The slow trickle at the end of the Fall Season's launch ended with UN-GO and Guilty Crown hitting airwaves this week, and while many shows are into their second or third (in the case of Squid Girl) episode, all others have at least started to display their opening moves enough to start forming opinions. While I've deviated a bit in what I wanted to watch, but did so to revisit Samurai Champloo on Netflix, I've still watched probably more anime in the last week than I've played Dark Souls, which is a shame since that game's pretty damn good. That being said, some of the new season hasn't been half bad either, and some was flat out incredible.
Additions to the Super Six from the Fall Season have been a mixed bag, with the two shows I earmarked for automatic invitation getting off to uneven starts before righting themselves with strong second episodes. In the meanwhile, two shows didn't wait for an invitation to sit down at the table and glare menacingly at anyone who'd deny them the stature, they just up and did it and I couldn't be happier. Mawaru Penguindrum still continues on it's magnificent path and with all the focus on newer shows, it should still be pointed out that this show, which I used to replace the dreadful R-15 last season, is fantastic and should be in line for a marathon to anyone who likes a good mind-bender. That being said, the focus goes back on the new stuff now.
Persona 4: The Animation: As many people have already pointed out, the beginning to Whiskey Media's most awaited anime got off to a bit of a rocky start. It wasn't the animation which was fine, and it certainly wasn't the music which falls in line with your opinion of Shoji Meguro's original tracks (which are being reused liberally), but instead was the fact that the pacing was hectic. It seemed like the animators were tasked with two things to accomplish by the end of the first episode, and held at gunpoint to get those things in before the ending credits. First, Nanako must sing the Junes song. Second, someone, and by someone I mean Yu, better summon a Persona and go to town on some shadows. Getting to that point seemed to be the main focus, as all of the other points that are made in the game before that point were glossed over. Fortunately, the battle scene was good which bodes well for the future of the show, and Nanako is cute. (Maybe not Kaga Rin cute, but seriously, who is?)
Like Angel Beats!, there seems to be an initial rush to throw as much content as you as possible while giving you as little context as they can. Seiji Kishi has gone back to the same well from the previous series, which would be disconcerting if not for the fact that he executed it well with Angel Beats! and will need to do so again if he's to keep Persona 4 from alienating potential new fans. The first four episodes seem to be set, however, and the pacing issues which plagued the first episode started to fade as the second episode began. There was more time for conversation and to let the characters stop rushing about and show who they were, and the show was able to slow down and let those characters shine through. It seems that the stopping point for the second episode was Yosuke's awakening, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Chie and Yukiko follow in the next two episodes. It'll be interesting to see if it awakens a character an episode for the first four, and then really slows down the introductions and spends more time on their interactions with each other and the town they live in. Inaba's a fascinating place with some very fascinating characters, and is a terrific location that deserves to be explored.
One of the things that many people, myself included, keyed in on was the intermission screen which showed an actual status screen for Yu, and on closer inspection showed all of his stats at minimum in the first episode. Speculation could be had on whether this was going to be important, and if it could be used as a vehicle to take the cipher and grant him direction and personality. It's a pretty brilliant use of the game's mechanics, as is the use of the calendar, which serves as a nostalgia point, but can also quickly pass on important information. When the "Bravery" stat went up for episode 2, it brought a smile to my face, and we'll see how long it takes to point out the weather icons on the calendar which will point out how close important events are to occurring. I love the use of these screens from the game in this way, and hope that it doesn't lose it's luster by the end of the show since I think it's brilliant.
Bakuman: Season 2: Like Persona 4, the second episode of Bakuman was more in line with what I expected the show to be like, although the central issue was one that I hope they don't draw from too often. While Mashiro is beginning his journey into becoming a manga-ka, Miho has already had a running start to her voice acting career in the first season. The second episode centers around an offer of a picture book which would include some "sketchy" pictures of her in a bathing suit. Mashiro loses focus and Takagi and Miyoshi are forced to scramble to reel him back in while they still have the use of their assistants. Speaking of assistants, I like how the three are slowly being drawn out of their shells and are being worked in to working with Mashiro and Takagi. The conversation between Mashiro and Takahama was an icebreaker which needed to happen, as it looked like he was being lost in the shuffle, but taking a close look at his motivations you see that he may be as driven to succeed as Mashiro, and may have greater aspirations. Like Persona 4's second episode, it's a terrific rebound from the shaky start of the season and any worries I had that it might not be as good as hoped are fading quickly.
Chihayafuru: I mentioned in my previous blog how much I liked the initial episode of Chihayafuru, and how much I was looking forward to seeing where it was going. The show has not disappointed at all, and while it's not pressing new ground in the second episode for originality, it succeeds in solid execution. I like how the show didn't start with the three characters in the time frame this episode takes place in, because it would be easy to start developing a raging hatred for Taichi, and how much of a bastard he is at this point in time. To see that he may have matured out of the phase he's in during this episode might temper animosity more than the scene with his mother at the end of the Karuta match. The match itself also did well to develop the characters strengths and show some of their strong points. Wataya shows that even blind he's more than a match for most karuta players by his powers of sheer memorization. Taichi shows the ability to observe and exploit Wataya's weakness (which he created) by seeing how Wataya is winning and thwarting the plan by moving the cards around. Chihaya meanwhile makes up for her lack of knowledge of the poems by using the physical techniques she's adopted from Wataya to beat Taichi to the punch and stay even with him. It's a great way to show different strengths for each character and avenues where they can teach or thwart each other. It'll be interesting to see how long they stay at this point in time, as they have plenty of episodes to work with, but if they stick in this time frame too long, it may do damage to Taichi's character unless he learns from the error of his ways and develops into the character they show in the first episode starting now.
