I’ll just come right out and say that this has been a pretty unremarkable season. None of the shows this season have really inspired me to write anything, and there are only a few that I’m even enjoying all that much. I’ve still got plenty to watch thanks to the large number of carry-overs from last season – namely JoJo, Hunter x Hunter, Space Bros, Psycho Pass, Shinsekai, and Little Busters (which has somehow managed to pull off three decent episodes in a row before falling back into groan-worthy territory), but the new shows just aren’t doing much for me.It’s not that there are a lot of bad shows this season, it’s just that they’re all some degree of mediocre. The majority of what I’m watching falls into the “I don’t hate it” category rather than the “I like it” category. Also, there are a lot of 3-minute shorts, which makes this list kinda hard because even after three or four episodes, there isn’t a lot of content to judge them on. So yeah, basically, if this post seems like I’m phoning it in, it’s because I am. You can pretend it’s symbolic of how the season is phoning it in or something like that. Anyway, the list:
Dropped With Extreme Apathy:
Apart from the admittedly pretty-all-right OP song, the first episode of Ishida and Asakura was pretty much a mess. It might have benefited from a longer runtime if it had gotten one, but the two minutes we got were pretty poorly stitched together. I have zero clue what this show is going for, and I don’t care to learn either. Dropped at episode 1.
I don’t have anything interesting to say about Hakkenden, because there wasn’t anything interesting about it. Dropped at episode 1 and a half.
Four episodes into OreShura and the only reason I’m still watching is because there are more than three characters in the OP and I’m waiting to see if any of them are any good. One of them will be introduced in the next episode, so that is its last chance. Like most light novel adaptations, this one completely lost me once it finished the initial setup and only got worse from there, to the point where I skimmed over about 75% of episode 4. JoJo references are literally all this show has going for it now, besides maybe the OP. Soon-to-be-dropped at episode 5.
Problem Children Are Coming From Another World, Aren’t They? had me vaguely curious where it would go after the first episode. It seemed like a show about the characters using superpowers to compete in some kind of Kaiji-like gaming tournament with games of skill and chance where creative use of your ability can give you an edge to winning some Big Prize (or avoiding some Big Punishment). The second and third episodes have decisively shown that this will not be the case, and that it will instead be about our heroes (of which only one is really all that much of a “problem child”) getting into relatively straightforward fights with generic Demon Monsters who are doing generic Evil Things. It’s not a bad show, but it does absolutely nothing to stand out and I don’t care enough to keep going. Dropped at episode 3.
Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is a show that lives up to its name, in that I am not at all motivated to watch it. Sasami-san has some neat visual quirks, as expected from SHAFT, and I enjoy how Sasami refuses to sing the ending theme each week while her brother futilely tries to egg her on, but any appeal the source material might have is so alien to me that even SHAFT’s stylish presentation is not enough to save it. The only investment I have had in this show thus far was empathy for Sasami’s plight in episode two when the other girls were all touching her stuff. Dropped at episode 3.
I’m honestly surprised at how long GJ-bu held my attention. Despite my typical apathy toward shows like this I somehow didn’t start getting bored of it until around episode 3 – it’s an inoffensive, by-the-books 4-koma adaptation, but it’s pretty capably-handled and occasionally hits the mark with its humor. If this was one of the many short shows this season I’d be all over it, but I don’t really feel up to watching 12 24-minute episodes, especially since it’s somewhat hit and miss and the buildup-to-payoff ratio it puts forward is a bit too high. I got some mild amusement out of the first few episodes, though, and if you’re a bigger fan of inconsequential 4-koma stuff than I am then I’d recommend giving it a shot. Dropped at episode 3.
Not-Dropped(-Yet) With Extreme Apathy:
Sadly, Mangirl is neither a show about girls who are actually men, nor a show about men who are actually girls. The “man” is actually for “manga.” In the end, the hilariously unfortunate title is the funniest part of the show, in which the only joke is that the editor-in-chief of the manga company is a terrible person and a terrible editor-in-chief and that she should be fired because without her the show might actually be interesting, if still not very funny. What’s kept me watching (aside from the three-minute episode length) is that – funny or not – I would happily watch a series of shorts about manga creators running a manga magazine, and until the editor-in-chief opens her mouth, it does that decently well.
Tamako Market is a big, steaming pile of unnecessarily-well-animated nothing. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to keep watching it, because 90% of each episode consists of cute girls doing boring things that make me feel like I’m wasting my time sitting through it. Kyoto Animation’s obsession with mathematically precise cuteness is becoming so grating that the stellar animation they use to generate it has almost become a negative point to their shows for me. Despite such a massive majority of the series being too dependent on empty moe for my stony heart to enjoy, there are a few things keeping me going. There have been a few moments where the girls’ cute quirks have actually worked – in episode three, for example, the scene with megane-chan practicing her “it was fun” speech in front of a mirror and the scene where the girl fixed the locker both got a smile out of me. Though I don’t like the bird as much as some other people, I do admit that he adds a unique element to the show and is effective at making things actually happen, which saves Tamako Market from being completely empty of content. The OP and ED are both pretty catchy. But the saving grace of the show is really the townspeople. The random adults who run the market. It’s a group of people you don’t often see getting attention in anime, and there’s a talented voice cast behind many of them, and just seeing them do what they do is far more interesting than anything our boring high-school-girl heroines have done all series, especially the FLORIST PRINCESS and the two dads who are always bickering about this or that. I would be much more enthusiastic about this show (read “enthusiastic at all about this show”) if it was more about the shop owners than about Tamako and her moe-moe entourage. Just for them, I will give Tamako Market another episode or two to prove that it can be more than these few episodes have shown.
