Anime from the Fall 2013 season that were… alright.

Nagi no Asukara – Premise is that all people lived in the sea, but some went onto land and lost the seas-god’s blessing that lets them breathe water. The world building seems off, since sea life is exactly the same as land life and that seems wrong (down to electricity use), and the characters are archetypal and unoriginal, though well played out. The whole first 13 episodes move way too slow and were barely interesting to me, though plot kicks in mid-season and it gets way more interesting character and plot wise. Hasn’t’ ended yet, but so far it’s a B show, with a warning of the slow, boring school parts of the first half.

Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods – I wanted to like this show, it was cute and happy, and fluffy, but it was just too boring. It’s the kind of slice of life that just reminds you how very boring watching security cameras actually is. The Kitsune were cute and fun, the humans were well intentioned and living their lives, but I just felt disappointed by the storylines emotional payoff (nothing like Natsume Yuujincho, which this show wishes it could be), and relatively little character growth. A solid C show.

Magi: the Kingdom of Magic – 2nd season. Still enjoying this, though it’s problematic regularly. I still think the setting is unique enough, and the world and magic and characters are interesting. A solid C+ of a show, it’s a nice entertainment but nothing spectacular. Good for passing time.

Beyond the Boundary (Kyoukai no Kanata) – This show is about how if a boy fetishizes and is interested in a girl, that is a great and interesting thing and romantic and awesome. SERIOUSLY, that is the primary take-away message from episode one till the very last moments. Ignoring that disgusting and affronting and plain stupid aspect, it’s an interesting and well animated show about demons living among us, and those who fight them off. The plot has a nice pacing and development, and ends decently. The characters, for the most part, fulfill roles (such as mastermind, maid, info lady, fetish-object, fetish-haver), and don’t really have much characterization beyond that other than their tragic backstories. Overall it makes for an entertaining watch, with interesting settings and plot and magic and fighting, but with squick out moments of CREEPY EW EW EW NO OFFENSIVE ASS BULLSHIT that you have to gloss over. A decent time waster.

Kyousougiga – It’s got an interesting premise, of a man with supernatural powers making a happy and perfect world for himself and his family, but the disjointed presentation of the story and the mind-bending antics just didn’t interest me. None of the characters were particularly compelling, though they seemed at least modestly original. There were also definitely some interesting world building things going on, and I think this show might actually be kinda good, but it really just wasn’t my thing and I didn’t like it, it couldn’t hold my attention. I’d give it another shot if I heard it built better tension later or ended spectacular or something, but not my cup of tea as it stands.

Meganebu – This is very colorful and stylized anime about a bunch of boys who wear and LOVE glasses. They have silly antics, and that’s what this show is all about – over-the-top foolishness and fanservice. Not that bad, but wasn’t enough to keep my interested, and a little to cracked-out for my tastes. Not for everyone, not my tastes but it’s not bad per se, so I’d give it a B to C range.

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Actually interesting anime that I’d recommend from the Fall 2013 season

Golden Time – This is a really interesting drama, where the main plots revolve around characters and character interactions and romance. I had low expectations when I started watching because the opening is really… setting you up for a different, terribler show. But the characters actually were well-rounded, interesting adults with interesting lives and semi-soap-opera problems, and I quickly got sucked into it. It’s still running, so I can’t give you any final comments, but so far it’s one of my favorite shows that’s running and definitely in the A range!

Log Horizon – I had low expectations for yet another show about how now an MMORPG is FOR REALZ. There was nothing especially interesting about the first few episodes, but I didn’t have issues with the treatment of the female lead, even though she’s lusted after by other characters, and there was something mildly interesting that kept me watching and I’m not sure what. And though slow to start, this show has become one of my favorites after it hit mid-season. There are super interesting world-building and setting things, character growing, learning about their new lives and how to deal with their situation that I think is crazy interesting and original. Haven’t finished, but so far, An A show!

Yowapeda: Yowamushi Pedal – This is a sports/guts show about an anime Otaku who just wants to make friends in high school, but turns out he has a talent for biking, thanks to his hoofing it to Akihabara every weekend. He ends up joining the ultra-competitive and impressive biking club, and ACTION! BIKING! RACES! GAINING SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH PHYSICAL ACCOMPLISHMENT. It’s super fun to watch and I <3 it. Hasn’t finished yet, but it’s a solid B+.

