This new anime season brought about a good number of titles (eleven to be precise) that I decided to try out for myself, some being highly anticipated titles among fans for this season. Some I chose to drop for one reason or another, some I’m not sure how to judge and others that I’m already looking forward to seeing what transpires with them. From slice-of-life titles to a comedy about brawling for discounted bentos, here are my thoughts thus far of 11 anime titles that started up this season.
1. Fate/ Zero
Having watched my way through Fate/ Stay Night and heard that the animators behind the Kara no Kyoukai movie series were going to animate this series, Fate/ Zero was definitely on my radar for titles I chose to seek out being the prequel to Stay Night. And thus far, the series hasn’t disappointed me. Ufotable hasn’t disappointed in the visuals department as Fate/Zero sports some impressively detailed scenery shots and sporting clean-looking character designs, a vast improvement over Stay Night. There hasn’t been much to see in terms of animation highlights for the series thus far since the first two episodes have been used to introduce the Masters and Servants, though there are moments such as the summoning of Servants and the shocking finale to episode two. The first episode notably ran for nearly 50 minutes introducing most of the Masters and their backgrounds. It also introduced a few of the prominent characters from Stay Night when they were children (Rin and Sakura) showing how they were brought up within their families. The series shows itself as being darker than Stay Night with some nasty and disturbing scenes shown at points in the first two episodes, including one which reveals a shocking element to Sakura’s past. I see this title being my definite choice for this season.
2. Bakuman 2
Considering I found the first series to be somewhat enjoyable despite my issues with the eccentric character behavior and Mashiro/ Azuki’s love developments, I decided to press on into seeing Bakuman’s second season. While the series does introduce some new characters in the form of a new editor and staff working for Mashiro and Takagi, the series is more or less the same in terms of what I liked and disliked from the first season. While it still believably explores the challenges faced by Mashiro and Takagi to be successful manga-ka, it’s still stuck with the over-the-top character behavior and believability stretching developments of Mashiro and Azuki’s “we won’t get together until we’re famous” relationship. Considering I’ve gotten used to these two unnecessary elements to the show, I guess this will be another title I’m sticking with, though I’m not too latched on it.
3. Kimi to Boku
This slice-of-life series is different in the fact that rather than focus on a circle of friends who are high school girls, it focuses on boys. However, this one felt very dull to watch compared to the typical energetic and chirpy moe gals you would expect from the opposite sex. The four boys focused on in the series have deadpan voice acting from their seiyuu, the humor is very dry and I couldn’t get any sense of mood coming from it whatsoever in the first half of the first episode I seen before I chose to just ditch the series all together because it was actually boring the hell out of me, which is a rarity considering titles I typically drop annoy or frustrate me due to being too formulaic or rushed for their own good.
4. Tamayura – Hitotse
This season’s slice-of-life series focused on four high school girls and their everyday activity. It seems Japan is still milking the daylights out of this genre to pander to the otaku crowd. And embarrassingly enough, I got fooled into Tamayura because of the first episode’s bittersweet mood from main gal Fu lamenting over the loss of her father before moving away. My perceptions of the first episode were mixed considering the musical selections tried to ham up the mood in their forced attempt to make me feel something towards Fu’s situation yet I pressed on with the series anyway. Unfortunately in the second episode, I realized what I had walked into. From what I seen in the first half of the second episode before dropping the series, the typical elements of this type of anime are still around: hit or miss comedic delivery from bizarre behavior from the characters and focusing on the everyday interactions between the girls who have their archetypal quirk that has been done to death in enough anime I’ve seen. Thanks, but no thanks!
5. Phi-Brain: Kami no Puzzle
There are many times where I can take Anime News Network’s word on watching a title I originally never planned to see because they had positive impressions of the show’s first episode (Mawaru Penguindrum being the most recent case). However, Phi Brain is a rare case where I didn’t find myself on the same page with ANN regarding possible interest in the series. The premise for it seemed like something pulled out of a shounen series focusing on male lead Daimon solving seemingly impossible and life threatening puzzles from a secret society while having a special power that allows him to challenge the group. From what I seen of Phi Brain’s first episode, the premise was hard to take seriously and the ways in which puzzles were solved by Daimon were contrived enough where I was reminded of seeing how Detective Conan went through its routines of mysteries getting solved. I don’t think I can put up with said antics for a whopping 25 episodes thus I ditched Phi Brain after seeing its first episode.
