Seven layer cookies, aka Magic Bars, are traditionally made up of seven ingredients that are laid down one at time into a cooking pan before being baked. The result is not a cookie with seven layers, but, if properly done, a cookie that has melded together into a very delicious treat. A good season of anime offers up many different types of shows that, when combined, sort of melt together and provide a satisfying experience to the viewer.
With the remaining series I’ve yet to cover, I thought I’d try to build a seven layer cookie of anime series and hope it would blend together into a first-rate treat. Of course, this wouldn’t be the best seven layer cookie that could be made with this season’s series because I’ve already covered many fine ingredients in earlier posts; but, I think there’s still plenty of noteworthy series left to choose from.
So let’s move to the first ingredient.
First Layer – Graham Cracker Crumbs
Graham cracker crumbs is one of the most important ingredients to this cookie. It provides the foundation to build everything else from; however, though it won’t receive the attention of some of the other ingredients, don’t think skimping on quality and quantity here won’t go unnoticed. There’s probably two main routes to go with anime here, either a character driven slice-of-life series or an action packed shounen/seinen series.
I’m going to go with Kekkai Sensen, or Blood Blockade Battlefront, and the action packed shounen/seinen series route because this series appears set to provide a perfect level of stability to this season. The animation here is so full of wow and seriously brings out it’s visual aesthetic to peak awesomeness. So far, this would be a very solid series just on it’s animation alone. There’s more to this series then just it’s animation, though. There’s several truly great seiyuu doing superb vocal work and breathing a vibrancy to their characters that makes just following these characters around a joy. The setting is a rather rare one in anime and is really refreshing after a long day of watching Japanese high school series. If the Dresden Files book series ever gets an anime adaptation, I’d love to see this crew handle the adaptation because they’re perfect for it. The story is also very interesting, if a bit unfocused and unconnected at the moment. It feels like this series is pacing itself to be a 2 cour series but I’m not sure if it’s running that long.
Second Layer – Melted Butter or Oleo
The unsung hero of the cookie. Graham cracker crumbs might be the base and foundation but if it wasn’t for the melted butter mixed in then they would just crumble away. This could be represented here as all the second-tier anime series that help fill a season out. They lack the power and pop to be among the best, but, the better they are and the more numerous they are, the better the season is.
Etotama typifies what a second tier anime often looks like. There’s not much blatantly wrong with it but it also doesn’t get things right often enough and good enough to put it into the same breath as series like Knights of Sidonia or Kekkai Sensen. This comedy series is about a young adult male who crosses paths with the personified animals of the zodiac along with other personified animal types while they’re in a contest to see if the animals that make up the zodiac will change or not. These zodiac people/creatures live off the accumulated good feelings people have towards them. Since the cat is not on the zodiac she has a tough time generating the power to fight the 12 Zodiacs. She latches onto the main character because he’s a great generator of this power. The first couple episodes outlines this but handles it poorly (hence, one of reasons this is a second tier anime). Once we firmly get to the comedy part much of the humor is the 4th wall breaking type comedy and it’s rather hit and miss. My favorite joke so far of this type, and sorry for spoiling it for you, is in episode 5 when one of the characters tries and fails to pull off the light bar that is censoring their state of undress and another character says that the light bars won’t come off until the Blu-ray comes out when another character chips in that they won’t because they were drawn onto the cel and can’t come off. (I’m also left kinda curious if the censoring will stay or go.) The other thing I should note with this anime is that the fight scenes are done in 3D CG and, while it lacks flexibility of more traditionally drawn animation, it’s not bad. It’s certainly better looking than Knights of Sidonia.
Third Layer – Sweetened Condensed Milk
The graham cracker crumbs are still not quite ready so another layer, the sweetened condensed milk, is added. This helps firm up the base, helps bind the upper layers to the base, and sweetens the overall cookie. No one says, wow taste that sweetened condensed milk, but it would be seriously missed if it wasn’t included.
Owari no Seraph
There is still time for Owari no Seraph to become an important part of this season, as opposed to a minor one, but the story really needs to take advantage of all the interesting ideas that it’s set-up allows. Even if that doesn’t occur there is one reason why this series should be watched – the backgrounds. They just ooze style, character, artistic beauty, and look hand done on paper. Maybe digital drawing tools can replicate that style but I’d like to think the animators hired artists like that one guy from Shirobako who does everything by hand and does not use a computer. There I go, I still got Shirobako on the brain. Either way it looks awesome. Like I said earlier, there’s many interesting ideas in this post-apocalyptic anime but it remains to be seen if they’ll get explored to a satisfactory level.