Valvrave the Liberator – I actually enjoyed this series. It has a plot that rushes forward and lots of action and plot-twists/turns. The characters have mostly differentiable personalities. It’s a fun action ride if that’s what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, it’s trying way to hard to be as interesting and awesome as Code Geass and kinda failing, plus the ending is less resolution and more deflation. It’s also really calling upon the tropes of the Mecha genre (which I do not like) and so at best I’d rate this anime a B-, maybe C+.

Review: Chu-Bra!!

Yes, the show is a comedy about Bras, as in undergarments.  Specifically, the main character, Nayu, is obsessed with the fashion and practical benefits of women’s undergarments.  Her brother and grandmother are also underwear designers, so it’s in the family and she has good reasons to demo her brother’s products for him.

This has led to her having a less-than-flattering reputation, mostly started by a jerk-girl squad in her class.  And throughout the show haters gotta hate. Though the evolving bad reputation, from a prostitute to a lesbian etc., is pretty entertaining.

She meets two friends, they are weirded out, but eventually accept her love of underwear. They try to start a club, and they add some more characters throughout the show.  Each character has a different perspective on underwear, since they have different personalities and interests, and they all get together to have fun times together. Underwear tends to show up, though they do have interesting interactions outside of that.  The show makes a lot of good points, for example the fit of a bra is really important to it looking and feeling right, and certain cuts of bras are much better for different sizes and kinds of busts.  And there is something lovely about fashion and looking and feeling good about yourself.  So I like that about this show. But it’s seinen, so it’s for men and utilizes the male gaze rather regularly when actually showing shots of undergarments.

But!  Even though it’s an ecchi comedy made for men and there are panty shots galore, the way that it’s done isn’t really offensive or problematic to me.  Firstly, the premise and subject matter are underwear a lot.  Having them shown is not just thrust in there for perving, its mixed in with the story and characters.  Rarely if ever are panties shown to the viewers that are not shown to the characters. It doesn’t have a predatory POV or even a character that is like that. Second, they talk about and show how this objectification and sexualization of clothing affects the characters, both male an female.  For example, the episode where they go to the beach and the male character, Komachi, has a really revealing swimsuit that he’s too embarrassed to wear, but gets seen in anyway, as well as the characters shopping for a swimsuit for the teacher, many of which were similarly embarrassing.

Third, they actually make a point of showing that even though he gets all hot and bothered by things, that this too isn’t always pleasant for guys.  There is a real sense that although some of the exact details of the girls versus boys experiences with underwear and also sexuality are different, in general its very similar, human experience that they’re growing into, and I find that lovely and fascinating.  And watching women’s fantasies about men is always fun and nice for a change, so go Mizuno-sensei! And the episode with male bras?  AMAZING!  Perfect ecchi entertainment!  And non-squicky ecchi comedy, BANZAI!

The end is an ending that just shows that the good times will keep on rolling, pretty common in anime, but this one’s happily realistic, where the whole thing isn’t neatly wrapped up so that life can go on exactly like it is.  I really liked that.  There is something really good about the timing and set up of the last two episodes that really helps create and relieve/resolve some good tensions without just making the whole plot points of angst that started it all magically disappear. The characters grow and change, and that’s good stuff right there.

The character designs and art overall are nothing to shout about, and the animation has some bleh moments and otherwise is really a non-entity.  The directing, likewise, is par for the course, standard.  Nothing to scream about in rage but also nothing to scream about in amazement.  Occasionally it does some interesting things with borders and patterns.

Overall, I think this is a wonderful anime, chock full of easily enjoyable lighthearted comedic fun that anyone can enjoy.  Granted, if you’re not into things about school-aged characters or you’re not a fan of any ecchi comedy or something, this won’t be for you.  But I think that it will even appeal to people who aren’t big ecchi comedy fans, nearly anyone.  There are a lot of issues that hold it back from being a three-star masterpiece, but good entertainment is good!

P.S.  The Shoujo Kakumei Utena references in the latter half of the show?  WONDERFUL!  So exciting! BRAVO! The thrown in Evangelion one?  Made my nerd heart so happy!