As unusual as the premise sounds, Chihayafuru’s focus on Chihaya’s interest in the obscure Japanese card game of karuta is a fairly original one that I’m enjoying. In a way, the series reminds me of Hikaru no Go in that it focuses on how a real-life game influences the growth of the characters connected to it. Thus far, the series explores the past of Chihaya as a grade school student where she develops a bond with poor transfer student Arata and his commitment to karuta inspires her to be more active and interested in the game. I’m looking forward to seeing how things further develop with Chihaya’s interest in karuta.
7. Persona 4- The Animation
Apparently based on a Playstation 2 RPG game, I’m normally cautious of approaching anime adaptations of video games because of how sloppy or mediocre said titles can be as they assume the viewer has played the games and they don’t bother elaborating on details of the game to new fans. Fortunately for Persona 4, that vibe hasn’t affected me thus far as this series is doing a solid job at taking its time to build up its plot and introduce prominent characters thus it made the series approachable for me. From what I’ve made out of events thus far, a serial killer is killing their victims through the creatures present in a parallel dimension through televisions where three high school students find themselves tasked with tracking down the culprit while making use of avatars called Personas to aid them in fighting the creatures of this dimension. The visuals to the series are a bit of a mixed bag where scenery and character designs look sharp with a great amount of detail in most shots, though the quality tends to drop in far shots with characters and when they are in battle within the “TV world”. Also, the narrative style for the series did get a bit confusing for me at points with the show getting in the habit of switching around its time frame at differing points throughout both episodes. Still, this is one of the better anime adaptations I’ve seen of a video game series thus far and I’m willing to press on with how things work out with Persona 4.
8. Mirai Nikki
Another of this season’s anticipated titles considering I’ve heard folks frolic for the manga adaptation of the series, I decided to check out Mirai Nikki to see what made it tick. In a way, this series reminded me of Deadman Wonderland in terms of the kind of mood and premise it wanted to convey with a youth unwillingly thrust into extraordinary circumstances, being gritty and not bothering to explain much about how the situation came to be. However unlike Deadman Wonderland, the first episode of Mirai Nikki doesn’t rush its developments to toss its lead Yukiteru into the hell of Deus Ex Machina’s twisted game as it takes its time to introduce his character in the first half of its first episode and give viewers a taste of how the show will be within its second half with the encounter of a serial killer also involved in Deus’ twisted survival game. While I was still wondering how Yukiteru became acquainted with a powerful being like Deus, at least Mirai Nikki didn’t leave me fuming over rushing Yukiteru into Deus’ game without providing much explanation over the events after the first episode like Deadman Wonderland did with quickly throwing Ganta into the prison. For now, I plan to stick with this series.
If you’re looking for an original comedy to dive into this season, look no further than Ben-To. Taking me by surprise within its first episode, the series features the unusual premise of high school students brawling over discounted bento boxes at a supermarket. The characters are your typical archetypal bunch within a high school series with the clueless newcomer student (Yo), the timid and energetic girl (Hana) and the seemingly quiet and reserved girl (Sen). However, the execution of the comedy in this series is clever and bizarre with characters taking the bento brawling seriously and turning the typical “student struggling to live on his own” plot device topsy turvy. I can definitely consider Ben-To as my comedy title of choice for this season.
10. Guilty Crown
My watch of Guilty Crown’s first episode gave me vibes of Code Geass and I’m not sure if this is supposed to be good or not thus far. Essentially, you can think of the show’s setup in the first episode as running on a template of the latter: corrupt foreign government takes over Japan, terrorist group is committed to halting foreign occupation, clueless and unassuming male lead gains superpower from a female partner to off enemy threat, male lead becomes involved with terrorists to oppose the foreign presence in Japan. The mood of Guilty Crown is more dismal, less focused on mechas and nowhere as over-the-top compared to Code Geass yet it is coming across as unoriginal. On the other hand, this series offers up perhaps the best overall presentation you can expect of TV anime titles this season with its high quality visuals, fluid and intense battle scenes and great musical selections with female character Inori singing a powerful ballad at a couple points in the first episode. Yet with a premise that I’ve seen done before, I’ll have to give this series a few more episodes to see it does anything different to determine if I will get latched on it or not, especially as this is one of a good number of titles this season that will run for 20+ episodes.
On the surface thus far, Un-Go appears to be your typical mystery anime featuring a self-contained case of the detective solving a murder mystery with multiple suspects possible and narrowing down clues to determine who the culprit is. However, the series offers up a few hints that it may be more than it seems on the surface considering the unusual behavior and ability of Shinjuro’s assistant Inga and hints of some tragic events that occurred within the near-future setting that Un-Go is set up in. Like Guilty Crown, I’ll also be giving this series a few more episodes to see where it goes and see if I gain any interest in it.