Mirai Nikki: I thought that I might miss Steins;Gate for a while, but Mirai Nikki looks to be up for the task of taking the sci-fi mindbender role and running with it. I love a show with a good premise, and Mirai Nikki has it. The show centers around Yukiteru Amano, who may just be a hikikomori in training. Maybe the saving grace for him is that he's interested in observing his surroundings while wanting to interact with those surroundings as little as possible. He dutifully marks observations in his cell phone and is happy with his imaginary friends, like Deus. Deus decides to switch things up, and begins writing Amano's diary for him, in advance. By the end of the episode, you find that a game is afoot, with 12 players, and the one left standing being given the prize of taking Deus's role as the God of Space and Time. Maybe I'm just happy with another anime which manipulates time in a completely different way, but it seems to take Steins;Gate seat before it ever got cold and lay claim to it. Without having read Future Diary, there's so many places this game can go, and most of them sound fascinating.
Vying for the Last Seat
Un-Go: I liked the first episode of Un-Go, although, like Persona 4, it seems to have some pacing problems. One of the things that I love about anime, is that it has the tendency to be serial and not episodic. Kamisama no-Memochou, another show about detectives, got around potential pacing problems during the beginning of it's run last season by having an hour long first episode. It used that extra time to introduce the characters and concepts as well as give you a sample of it's mystery solving mechanics, and unfortunately Un-Go has no such fortune. It seemed to spend a lot of time introducing characters, had something happen, and got to the point of solving the mystery. The problem is that the fun you have watching a mystery is trying to figure it out before the detective does, but Un-Go uses so much information unseen to the viewer, that you can't "play along" with it. The characters are strange enough to warrant further inspection, and maybe there's enough recurring characters to allow such a thing. But if the show falls into a rhythm like the first episode, where it introduces a heap of characters that you'll only see this episode and no further, it might be too vexing to continue.
Verdict on Un-Go after episode 1: It's a hold for now, leaning towards keep, if slightly.
Mashiro-iro Symphony: So it's not terrible, which is a relief, but it did something that anime series shouldn't do, which is make me want to watch a different series from the studio. After watching two episodes of Mashiro-iro Symphony, the thought crossing my mind wasn't anticipation for episode 3, but rather a desire to go back and watch Samurai Champloo, which is exactly what I did. I might keep watching and use it as an inoffensive series to play around with doing some Wiki work on Anime Vice with, and maybe the relationships with the characters take hold over time and turns me around into really liking the show, but right now it's nowhere near as good as other Manglobe series, and if I saw it there's no way I could peg this coming from the same studio which made Deadman Wonderland. The World God Only Knows, or Samurai Champloo.
Verdict on Mashiro-iro Symphony after episode 2: I might keep watching it, but for purposes of using it to learn how to use the wiki edit functions better since it looks like no one else has done much more than put a first episode title down.
Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!: Ok, the good news, Momoyo isn't Yamato's sister. The bad news, if the fight scenes weren't interesting, this show wouldn't have any redeeming value left. I haven't found a character to gravitate to and root for, as all of them seem to be as shallow as the deep end of an emptied swimming pool. Oh, you could have something here, I'm just not seeing it and you're running out of time to show me something I'm willing to stick around for. I'm not sure what it's going for at this point with it's "mission" structure, and use of lethal/non-lethal weaponry outside of it's usual battleground. Again, this show has a real chance of driving me into watching the second season of Baka to Test instead of this.
Verdict on Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai! after episode 2: It's a hold, but quickly losing it's grip. If it has a trump card, it better use it, and quick.
C Cube: You know, I was coming close to shrugging my shoulders and walking away from this one about halfway through the second episode. I didn't like the characters, I was finding it boring, and I didn't see any reason to continue. Then it breaks into an insane fight scene, one good enough that it earned the watch of a third episode. Maybe it was the intention of C Cube to lull me into a false sense of the duldrums before bringing out the chaos and raining blood and violence down upon it's unsuspecting viewer. And I just may hate Fear-in-Cube enough to root for the bad girl, as her "cute" antics are making me wish for a Madoka Magica episode 3 repeat. Ok, maybe I don't hate her that badly, but then again, maybe I do. I guess I'll have to keep watching to find out, so victory goes to Fear this time, but you better do your best Lucy impersonation in episode 3 to make me care.
Verdict on C Cube after episode 2: I'm going to keep watching, because I really liked the fight at the end of the second episode, but unless there's some major character shifts, this one's on very thin ice and about to fall into the drop pile if it doesn't deliver some character development I care about, or Elfen Lied levels of violence.
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai: Funny that this and C Cube both end up down here, as both are shows that I had hesitation going into the season to watch. But unlike C Cube, I liked the first episode of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai quite a bit. There's potential that hasn't been ruined so far, and the dynamics between the three characters seems like it could go in interesting places. There's sure to be more characters which gives this show the opportunity to either build a strong cast, or fall in on it's own weight. It's an interesting spin having the "popular" girl join the club to find friends because at least she's smart enough to realize that a friend and sycophant are completely different things, but not unwilling to use those sycophants to make her life easier. Sena's just manipulative enough that she might cause more tension because she's accustomed to getting what she wants more than her developing rivalry with Yozora. Kodaka also has a good reason to be lumped in with them, and I appreciate that they'd give a decent explanation for why he'd be in need of this "Neighbor's Club". He's going to be the lynchpin if this show holds together, and it'll be through his eyes that most viewers will watch the show.
Verdict on Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai after episode 1: Not bad, but still has lots of room to either turn great or, more likely, into a giant mess. It has some time to reveal it's ultimate direction at this point.
Next week, I'll hopefully have had time to watch Fate/Zero and Guilty Crown, and more time can be taken for the shows above to shake themselves out.