Review: Princess Princess

Back to going through all the anime with a “beautiful people’s club” brings me here to Princess Princess! Another BL title, though this one not yaoi or too *wakuwaku*. Back to the fluffy silly fun BL, similar too and even colored and animated similarly to Sukisho. The student council as well as the Princesses are the beautiful people clubs, FYI.

You can tell who are the main characters compared to the mooks and peons, because they all have interesting colored hair, standing out among the sea of browns and blacks. >_<  And the more main, the more brightly colored and monochromatic, even!

The three main Princesses are the protagonist, Kouno, Shihoudani and Mikoto. Mikoto is fun to watch flail around (and in show the characters think so too and rile him for fun all the time).  Also, you can’t help but like Sakamoto-sama.  From the ending it’s obvious we’re meant to pair Shohoudani and Kouno, and frankly, I like that pairing, but in good part because I like Shihoudani and want good things for him.  Though I could enjoy most any pairing in this show, and it’s set up to be that way.

 *sigh* I though I was going to be the seme

The premise is that the main character, due to circumstances at home, suddenly has to transfer to an all-boy’s school, which has a weird tradition of picking out the cutest boys and having them cross-dress for the peons idolizing and to “enrich their lives.” The main characters are these boys (plus the student council and Sakamoto-sama).

Also, like all terribly hashed character driven plots that miss the point of moving plots *forward* the basic plot and main movement of the story is introducing new characters, getting to know them and then the protagonists backstory barfs itself on stage and they sorta resolve it so they can keep things the way you episodically enjoyed them throughout.  In the end the resolution leaves everyone in a state of “yay! non disrupted!” which I’m okay with, because frankly, I enjoyed watching the characters develop and I am content to watch them keep on keeping on.  And frankly, they didn’t whip it out of their asses (like is done sometimes), it actually is foreshadowed in the first episode and then about halfway through, so it’s not like one of those blindsided train-wrecks of a last minute plot attack.  Also, those things are crimes you know?  Not sure why they all don’t just condemn the stalker-crazy and send her to the police.

Overall, the animation is alright, with a lot of close-ups and sketchy or SD reaction shots. The backgrounds are water-colored looking but also smudgy and sketchy and poor quality most times.  As per usual, the first episode has some of the most interesting backgrounds, and they tend to fade into the practical after that.  They also user a lot of SD and close-ups, though it isn’t really distracting from the story, since it most involved character interactions and reactions anyways.

The opening and ending that are so damn catchy and easy to sing along that the whole household has been doing it for years, though the rest of the sound work is pretty mundane, occasionally cartoon-ish since it’s a silly show.

Overall, Princess Princess is nothing to write home about, unless your home LOVES silly and fun BL.  Then, you’re probably going to trumpet to the world.  If you’ve got an itch this show will scratch it fabulously, and so it’s highly recommended.  But if that’s not you, this isn’t going to be your cup of tea.  If you’ve never tried one and you’re not sure if you’d like it, Princess Princess is certainly a good one to give it a shot.  It’s definitely one of those shows that does what it does REALLY well. I would recommend to anyone who likes or is even curious about this kind of show.  Good stuff!

Review: Suki na Mono wa Suki Dakara Shouganai!! (aka, Sukisho)

So, this is a very, very BL 12 episode anime plus a one episode OVA.  They even let you know right off the bat by making the very first scene one where a main male character feels up the other in his sleep. It’s got everything a good daytime drama has: amnesia, split personalities, brainwashing, salacious implications, suspicious suicide attempts, manipulative villainous smexies, mad scientists, ghosts, mini-me, kaitou, costumes… All sorts of fun! A silly, fun show in it’s genre, but it’s REALLY in that genre, so not likely to be enjoyed by anyone who doesn’t like the genre itself.

The main character is Sora, and aside from his amnesia and split personality, he’s just trying to live a normal life.  The main love interest is Nao, who is in a similar boat, but unlike in All My Circuits, he doesn’t have amnesia.  The show then divides it’s time between ridiculous everyday antics, mostly instigated by their mutual friend Matsuri, and following the more serious plot exploring the main duo’s other personalities.

