The Fall season of anime has been here for a few weeks now, so I guess it’s time to make a quick round-up of how well we’re doing.

First of all, boy, what a busy season it is. I’ve been watching a record 16 new series, along with a couple of multi-cour ones. That’s almost 20 episodes per week! Somehow, it seems that I’ve levelled up and achieved a higher rank of an anime fan – not only am I trying to be up-to-date with all the big hits, but I’m also watching more and more niche genres – harems, shoujo, etc. Obviously, this puts a huge dent in my precious free time, but I’m enjoying every second of it :)

Bakuman Season 3

The third season of Bakuman is one of these sure-bet projects that don’t disappoint. No matter how crappy the graphics, the interactions between the cast members and all the behind-the-scenes fact of the manga industry is more than enough to keep me watching this. While not spectacular in any way, Bakuman is a solid entertainment and a bright point in my weekly schedule.  I guess I can feel pretty safe about this series.

Opinion: Safe bet, holding just as steady as it has for the past two seasons.

BTOOOM!

BTOOOM! is a rather gritty show, one that tends to show the worst humans are capable of. What happens when you put a bunch of stranger on a deserted island and order them to play a survival game with bombs? Whatever’s gonna happen, I’m sure it ain’t gonna be pretty. We already had an attempted rape and several deaths in the first two episodes, and I expect more to come sooner rather later. Definitely not a series that I could recommend to somebody suffering from depression, though it has very solid visuals and the potential to become an excellent story about violence and human nature. We’re talking MADHOUSE here, they specialise in this kind of thing.

Opinion: Gritty, violent, MADHOUSE. Did I mention bombs? A little bit too dark and realistic, so that I feel a bit uncomfortable, but that’s a good sign.

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Coming from Kyoto Animation, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! is yet another high school story about not-so-normal teenagers suffering from delusional thinking. This one is rather easy to recommend – if you have liked K-ON!, then by all means try out this one. Otherwise, there might be just too much moe for you to handle. Obviously, since we’re talking KyoAni, the visuals are extremely impressive (though it isn’t Hyouka level visual porn), especially the battle scenes as imagined by Rikka. This only serves as a reminder what a fuckin’ waste it is that KyoAni is doing mostly moe slice-of-life shows instead of serious series (where’s my third season of Full Metal Panic! ?!). We have also some superb voice-acting, mostly (but not only) due to Lelouch’s Fukuyama Jun’s performance as the main character, Yuuta.

Opinion: Large amounts of KyoAni-level moe. I don’t expect much from the story, we’ll see how long Rikka’s antics and KyoAni’s visuals will last.

CØDE BREAK

CØDE BREAKER feels very… bland. We have a mysterious transfer student with a dark past and some awesome power, who acts as a local vigilantee, and a righteous girl, who’s the “good guy” and will most probably fall in love with the aforementioned guy. Almost like a typical shounen, but with more focus on a female lead. I can’t say that the visuals are bad, because they are rather solid, but they lack some kind of distinct style that would attract my attention.

Opinion: Will probably turn mediocre, though a quick glance at the manga reveals some dark and serious themes lurking out there, so perhaps this will yet turn into something worth my attention. For now, it’s looking like a prime candidate for dropping.

Jormungand – Perfect Order

Season Two of Jormungand, the spiritual successor to Black Lagoon. Once again, we return to that loco Koko and her band of mercenaries. This time, it seems as if we are seeing a glimpse of some bigger plot playing in the background – namely, the entire story of the satellites launched by Koko into orbit. This girl has some plans – and knowing her character, it’s one heck of a crazy conspiracy that will flip the balance of the worldly powers. It’s gonna be a treat to keep watching the unfolding events and Koko’s struggle against the (not so) fearsome CIA.

Opinion: Solid second season, with a possibility of an overarching plot. *The* successor to Black Lagoon. Need I say more?

K

The dark horse of this season, there was virtually no information regarding K before it premiered. All we knew from the trailers was that there would be a unique graphical style. For now, it’s hard to say anything really specific about K. The style, while definitely very unique, is far from gorgeous (you can see CGI quite clearly in some scenes) and cannot compete with KyoAni’s recent works. The story is a complete unknown even after two episodes, and the characters aren’t really convincing.

Opinion: Waiting for more material; what we have currently is promising, but I’m reserving my judgement for later, especially after Guilty Crown.

Little Busters!

Little Busters! – the anime that has been a topic of discussion long before it even had a release date. An adaptation of a Key visual novel that has received lots of praise, it was handed over to J.C. Staff instead of KyoAni, who customarily animated the other Key adaptations – Air, Clannad and Kanon. Fans have been outraged, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the track record of J.C. Staff’s adaptations. However, it seems that the criticism wasn’t well-deserved in this case – the studio is trying their best, and I can’t say a single bad word about the animation. On the other hand, I’m still not sold on the story. This being a Key series, we’ll surely have some emotional turbulence at some point, but at this point the show is just boring. Then again, Clannad needed one and a half season to become a masterpiece, so perhaps Little Busters! will become a hidden gem?

