’s not to say there hasn’t been any surprises; there has been a few moderate ones and that might be the best place to start.
The Source Material is What?!
Show By Rock!
One of the stranger offerings of this season. Show By Rock! is an anime adaptation of a mobile phone rhythm game published by Sanrio (think Hello Kitty) and is animated by Bones. Yes, the people who normally animate SF/mecha series like Space Dandy, Captain Earth, Eureka 7, and the currently airing Kekkai Sensen, are trying their hand at a series that one would expect JC Staff, feel, or Studio Deen to do. The result has been oddly impressive. The story won’t be winning any awards or lauded for breaking new ground – shy girl gets sucked to another world that’s obsessed with pop/rock music, receives a talking guitar, gets turned into a catgirl, joins a band with a talking egg as it’s producer, fights bad guys through the power of music, etc. – but it’s just silly enough and clever enough that the catchy tunes and fun characters turn this show into one of the shows I most look forward to see in the week. I don’t know if it could be argued that this series is truly the best use for the talented animators at Bones (though if they felt like changing things up, that’s cool with me) but the reverse, that Show by Rock! needs top quality animation to be a success, is so very true. Limp, lifeless animation would kill Show By Rock!, no matter how well the other parts were executed; so, it’s a good thing that Bones and their energetic, quality animation is providing the engine that is getting this series humming along quite nicely. The talking guitar is voiced by Hiroyuki Yoshino aka Tarou from Shirobako and Favaro from Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis. The OP is a nice bonus as well. It, along with the OP for Knights of Sidonia S2, are my favorites of this season.
J.C. Staff Forgets Its Creed of Producing Mediocre Anime
Speaking of J.C. Staff, when was the last time J.C. Staff put out two shows simultaneously that were honestly very good? Hold on, let me look … Summer 2009, when they animated Aoi Hana and Taishou Yakyuu Musume. This potential end of mediocrity, at least for a season, is even more impressive when one takes into account what they’re animating this season.
Shokugeki no Souma
A shounen sports(?) series about a teenage boy whose cooking is so good that eating his food is an extremely pleasurable experience, yet, he’s still not good enough so his father sends him to cooking high school. Five episodes in and I marvel at myself for giving this series a chance and marvel that a show with a synopsis like that has turned out to be very watchable. What will be interesting to see as the series progresses is how they handle the main character’s cooking ability. On one hand they go to great lengths to show the viewer that he is an amazing cook and on the other hand they’re positioning him as being the scrappy underdog that will have a tough time overcoming the elite of this cooking school. The two seem almost contradictory which is why I’m almost positive that the show will more focus on the main character helping the other students that live in the former prestigious dorm, now dilapidated, get better and return the dorm back to being a place of distinction. That’s a story I can get behind. The ED is one of my favorites for this season, though the parodying of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper here is either one of the oddest things I’ve seen done in anime or just me reading why too much into it.
Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
Confession time: I was totally going to give this series a chance because of it’s amusingly ridiculous title. Second confession: As much as I’ve enjoyed this show so far, I’ve been disappointed that there’s been a serious lack of people trying to pick up girls in a dungeon. I’d been expecting to see a ton of creepy funny romantic overtures shot down in flames by exasperated women who don’t understand why no one understands that they’re there for the loot and glory and not romance. That would be a great show; however, what the series turned out to be isn’t bad either. Once again we have an underdog, actually two – the earnest, not overly strong, male main character who wants to be a hero and the goddess who he pledges fealty to and is her only follower when the main gods could have thousands. Both characters are good people and they strive to be worthy of the trust the other puts in them. This relationship is what is driving the plot of the series and what makes Danmachi (as it’s abbreviated) worth watching. Of the two series by J.C. Staff, this series seems like the one with a slightly better chance of finishing as strong, if not stronger, as it started because the characters are more likeable and there’s more room for the story to misstep or wander a bit without sinking the series. (The story for Shokugeki no Souma has a smaller room for error because it’s walking a fine line with it’s fan servicey food eating scenes, much more and it would be impossible to take the series seriously.)
The Source Material is What?! Part 2
Rating for episodes 1 to 3 – 8/12 B+
Animation: 2.5/5 – Average
Anticipation Level: 2.5/5 – Average
I’m suffering Shirobako withdrawl this season. I’ve watched enough anime that it’s now rare to find an anime like Shirobako that can challenge for a spot at the very top of my all-time top anime list and nothing this season can replace it. One way to deal with the withdrawal symptoms is to chase after anything that reminds one of Shirobako. This anime, Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku, utilizes the seiyuu Juri Kimura as the main character who was last heard voicing Aoi Miyamori, the main character from Shirobako. The main character is a very different person this time but Juri Kimura has been excellent here as well, showcasing a great sense of comedic delivery and timing. She is also providing some factor that is making the main character of Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku work when she really shouldn’t. If I had to guess I’d say Juri Kimura has this earnest and authentic joy for the chance to voice this character and this is getting carried over and infused into the main character. The other aspect that is selling the show to me right now is, while the overall animation is only average, the animation studio Dogakobo made sure care was given to the fight scenes. They’ve actually been more satisfying to watch then the fight scenes in the currently airing Fate series. If it wasn’t for Dogakobo doing the animation and Juri Kimura voicing the main character I would not have watched this series. I’ve been burned twice over anime series based off of the Vocaloid platform. Both prior times, Black Rock Shooter and Mekakucity Actors, were series aimed solely at people familiar with the source material and were disappointing to awful for the rest of us. It looks like the saying ‘third times the charm’ might be true here, though, with Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku shaping up to be a solid second tier series.
That’s it for series that were able to surprise me in some way. What series has most surprised you so far this season?