Fourth Layer – Chopped Nuts
Being in the middle of the cookie, one does not see the chopped walnuts nor expects them so it’s always a treat to discover them.
This pretty much sums up Punchline. I was expecting Mappa to not waste their time on a sub-par series but I just didn’t see how Punchline was going to be a good series; it’s very difficult to blend heavy fan-service with a serious story and make it work. It’s working here, though, so far. I think it’s a very interesting choice to have the main character be a ghost and have very little ability to physically affect the story. The only anime that I can remember doing this for any length of time was at the start of Yu Yu Hakusho. And the one novel from the Dresden Files book series had a similar set-up. There’s still plenty of time for this anime to fall apart and the overly complex story might be a bit too ambitious in the end; however, for right now Punchline is the secret treat of the anime season.
Fifth Layer – Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
Oooey-gooey chocolate chips are just pure love. That goes without saying.
And Ore Monogatari!! exemplifies this oooey-gooey perfectly pure love more than any other series this season. This series can and already has made me melt for it. I love the characters. Takeo is the most obvious draw and I’m already penciling him in as top male main character for 2015, though, Suna and Rinko are presenting themselves as interesting and compelling characters in their own ways. The animation and animation style of Madhouse chose for Chihayafuru was beautiful and fit it so well and, once again, works it’s charm here for Ore Monogatari!!. I’ve been kind of worried how the show was going to fill 24 episodes up, especially since we got the confession in episode 3 and that’s normally the end game for a series like this. I thought the game plan might then be to get Suna a girlfriend; but, I’m starting to think it’s going to be showing how difficult even two people who are madly in love with each other have at making a relationship work. I’m definitely okay if that’s how this series goes, just as long as everyone gets a happy ending in the end – I’ll leave the desire for hard-hitting, cynical, “realistic” plot points to other shows.
Sixth Layer – Butterscotch Chips
Butterscotch chips will never be held in same esteem as chocolate chips; but, they’re a bit off-beat and have their own charm to them and it wouldn’t be a seven layer cookie without them.
Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo
Oh, anime how I love thee; never stop producing these oddly premised series. I was almost going to skip this series because, while I read very little manga, I’ve read the manga to Yamada and the Seven Witches and didn’t see the need to watch a lackluster adaptation as this looked to be. Then I thought to myself, it might be several years before I get the chance to see a body swapping anime set in a high school again and decided to give this series a chance. I’m glad I did. Yes, it’s not nearly as nice looking as I would want and I don’t see how they’ll get a decent ending unless this will be a split season anime and it’s somewhat off-putting to see these characters have their character development reset all the way back; however, this is balanced by how the story is actually at it’s strongest right now (I’m not a fan of the later parts of the manga) and it’s fun to see the characters slowly develop into the people they eventually become and this series is one of those doses of odd that make watching anime so interesting. I should also mention that I’ve really enjoyed the main seiyuu having to voice two different persona (one male and one female) for their respective character and really differentiate them.
Seventh Layer – Flaked Coconut
The final layer is the flaked coconut. It’s probably not a person’s favorite part of the cookie; but, because it’s on top, it’s what people first see and often what people first recall when thinking about a seven layer cookie.
Kyoto Animation might be one of the most polarizing names in anime. And, because it is, everyone pays way too much attention to what they do so they can have an opinion about them. The line on Hibike! Euphonium before the season started was that this was going to be K-On season 3. Not everyone held to this, but enough did, so when the show started airing and it became immediately apparent this was not K-On season 3, people had to start the conversation off by saying it’s not K-On season 3. Exactly what Hibike! Euphonium is was a bit of a question mark at the beginning. The show felt a little detached and cold when it started. Now that I’ve seen episode 5, I think this series is most interested in being a coming-of-age story about the main character, Kumiko. So interested, that it allowed Kimiko’s emotional state to control how the opening episodes were presented. I think she was angry by her middle school band not advancing towards nationals, even after earning a gold rank, but chose to hide those feelings away which had the effect of greatly muting all of her emotions. This included her passion, so, although she pined for a “new start”, she was cold and distant to the events surrounding her. (A different person might have become a dyed-in-the-wool cynic or rebel or both.) Kumiko was only going through the motions until she realizes in episode 5 that she’s actually gotten the new start she wanted and I think we’ll see a much warmer, engaged series going forward. This might not end up the best anime of the season but it should be in the running.
There you go, a seven layer anime cookie made from some of this season’s new anime shows. I think it turned out to be a pretty solid mix of shows; what do you think?