So a few things before we get started with this season's contenders to the final three seats to the "Super Six" throne.
First, I just finished off Kamisama Dolls a few minutes ago, and if it's not the most schizophrenic show I've ever seen, I'm going to have to have my memory jogged to what is. It just couldn't maintain an art style, pace, or theme for 13 episodes. It feels like the show had about eight different writers trying to write eight different shows, and they played Rock Paper Scissors to decide who got control of the show next. It's kind of a jumbled mess, actually, it's completely a jumbled mess.
Also just finished Mayo Chiki! which comes off the Super Six board with the end of the season. What a strange way to end the show, with something that seemed a bit like a filler episode that was misplaced and should have been in the middle of the season. Weak ending if there's not a second season, which I'm thinking is more likely than I would have expected. Otherwise, it's just a strange note to end the show on, not focusing on the main trio of the show and doing what seemed like an "alternate route" that didn't really lead anywhere. At least it wasn't the end of Kore wa Zombie desu ka? which with a thirteenth episode name like "Please Grope Me!" seemed imminent.
Of course a lot of news on Persona 4: The Animation with licensing for the US and streaming options announced. This is going to be a disaster. All the excitement drained away as soon as Sentai was announced as the license holder, which means no returning voice cast, probably a messed up rewrite of the script, and in the end there may be very little resemblance to the game. Sentai's track record has not been good, and it seems like every lethal mistake that can be made is about to happen here. I understand that most people think it's few who are complaining loudly, but Persona 4's a special case. If it were just a 2008 game getting an anime, it'd be one thing, but you're looking at releasing this series around the time that Persona 4: The Golden and Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena are being released. Persona 4: the Golden also requires the purchase of a, minimum $250, handheld console in the Playstation Vita which means if you screw this up, the biggest Persona 4 fans are going to be cash strapped enough to give you a pass on your DVD/Blu-Ray release. I hope they make something back off the streaming options, because the likelihood of buying this when it comes out is dwindling quickly.
On to the issue at hand.
Last I left off there were five of the "Super Six" series which have now ended (Mayo! Chiki, Usagi Drop, Tiger & Bunny, Steins;Gate, and Hanasaku Iroha), one which continues from last season (Mawaru Penguindrum), and two which are locked into replacement spots (Persona 4: The Animation and the second season of Bakuman). Here's where things get tricky, trying to figure out what, if anything, fills the other three slots that are emptied out. Here's a list of the things I find most promising before the season starts. Of course this is fluid and can change with the blink of an eye, or the release of a brilliant first episode.
C3: Cubed x Cursed x Curious
The lowdown: So we have a "naked rice thief" who is actually a cursed tool called "Fear in Cube". The finder of this thief in his home is, conveniently enough immune to such cursed tools, and even more conveniently is a high school student who lives alone, which means moving in is the only natural thing to do. Random self sufficient high school student #493 now defends Fear from those who want to study, destroy, or worship her.
Thoughts: So the best case scenario is that this is going to be some strange hybrid between Kore wa Zombie desu ka? and Puelle Magi Madoka Magica, the latter show I just couldn't drag myself into, but the previous I enjoyed thoroughly. The thing that made Zombie work for me though was the absurdity that kept piling on until the whole thing was so ridiculous that taking it seriously was a fools errand. He's a zombie, controlled by a necromancer, who steals a magical girl's powers and is supposed to get married to a vampire ninja because he accidentally kissed her? I have a hard time seeing C3 not taking itself far too seriously to reach those levels of insanity, but maybe it keeps enough of that nature and marries it with a darker show like Madoka to create something interesting. Or maybe this just turns into uncomfortable fanservice that I can ditch after an episode or two.
Prediction: I don't see C3 being a show that you're not going to make your mind up quickly about, so it's safe to contend, since whether or not it's going to be any good should be apparent quickly.
The lowdown: A loner uses his cell phone to report what he sees in the world to his "friend" Deus ex Machina. One day Deus writes back and invites him in a life or death game with the promise of godhood to the winner.
Thoughts: I don't think I could try to keep up with this and Steins;Gate at the same time, but since Steins;Gate is going away a psychological thriller should fit the bill and the premise of Mirai Nikki sounds interesting. Concepts like this can fall apart quickly, and it'll be interesting to see how the "hidden information" aspect of this quest for godhood plays out, but the idea of forcing people against either other in this manner is interesting to say the least. This could be some kind of bastard love child of Battle Royale and Chaos;Head, which might have been the thing that Chaos;Head needed to actually be good.
Prediction: I'm trying to be cautiously optimistic and remind myself that taut psychological thrillers like Steins;Gate don't happen very often. It's becoming increasingly hard not to throw caution to the wind with Mirai Nikki though, as the potential of this show is incredible. If this comes out strong, it'll probably receive a ton of critical buzz off the bat and lodge itself squarely in the Super Six.
The lowdown: Before the merging of an all-girls school with an all-boys school, Shingo Uyru is part of a group of boys sent to the girl's school early. The problem being that the girls hate members of the opposite sex which means Shingo's going to have a fight on his hands to be accepted, and pave the way for acceptance of the boys who will follow him into his new environment.