Opinion: Waiting for the story to go from introducing characters to the actual plot. Let’s see, if Key still can move that heart of mine.

Magi

A Japanese animation with an Arabic setting and with Alladin and Ali Baba as the two main protagonists? While only very loosely based on the mythology, Magi is nevertheless a refreshing change to all the other fantasy settings. It blends action, humour and serious talk in an almost perfect mix that is a pleasure to watch. On one hand, we have a shy jinn, a boy who is a powerful magi, a clumsy yet dependable Ali Baba-kun (God, that suffix sounds just hilarious in this case :D ). On the other, there is slavery, poverty and violence. This blend reminds me of another series – Fullmetal Alchemist, and since FMA is one of the best anime series I have ever seen, I am positively encouraged to continue watching Magi.

Opinion: Potential spiritual successor to Fullmetal Alchemist, gonna keep a close eye on this one.

Muv-Luv Alternative – Total Eclipse

While based on the setting of one of the most mind-fucking visual novels, Total Eclipse suffers from poor quality of animation, an overuse of CGI for battles and bland and stereotypical protagonists. It has its moments, and there’s always a promise of tragedy lurking just round the corner, but for now this show simply fails to deliver on its promise. Unless you’re a big fan of the Muv-Luv universe, I don’t think you’ll find much enjoyable in this series.

Opinion: Unimpressive. Still hoping that they will show something really gritty in the final stretch of the show, but my hopes are getting smaller and smaller with each week. Poor visuals don’t help.

Onii-chan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne!

Dat opening. Really, it’s been a while since I’ve seen such a suggestive OP. It doesn’t help that Akiko (the one with black hair) is the sister of the main protagonist. Incest is wincest, I know, but damn, even I didn’t expect they would take it so seriously. Keeping with the tradition of absurdly long titles for incest series, Onii-chan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne! isn’t in any way ambitious. But if you can appreciate all the sexual undertones and aren’t scared that a cute, perverted girl fell in love with her older brother, this show is kind of fun. While animation quality and the style of drawing is barely good enough not to complain, the voice-acting is a nice surprise. OniAi is the debut of Akiko’s VA, Kido Ibuki, who makes a marvellous work out of playing perverted and loud imouto. It’s  *especially* impressive since the other members of her brother’s harem are voiced by people like Chihara Minori and Kitamura Eri, veterans of high-profile anime series.

Opinion: It’s perverted, it’s silly, it’s wincest. Definitely not for everyone, but it keeps me entertained.

Psycho-Pass

A dark science-fiction/cyber-punk made by Urobuchi Gen, the guy who gave us all the suffering in Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero. Definitely one of the high-profile series of this season, Psycho-Pass has a potential to become a candidate for 2012 Anime of the Year title. The art looks good, animation is fluid  atmosphere is ominous and dark, serious themes are involved. Plus, the main male protagonist gives off a kind of Spike Spiegel-type vibe. Unless something goes terribly wrong, this is as sure bet as you get for this season.

Opinion: Definitely one of the best series this season, it has the potential to become a great experience – and *lots* of suffering, knowing Urobuchi Gen.

Robotics;Notes

A semi-colon in the middle of a tittle? That has to be a 5pb. production! Although the visual novel of Robotics;Notes wasn’t nearly as well-received as Steins;Gate and Production I.G. has replaced WHITE FOX, who made an excellent anime adaptation of S;G, a 5pb. series is always something to look forward to. This time, instead of time travelling, we have robots. While at the moment we have only a typical school setting, with a bunch of teenagers trying to create a robot, I am pretty confident that we will see some big-ass conspiracy soon enough. One has to wonder just what kind of a plot bomb 5pb. will drop on us this time. Visuals are… OK I guess. There isn’t much that I could complain about, but then it’s definitely not the quality and unique style of Steins;Gate, which is a shame.

Opinion: I wouldn’t call it a successor of Steins;Gate (my personal 2011 Anime of the Year), but anything with a similar storytelling type is more than welcome in my schedule.

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo

Now, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo has definitely been full of surprises. I initially didn’t expect much of it – true, a student dorm filled with wacky characters seems like a nice setting of a series, I fully believed that I was getting a slice-of-life/comedy show with extremely stereotypical characters. BOY, WAS I WRONG. Let’s take Shiina, the main heroine. She is as socially awkward as humanly possible, but she isn’t a klutz. True, perhaps she has no idea that one should wear underwear when meeting other people (especially true for girls) or pay money in a shop, but push comes to shove, she can be far more perceptive and intelligent than the supposedly normal male lead. And she’s one hell of a tease. The same goes for our resident genki girl, Misaki-senpai. Genki girls are usually extremely energetic, but idiotic at the same time. However, Misaki is far from this stereotype – she’s actually a true genius, capable of producing excellent animation. Apart from this rather drastic departure from typical character schemata, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo doesn’t comfort to one genre. Instead of being a slice-of-life, it’s quickly becoming a romantic story with elements of comedy. Episode 3 was an excellent example of this with all the focus on relationships between the two main pairs. Not many series dare to go that far in only three episodes.

