Home > Check-in Station > Check-in Station: Mid-Season Review (Spring 2013)

Check-in Station: Mid-Season Review (Spring 2013)


This has been quite honestly, my most successful season since I started blogging.  I’ve watched several anime before, but I wasn’t attempting to write about all of them on an episode by episode basis.  Even better yet, I used to just watch a series in bulk.  I’d either get a DVD or find a batch of files and watch until I got tired, or I ran out of material.  The only time that ever backfired was when I was watching the original Code Geass (why would they have a six month break between episode 23 and the end of the series?!).  Now I’m watching seven (maybe eight) series at the moment, and their pretty much all to the halfway point.  So instead of doing a “Check-in” post on all seven, I’m gonna give the run down for the majority in one post, right here.  That way I can get on with whatever other projects I’m working on at the moment.

Now then, let’s get started.  I’ll do this in whatever random order I choose.  I will not be assigning score or rank.  I will just be assigning opinions.

Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)

I haven’t had a ton to say about this series, not because it isn’t good mind you.  The problem is that it’s almost a personal favorite.  And in that case, I tend to think I’m too biased to write about a series the way I normally do.  I prefer to write about something as if I’m ignorant of its overall purpose and direction, as if I have no idea what’s going to happen next.  Or if I’ve seen a series to completion, I like to judge it harshly and pretentiously, all the while peppering my commentary with cynical, snide commentary.  Attack on Titan is a series based on a manga, a manga I’ve read a bit of.  So while I haven’t completed it, up until a certain point soon, I’m damn familiar with what’s about to happen.  So I try my best not to spoil anyone on the direction, or on the big reveal which is happening right now in the anime’s story.

Apologies and explanations aside, I think this is a wonderfully animated, scored, atmospheric anime.  I can’t say much for pacing, because as I’ve noticed with the manga, it likes to jump around to tell its story.  And there is a ton of setup and introduction in the beginning.  The series somewhat reminds me of a cross between a shounen battle manga, and something with the dramatic, sometimes gory atmosphere of Death Note or Monster, mixed with Claymore.  Well, technically Claymore is a shounen battle manga, just a unique one.  I have to be honest in saying I get most of my enjoyment from this show out of the horror, the gore and the tension.  I don’t get a lot of it from the characters at this point.  While there’s nothing wrong with any of them.  There’s something I don’t love about all of them.  The three main characters specifically.  Armin is always sniveling and panicking; he reflects my annoyance with much of the populace whenever the titans appear.  So many of them just lose their f*cking minds when a titan shows up ,that I wonder if only the cowards survived to make it inside the walls.  You think there’d be a few more gung-ho idiots in this world.  Which brings me to Eren, who is brash and driven to the point of being the most obnoxious character in the show by far.  Everything he does involves pushing as hard and as fast as possible, and he just doesn’t care who he punches or shoves out of the way.  If there’s an opportunity to use common sense to solve a situation, you can bet he’ll pass it up in favor of yelling and punching something or someone.  And finally there’s Mikasa, who is probably most everyone’s favorite character in this story.  My only problem with her is that she’s such a physically gifted, yet level-headed character, but she’s completely attached to Eren at a level that might make some women rage. I want to compare her to another talented sword-wielding woman from the Walking Dead series, but it’s not quite a close enough comparison.

Well anyway, for a series where I don’t think the characters are that strong at the moment, I still find this show compelling and mesmerizing to watch.  At the very core, what I love is the concept itself.  It’s unique.  It’s humanity on the brink of extinction again, of course, but this time they are being devoured by mythical beasts with no rhyme or reason to their answers, and no discernible intelligence.  It’s a concept I want to see used to its fullest, and a mystery that I genuinely want to see solved.

Majestic Prince (Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince)

Talk about a show I wasn’t expecting much from, well that was a lot of shows, but this one was probably near the bottom of the list of series I knew I’d attempt to watch.  I love Hisashi Hirai’s character designs.  I’m a bit emotionally attached to them since my early otaku days are attached to them.  But still, that familiar look is starting to look dated and not distinct.  Sort of like when 80’s and 90’s character designs started to fade away, I think his designs as much as the moe-fied designs of the later 2000’s may be a sign of soon to be bygone times.  I still love them though, for the most part (damn you Fafner).  But those character designs are only why I tried the show.  They’re actually a very small part of it actually.  Majestic Prince is actually a surprisingly down-to-earth, heartfelt show.  And it may attempt to address some interesting questions.