Thoughts: Wow, this sounds completely generic and terrible. I see buckets of blood, violence as ways of showing affection, nosebleeds from fanservice, and wait, that's Manglobe? Wow, am I really going to give this show a shot because I love Manglobe's previous work and I have faith that if they're doing this there might be something worthwhile here?
Prediction: Yes, I am going to watch it although the warning flags are flying at full mast going in. I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised, although I sense a disaster.
The lowdown: The sequel to Last Exile follows a sky pirate named Fam as she becomes embroiled in the war between the Kingdom of Turan and the Ades Federation.
Thoughts: I really enjoyed Last Exile, and while many might have a higher opinion of it than I have, I still hold it in high regard. The animation was beautiful,and while I'm not a huge steampunk fan, I can see this show holding my attention as long as it remains as interesting as it's predecessor. This is going to hinge a lot on Fam and how interesting she is. I'm not going to be attracted to the show by pretty airships alone, and it's going to be the story being told that's going to maintain my interest here.
Prediction: I can see watching this show all the way through and enjoying it, but I don't see it rising to the level of a Super Six show unless a lot falls flat around it. I can see it hitting a Kamisama no Memochou level at least, as long as it's half as strong as the series it's following.
The lowdown: As much as Shu tries to hide his power to extract weapons from his friends, an encounter with a member of the resistance group Undertaker will force him to use his powers.
Thoughts: There's a lot to like here, with Production I.G. doing the animation, the director having credits on Death Note, and the screenplay being from the person who wrote Code Geass. The problem is that by the time that Code Geass started it's second season, I was completely sick of how self serious the show had become, and it might have worn my tolerance down to any such similar tricks pulled in this show. There's a lot of potential, but I have the fear that it's going to be preachy and I don't know if I have the patience to put up with that long enough to let it develop.
Prediction: I have a bad feeling I'm going to bail on this show before it evolves into something great. I have a worse feeling I might hold on and it won't develop into something great.
Thoughts: Another show that I might drop in a hurry, depending on what this show is supposed to accomplish for the Fate universe. In my opinion, a prequel is supposed to create an onramp for people who aren't already fans of the show to join in, not fan service for existing fans. It's the creation of a new entry point for those who haven't followed the Fate series up to this point, and should require little to no knowledge of that series except to know that there's more of it out there if they enjoy this. If Fate/Zero is fan service for those already indoctrinated I'm going to be out of here faster than you can Hen Zemi, if it's a new entry point, then I might stick around and see what people who are already fans see in this.
Prediction: It's fan service, and not (just) the kind that shows pantsu. I'll last an episode, maybe two, but that's it.
The lowdown: Ayase Chihaya stops following her dreams for others and begins following her dreams for herself through learning the card game karuta.
Thoughts: The artwork is speaking to me, and the idea of females being involved in competitive card games is one I have particular interest in. Years ago, I used to run my share of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Magic: the Gathering, and Pokemon tournaments, and trying to figure out the mentality of females who were in the room was one of the most perplexing problems as an organizer I faced. The opportunity to see this perspective with some time removing me from running those events could bring back some memories or show some insights that I was too close to the situation then to understand.
Prediction: There's a lot of love for the manga that this is based off of, and like Mirai Nikki, it's hard to temper my interest in this show. There's potentially a seat at the table for Chihayafuru if it follows through on it's premise. Then again, it could be Yu-Gi-Oh! with a female protagonist.
The lowdown: When a normal high school student runs into a beautiful but unpleasant girl talking to her imaginary friend, they decide to form a club to find others who lack the skills to make friends of their own.
Thoughts: There's lots of way to do high school comedy, but it's all based on the characters and how they interact. There's interesting ways you can do a premise like this right, but there's so many ways that it can go horribly wrong as well. A peek in at this situation should, like C3, make it readily apparent whether this is going to go in a good or bad direction quickly.
Prediction: I think either this or C3 is going to go well, but I have a hard time believing both are going to succeed. I think that this actually might be the stronger of the two and could be a surprise this season if the comedy is good and the characters well realized.
Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere
The lowdown: People who return to Earth from the skies reproduce the events in a book called "Testament" in order to return to the skies again. The book ends in the year 1648, which happens to be the year that the anime takes place.
Thoughts: It's interesting to see what this show is going to try to be. Is it a diatribe on fate? Does it focus on the actions of people who are face to face with an end of world prophecy? What happens when the book runs out of pages, but time marches on? It's too early to tell where Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere is going to go, but there's a lot of fascinating directions it could move in. I might give this show a bit more rope than others just because I think it's going to take a while to reveal itself.
Prediction: I'm cautiously optimistic that this show can go in interesting places and could be incredibly entertaining. I'm also aware that I might get roped in waiting for something which never happens.
After taking an initial look without seeing a single episode from the fall season, here's the new Super Six going into week zero. This can, should, and probably will change as shows begin to air.