Opinion: I’m getting far more from this show than I expected. This could potentially become a spiritual successor to Toradora and Ano Natsu no Matteru, though with a slightly different spin on things. A pleasant surprise.

Shinsekai Yori

This was the winner of the Nihon SF Taishō Award in 2008, which means that this was the best science-fiction story among ALL mediums in Japan. As far as manga and anime are concerned, only Neon Genesis Evangelion managed to get this award before. There were a lot of expectations for this series –  and Shinsekai Yori doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. It creates a tense atmosphere of uneasiness, enhanced by the cryptic flashbacks at the beginning of each episode. It builds its world by slowly revealing facts to the audience, but it always keeps the most important answers hidden. It is a dark story about a dystopian society, and I can only wonder where it will take us. I have to mention the score – it’s possibly the best music I’ve heard this season. So suggestive. I cannot wait for the soundtrack to come out.

Opinion: An excellent, mature science-fiction series about a dystopia. Possibly the best anime of 2012.

Space Brothers

Another already in its third cour, Space Brothers is, similarly to Bakuman, a steady series that is going forward at its own pace. Muuta’s struggle to get into the Japanese space program is one of those positive, afternoon series that you watch to relax yourself and try to feel just a little bit more optimistic. Actually, it’s so positive, that it has hardly any drama in it and feels more like a documentary. It could use at least a few true cliffhangers which aren’t immediately predictable.

Opinion: Solid show about space, though a little bit boring at times.

Sukitte Iinayo

The first of the two shoujo series I am currently watching, Sukitte Iinayo is the more typical one. An extremely shy girl and a smug guy who just happens to fall in love with her of all the dozens of girls around him. The main difference from this run-of-the-mill storyline are the characters. Mei, although shy, isn’t nearly as socially awkward as for example Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke, while the lead male – Yamato – isn’t the perfect, considerate gentleman that Kazehaya was. Instead, he more or less forces his way – just like that kiss at the end of episode 2. This puts an interesting spin on things, and I dare to say it’s a very good romantic story. What is interesting, though, is that while everybody is more or less praising the adaptation, there is a lot of criticism for the original material.

Opinion: A solid love story, similar to Kimi ni Todoke but with slightly more interesting characters. Gives off this familiar ‘warm’ feeling.

Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online – the perfect example of a marriage between an excellent premise and a terrible execution. Getting trapped in a MMO game, where losing all your HPs means death in real life? This is one awesome setting, especially since Aincrad and the rules governing it are quite interesting. Also, the majority of nerds have played a MMO at some point in their lives, which means that this is something we can refer to. It’s a familiar environment. Unfortunately, the rather sloppy writing has turned a masterpiece into just another mediocre work – the author concentrated on all the wrong things. Perhaps his rewrite of the original light novels will make better use of this interesting world. In the meantime, the adaptation is rather enjoyable, if uninspiring. The boss battles and Kajiura Yuki’s music are really something, and the visuals are also nothing to scoff at It’s just a freakin’ shame we’re getting fairies now.

Opinion: Poor execution, but I still hope that the second cour will be more or less enjoyable.

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun

The second shoujo show I’m watching this season, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun is in my opinion the more interesting one of the two. Shizuku isn’t really trying to be appealing as a heroine – she’s stubborn, concentrated on her studies, can be bad-mouthed at times… But then we can see that she does feel lonely at times because of her lack of friends, and she struggles with all her emotions. On the other hand, Haru is nothing like a typical shoujo gentlemanish lead – he can turn from an aggressive thug into a naive child in a manner of seconds. He is extremely intelligent, and yet totally hopeless when common sense is required. A girl obsessed on the point of learning meeting a guy who changes her views and allows her to make some friends… Doesn’t that ring a bell? Kare Kano comes to my mind whenever I think about the basic premise. The execution differs greatly between these two shows – with Kare Kano being more of a drama, and Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun going more into the romcom territory – but the basic idea behind both of them is quite similar.

Opinion: An interesting spin on a shoujo series, somewhat reminiscent of Kare Kano. Definitely worth watching.

Zetsuen no Tempest

Bones and their knack for theatrical drama. This time, we have lots of references to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by Zetsuen no Tempest – the animation quality is superb, almost at a movie-level, with fluid action scenes and many dramatic shots whenever somebody has anything important to say. Along with an interesting plot, a rather mysterious and menacing atmosphere and excellent music, this is probably an extremely under-appreciated show that deserves far more popularity. It’s not very often that we get a series that is so theatrical in its execution. If Bones can keep up this level of quality throughout the series, this may just become the dark horse of this season.

Opinion: Extremely theatrical, but in a good sense. One of the best series airing right now.

Trying to keep up with all these series while simultaneously studying two degrees and working on some other projects is kind of a pain, but truth to be told, there are just too many good series airing right now to just leave them be. O, cursed spite, that ever I was born to watch them all!

Advertisements