I’ve talked before about how mecha has been mixed with various genres to differing success (Code Geass and Rinne no Lagrange, for example).  And Majestic Prince seems to be a mix of mecha and sentai genres, which isn’t too much of a mix really.  The genres have kind of been close relatives for a long time (Saint Seiya/Ronin Warriors and Voltron, for example).  But regardless, we have five kids who have worked with each other for a long time (relatively), and still have horrible team work, and no chemistry.  And they’re Earth’s best of hope of defeating aliens that are small in number to humans, but steadily beating them and pushing their way towards Earth.  This show reminds me of Gundam AGE quite a bit, because of the aliens in this show that don’t quite seem like aliens, just humans with more advanced technology.

The show focuses mostly on the five kids, officially known as Team Rabbits, but more widely known as the Fail Five for their horrible teamwork.  And it brings up interesting questions about child soldiers, the make up of a family, and the moral imperatives that come with manipulating lives and memories.  It’s not nearly as deep as it sounds though, which is a key disappointment I have with the show, albeit a minor one.  And while I generally don’t like the mecha designs, they’re growing on me a tad; and the battles in them have gotten pretty intense and exciting from time to time.

Of the three mecha shows I’m watching this season, this is probably the least exciting and understated of them.  And it’s not this show’s fault at all.  If it aired as the only show for a different season, it may have been better off, but right now it’s been wholy outshone by its brethren, Valvrave and Gargantia, but each for very different reasons.  If this show goes a bit deeper, gets a bit darker, then I may be able to see it competing.  Despite those grievances though, I still have no plans to drop this show, as it is still fun to watch and has plenty of potential.

Valvrave (Kakumeiki Valvrave or Valvrave the Liberator)

Holy cow!  This show!  This show is something else!  At first, I thought that something else was “trash” or “garbage”.  But at this point, I’m willing to call this something else, “fun” and “mesmerizing”.  It boggles me how, in several episodes, I’ve done complete 180’s when it came to my opinion of the characters and the show overall.  The show is just that crazy and manic.  It’s not manic in the intentional clever way say, Excel Saga is manic.  It’s more manic in the way a show written by several people who never meet is manic.  Valvrave seems to be comprised of every successful show Sunrise has made since late 90’s, in an attempt to replace Gundam (something they’ve been trying to do since the 80’s) as a flagship franchise of their own.  And Sunrise doesn’t have a great track record of doing this either.  I still have the bad taste from The Girl Who Leapt Through Space in my mouth.  But Valvrave is not exactly the same kind of shallow piece of junk that show was.  It’s a bit of an accidental hero.  Something that stumbles into fame and fortune and excitement.

So even in a short description like the one necessary for this post, I have trouble pairing things down and telling you what the show is about.  *sigh*  It’s essentially about a boy who stumbles across a cursed mobile suit (probably from aliens, maybe left by the Devil) in an attempt to save his dead not girlfriend, who is not dead.  His school colony, which is part of one of those annoying neutral countries that always get crapped on in anime (and rightfully so), has been invaded and surrendered to an invading nation.  Along the way, school separates form the rest of the sphere of colonies (I don’t quite get how this works) with the Valvrave, declaring itself an independent nation.  And forcing a stalemate between the invading nation of Dorssia and the alliance of ARUS, who is full of bad people of their own.  Then there’s stuff about child soldiers, contracts, vampires and identity switching, and a Lord of the Flies kinda situation going on in the new independent colony.  A colony that only has these cursed machines for protection.

It’s a mess.  But every week, this show takes the ridiculous ingredients that make up this show, and concoct a entertaining narrative out of them.  It’s kinda hard to describe without someone seeing for themselves.  In my experience, it’s best to not try to describe why something terrible is enjoyable, it’s best to let a person experience it for themselves, to soak in the atmosphere, the pacing and the dialogue.  Only through all that can you really get why this show is entertaining.  I dare say that I’m having the most fun this season watching this show.

What a farce!

Karneval

Oh my.  This may be an example of me attempting to be diverse, and take a risk that doesn’t pay off.  From its description, Karneval sounded like a quality production that allowed me to rectify my failure to finish Pandora Hearts oh so long ago.  See Pandora Hearts for me, was a show that started off interestingly enough, but played around with the narrative too much and became uninteresting with all the teasing and love of its own mystery.  Unfortunately, Karneval seems to have the same problem, and may end up being even more boring in a shorter time span.  All it has managed to do up to this point is very slowly set up the setting and the overall narrative.  I’ve yet to truly see anything interesting (aside from the end of episode six)  or exciting.  And while some of the characters may be fun to watch or look at, the main characters are almost useless.