As is typical of BL titles, the production values are clearly not very high, though they are manageable, and not too glaringly awful.  The directing, art and animation are standard, if a bit pastel. The premise is also silly, but takes itself seriously towards the end. The plot is nearly nonexistent, and practically written by monkeys on crack, but it’s fun if you don’t think about it. The main characters hooked up immediately, and then they spend the rest of the show coming together emotionally and mentally, and physically off-camera.  It also has a fair amount of SD comedy silliness, physical comedy,  fanservice, and other Shounen Ai typical tropes.  It even features several BL common and beloved seiyuu! The main character switches between Midorikawa Hikaru and Koyasu Tahehito! Though that joke/pairing is esoteric, so only the genre-savvy are going to get that. As a matter of fact, it is so heavily invested in the tropes and themes of the Shounen Ai/BL genre, that for people who are familiar with the genre it will seems like everyday fare but for people new to the genre, it would probably be pretty overwhelming and nonsensical. Even for the genre-savvy, this show barely makes sense, especially once the angst-plot kicks in.

As is common to the genre, there is slash fodder EVERYWHERE, and the all-male cast gradually pairs off into gay-teams.  You can probably find some canon basis for almost any pairing you might fancy, though this show does have main canon pairings. I ADORE the secret passageway in ep 2! The handcuffs! Shinichirou and Nanami are adorable together, and I enjoy pairing them, though I usually like the adult couples more than the angsty teen ones.  I accept that they don’t make as entertaining TV most times though. Clearly, Yoru is my favorite character, because Yoru has heterochromatic eyes. ^_~  Though in all seriousness, how can you not squeal over a hot math teacher.  Clearly, Math = lounging in a leather jacket! And the next episode dance is adorable!

However, I really don’t like the way the adult characters break down melodramatically towards the end.  It feels OOC and just like a cheap plot ploy.  Though the whole stabbing thing really shows that the show is about the older couple, and their awesomeness, and the younger pair are just the fluffy co-stars.  I’m okay, but not really happy, with the explanation behind the split personalities. In general, the plot kicked in and kinda ruined the fun of this show, and it didn’t have much going for it before that.

So if you like BL, silly fluffy fun, a crazy premise, the occasional sexy action and an end-of-the-show-attack-of-the-angsty-backstory, then this show was fucking made for you. That’s why I liked it.  But if those things aren’t appealing at all to you, this show is not going to be your cup of tea. Best not to even bother with it. It’s mediocre on all fronts, and lacking in originality and coherent, believable plot.

Amagami SS: Wait a minute… Is this offensive?

So, I was watching Amagami SS.

It’s cute, low-key entertainment that is obviously based on a dating sim.  It follows a 100% nondescript, inoffensive and typical protagonist (I think they come in ten-packs at Costco), and his adventures with six (I know, he’s got a lot of options for a nothing-man) lovely ladies.  You know, standard dating sim fare.

Though I do like this show.  I am enjoying getting to know each of the girls and the burgeoning feelings.  It’s kinda the feeling of cloud watching on a warm summer day.  I think the presentation of their characters in interesting and that they feel well rounded and pleasantly more like real people than most dating sim characters (which are so often SO HEAVILY trope-based).

So, it exactly the kind of show the one Michelin star statement “Very good in it’s category” is meant to describe. So I’d recommend it.

But then I got to thinking.  It’s nice to get to know the girls, it’s nice that they have decently developed characters and aren’t just flat wank-fodder.  It’s nice to see female characters portrayed like people, with worries and hardships.  But the protagonist barely has any characterization.  His flat, uninterestingness might work well for a game, but it makes me totally uninterested in him. He has a single, count it, ONE sentence of characterization, and that’s his “I got stood up once” backstory.

Compare this to Yosuga na Sora, where I was very interested in the inner world, the life and times of Mr. Protagonist. Why bother even being from the male POV if he’s going to be the lukewarm addition. Wouldn’t the story be much better if it was just about the female characters? From their POV?  With it centered in his POV, it kinda gets so much of the offensiveness of dating sims, where it’s just men manipulating women for sex. When there is good characterization, does that somehow negate the IMMENSE objectification that sexualizing them, fanservice, and the whole genre in general regularly engage in?

I don’t know, and this show got me to thinking about that.  Because as a rule, objectification pisses me off and is a big check minus against a series.  I can only tolerate so much before it is only contributing to societal problems with sexual hostility towards women and other issues I take a firm stance against.  But this show, being a good one, does a better job at not doing those things.  But by the sheer “belonging to this genre” is it irredeemable? I’m not sure, but I’m glad it got me to thinking.