[orz] SHOW BY ROCK!! 01 [1BD3E9E5].mkv_snapshot_19.36_[2015.04.12_02.34.43]

Early Season Impressions: Spring 2015 – The Surprises

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!

[orz] SHOW BY ROCK!! 01 [1BD3E9E5].mkv_snapshot_22.55_[2015.04.12_02.40.28]Rating for episodes 1 to 49/12  A-
Animation: 3.5/5 – Very Good
Anticipation Level: 3.5/5 – Medium

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

[FFF] Shokugeki no Souma - 01 [E0EB3DC4].mkv_snapshot_11.47_[2015.04.17_02.40.20]Rating for episodes 1 to 510/12  A
Animation: 2.5/5 – Average
Anticipation Level: 3.0/5 – Average to Medium

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?

[Cthuko] Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka - 01 [720p H264 AAC][689A08FE].mkv_snapshot_06.50_[2015.04.12_01.27.07]Rating for episodes 1 to 410/12  A
Animation: 3.0/5 – Good
Anticipation Level: 3.0/5 – Average to Medium

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

[caffeine] Mikagura School Suite - 02 [720p][192C1D5F].mkv_snapshot_08.51_[2015.04.28_19.21.31]Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku

Rating for episodes 1 to 38/12  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?

11 thoughts on “Early Season Impressions: Spring 2015 – The Surprises”

  1. I’ve seen many twitter folks really enjoying Show By Rock! but I’m hesitant to give it a try. Yet. I’ll give it a look when it ends, I guess.

    I have to agree with Mikagura, though I’ve only seen the first episode (and the awesome fight scenes uploaded in sakugabooru). It just seems like the antidote for Shirobako hangover. I mean it in a good way.

    You’re right about this season being predictable in terms of which shows are gonna be our favorites. But I’m really really pleased with how particularly good this Sidonia sequel is.

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  2. Show by Rock isn’t terrible at all. I’m shocked by this. I absolutely loved the drummer girl repeating her evil laugh even when it wasn’t necessary. I love silly shows that actually make me laugh.

    Houkago no Pleiades tries to be more serious, but it’s silly too in an agreeable way, and there are lots of trippy light shows. What’s not to like?

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  3. @miharusshi: Show by Rock!! is one of only four series that have a +3 or better score according to the MAL Score Progression Group so far. The other three are Shokugeki no Souma, Sidonia S2, and SNAFU 2. Just saying🙂

    @Peter S: I’ve kinda wanted to give Houkago no Pleiades a watch but Gainax has been seriously disappointing for years now and I have no energy to do so.

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  4. Punch Line surprised me the most. First it shocked me to the point where I nearly dropped it, but then it shocked me again by turning out to be really intriguing and lots of fun.

    Ore Monogatari also surprised me because at first I wasn’t going to watch it. I’m so glad I gave it a try in the end!

    ~Jamie

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  5. @Jamie: I almost included Punch Line to this list because I have been surprised it has turned out as well as it has but then I remembered I actually predicted it at number 9 in my spring season preview so it’s probably more accurate to say that I’m surprised to see it turned out as well as I guessing it would.

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  6. 23 series? No wonder you haven’t had time to blog lately. I’ve had enough trouble keeping up with half that many.

    Biggest surprises for me? That’s easy. Out of the 12 shows I started with, I predicted Food Wars and Pleiades would be my first two drops, the former because I don’t normally like ecchi shows, and the latter because I had very low expectations for it. Now, I’m all in on both for the rest of the season.

    Aside from the ecchi I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Food Wars, and would echo a lot of what you said about it. I also like the writing, which has been much sharper and tighter than I expected; this is a series that knows how to tell an entertaining story.

    Pleiades is interesting to me as a veteran magical girl watcher, because it’s more-or-less a throwback to the type of magical girl series we used to get before Madoka wrapped its hands around the genre’s throat. It’s a very upbeat/optimistic show, and aside from the “car maker sponsorship” angle (which isn’t very blatant anyway), there’s no reason so far why you couldn’t watch it with your 7 year old daughter. I wouldn’t call it “very good” yet, maybe “slightly above average-to-decently good”, and there’s nothing especially original about it if you’ve watched enough magical girl. But after a mediocre first couple of episodes it seems to have found its footing, and still has a chance to become a very good show if it keeps improving. Two things I absolutely like about it: some of the background artwork is really beautiful, and it has a good soundtrack (when it isn’t being drowned out by the car engines), especially the ambient music that plays during some of the more ethereal scenes.

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  7. @Jim D.: *grumble grumble* I’d successfully talked myself out of the need to watch Pleiades. I watched the original shorts so I kinda wanted to catch the TV series and also kinda didn’t see the need to revisit it. The number of series I’m watching pushed the decision to skip but now I’m tempted again – thanks🙂 .

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  8. Sorry, wasn’t trying to do that! And honestly, if it were a choice between this series and the ones that came up when we were discussing magical girl shows a month or two back, I’d tell you that watching one of the other ones instead would be a better use of your time. I’ve actually started doing my own re-watch of Cardcaptor Sakura, sneaking in a few episodes here and there during the interludes when I’m all caught up on the seasonal shows, and watching both concurrently makes the gap in quality between the two painfully clear. I’ll give Pleiades credit for having better artwork (not animation, just artwork), but CCS wipes the floor with it in every other category.

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  9. @WingKing: Yes, but already aired anime will always be there and it’s possible I’m missing something that’s going on right now.🙂 (Which explains why I have trouble just picking up an old series for no reason and little trouble loading myself up with dozens of currently airing anime.)

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  10. Now that the main series of Pleiades is over, I went back and watched the shorts tonight. TBH, the shorts in comparison to the full series really feel like a prototype or pilot. Aside from the cast of characters and the very basics of the premise – needing to catch the fragments and competing with the magical boy for them – there isn’t a ton in common between the two (even the nature of Aoi and Subaru’s quarrel is different). The TV series also has much more of a science fiction bent to it, delving into stuff like astrophysics and parallel universe theories that aren’t even hinted at in the shorts. So if you ever do decide to pick up the TV series about 90% of it will still be new, with only one or two minor spoilers. I gave the series 6.5/10 (not great, but good overall, and occasionally very good) and the shorts 5/10.

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  11. @WingKing: Thanks for update and the comparison. I could see myself picking this up to help fill my summer up – I’m pretty sure I’m going back to pick up Arslan Senki, since it’s still airing and I almost started it this past spring.

    I’m really kinda feeling adrift at this point, though. Being in the pool for jury duty for the next two weeks makes everything feel uncertain. Knowing my luck, I’ll get picked to sit on the jury for “The Crime of the Century” and be sequestered till Christmas. Then there’s the weak spring and probable summer seasons of anime and the only topics I feel like writing about are current controversial issues that have nothing to do with anime and are pointless to write about because the readers will either find me 100% correct or 0% correct with little chance of people giving it real thought which would lead to a real discussion which is what I’d like to see.

    And that’s why my nose has been in a book recently. Inhaling a good book – in this case, The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson – is just what I need right now.

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