I thought I would have a problem with Nai, but the show somewhat brilliantly gives us an excuse for his annoying mental ineptitude and moronic personality.  Instead my ire is pointed directly at Gareki, who has turned out to be a bit of a “princess” character.  He’s good at posing, and brooding, but doesn’t add anything emotionally to the story.  And to make matters worse, he’s marginally useful at battle.  Much of the time, he and Nai are mere spectators during the show.  And they’re supposed to be the main characters.  Couple that annoyance, the uninteresting narrative and the leisurely pace of the show; and  I’m left wondering why I’ve kept watching this show when I could get more excitement (and fury) out of Ore no Imouto, or at least see something marginally different with Red Data Girl?

Flowers of Evil (Aku no Hana)

The other big disappointment this season, that is somehow starting to prove its worth as of late.  As of very late.

The big controversy of this show is far from any sort of secret; the choice of animation style, rotoscope.  I’m over it, for better or worse.  Though I could understand how fans of the manga may feel.  If they gave Nana to Kaoru or Sundome this treatment once they finally got an anime (I realize Nana to Kaoru did get an OVA), I’d be pissed off.  But for now, if you’re still watching, or going to watch the show you have to deal with it and trust in the director.

I say trust in the director because you’re going to watch stuff that makes you question why they show what they showed, and why you decided to watch this show.  This show has been hyped to death, long before it actually aired.  And this is on the grounds that the manga is dark and twisted and kinky.  And that what you’re exposed to in it will disgust you and possibly make most people turn away from the material.  Guess what?  I haven’t seen any of that, yet.  My guess is that hype comes from oversensitive puritan otaku that have pillow-based “waifu”, social problems and a lack of contact with real women.  This show is very slow paced, atmospheric, melodramatic and at times intense and weird.  Matter of fact, if you put the hype away and controversy, this is a very nice, subdued anime.  It’s hardly twisted or kinky, just a little perverted.

The best thing I can say about this show is that it’s very real, very true-to-life.  And I’d say the rotoscoping helps that.  The situations, mannerisms and dialogue all feel very familiar and realistic, it’s usually far from the usual tropes and cliches you’d find in most all other anime.  I’d dare say some of this simplicity and realism actually makes the show beautiful in its own way.  And I’m not even talking about that amazing ending sequence in the classroom from the episode seven.  Wow!

It’s hard to recommend, sometimes even hard to watch, but there may be a treasure waiting for those willing to risk this show’s “unique” ways.

Gargantia (Suisei no Gargantia or Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet)

What a beautiful show.  Gargantia started out as a show that I wasn’t sure about, and I actively avoided the talk about the production of this series.  It’s paid off, as I’ve gotten to watch a very beautiful, high quality production that doesn’t focus on action, but character development and relationships.  It’s a story about communication and understanding.  It’s fun, but has elements that could make it very dark.

Now about that stuff I’ve kinda ignored up until this point…

The show is directed by Kazuya Murata, who has directed and worked on projects ranging from Eureka Seven and Code Geass, and even Tokyo Magnitude 8.0.  Some shows that I’ve greatly enjoyed, but all of them have had fun screwing with their audience in various ways.  Also, the script was done by Gen Urobuchi, who has done great work on several series, but everyone loves to point out just one as an example.  Madoka Magica.  So everyone’s expecting something dark and cruel to come out of this narrative.  And before I would’ve ignored them, but things may be starting to take a turn for the worse in this show ever so slightly.  Before I would’ve complained this show lacked conflict, aside from hippies versus the soldier grievances.  Now the show has become a bit of a matter of survival, and who is right and wrong.

I may not personally grasp on to this show, but it’s done beautifully.  And I’m starting to get high hopes as to what it can do emotionally by the end.  Of the three mecha series that I’m watching this season, this has the highest chance of becoming a classic.

Railgun S and Ore no Imouto Season 2

While I am watching Railgun S episodically, I’m not blogging it episodically.  That said, Railgun is Railgun in my eyes.  The show is showing  how fun and dark it can be.  And while it still seems to have the tonal and logical annoyances of its predecessor and its brethren, Index, I still love the show for the characters and the imagination behind it.  Plus I love dark material and seeing what Accelerator did to that clone was a pretty amazing, brutal scene.  I still have disgust for this whole ridiculous experiment, and I find it utterly idiotic that scientists would call something cloned with human DNA, not human.  Man!  Just thinking about it makes me angry-!  But at least its not the mess the first season of Index was.

Also, Ore no Imouto – f*ck that show!  I thought for sure I’d try and watch it, but somehow I’ve avoided doing so.  It helps that most people I talk to, or who talk about it on blogs and Twitter call it damn mess.  Every week I stay away from this show is like a week of not smoking.  I’m better off for it!

Further Reading:

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