Eh, Why Not:
Cuticle Detective Inaba has a strong cast of wacky characters and the occasional funny joke, but it has zero sense of comedic timing. As in, I think the first episode may be legitimately one of the most poorly-timed pieces of comedy I have ever seen, throwing gag after gag so fast you can’t even tell that a joke happened, and loudly explaining every one of them before the punchline was halfway done. The jokes were literally pushing and shoving each other out of the way in an attempt to be heard. To be fair, though, this is the director’s first time at the helm, and he seems to be significantly improving as he learns the ropes; most importantly, he seems to have realized that he needs to SLOW DOWN. Villains Don and Lorenzo, along with Ogino’s awesome daughter, are definitely the highlights of the show – they are quite a hoot whenever they’re on screen. Admittedly, beyond that, most of my enjoyment comes from laughing at how shamelessly it panders to the fujoshi crowd (lots of jokes about the characters being gay for each other and a little overboard on the SD/chibi stuff and sparkles/roses/etc) – in other words, not at the jokes themselves. Still, it’s enough to make the episodes fly by, it seems to be steadily finding a pace that works for it as the director finds his footing, and it hits the humor mark frequently enough to keep me going.
Senyuu seems like it should be funny, but I’m often not sure what I’m supposed to be laughing at. There are a few goofy moments in each episode, but never anything worth more than a slight “heh heh”. Really the reason this is so high on the list is because the fact that it’s three minutes long means that about half of each episode’s runtime consists of the JAM Project OP and ED, the former of which especially is incredibly awesome (though for some reason is cut from Crunchyroll’s stream).
Vividred Operation is a show about BUTTS. One of the biggest reasons I enjoyed Girls und Panzer but have never cared to pick up Strike Witches is that the latter is filmed almost exclusively from between little girls’ legs, while the former’s director pushed a strict no-pantyshot policy. Vividred takes the Strike Witches approach, and not only is it really distracting to have little-girl-butts filling the screen, and detrimental to the direction to try and shoehorn them in instead of using a more effective shot, but I prefer being able to not feel like a total creep when I’m watching stuff. Beyond its sleazy side, Vividred is a decent mechanical magical-girl-ish show in the vein of Nanoha, and it’s very bright, colorful, and energetic to boot (or should I say “to butt”?). It has the potential to be a decent amount of silly fun if you don’t think about it too much, provided it keeps its indecent side down to a minimum.
While Ishida and Asakura was all-over-the-place in a bad way, Ai Mai Mi is all-over-the-place in a good way. There’s really no telling where each episode is going to go, but it starts off strange and just keeps building momentum for its entire three-minute run until it reaches its even stranger conclusion, usually with some amount of ridiculous violence thrown in for good measure. The art style is decidedly 90s, and combined with its 8-bit ED theme it gives the show a very retro aesthetic. While a good deal of what goes on is pretty dumb, there’s enough logic to the insanity and just enough cleverness in each episode to bring it together into something solidly above-average.
Yama no Susume is another of those short series, and manages to set itself apart in that it is about mountain climbing. The first two episodes were pretty lackluster, and the pacing starts out pretty slow given the three-minutes-a-week runtime, but three and four have started to introduce the actual mountain-climbing aspect of the show, with some hill climbing, cooking practice, and supply shopping. Even if the show isn’t the most enthralling thing out there, moe mountain climbing is still mountain climbing, which is a fairly unique subject within anime, and that alone gives it some leverage. It also means there’s a clear goal for the story, and each episode has been climbing a little higher toward that final peak of actually hiking up a mountain. It gives the show some flow that a lot of the other shorts this season lack.
Kotoura-san is nothing like what I would have expected it to be. It’s equal parts pervy romcom and overwrought melodrama – two genres I am normally quite averse to – but here it somehow works. I still haven’t quite figured out what this show does so differently than all the others to make these things work as well as they do, but they seem to cancel each other out into a whole that is surprisingly palatable. I think much of it is due to the two leads, Kotoura and Manabe. Kotoura has an unusual mix of innocence and jadedness about her due to the circumstances surrounding her ESP. Manabe is a departure from the usual anime male lead, in that he’s not shy about his feelings for Kotoura in the slightest and is willing to stand up for her when he needs to. He’s a refreshingly straightforward and earnest male lead in a genre full of personality-devoid wallflowers. They’re also a pretty good match for each other – Kotoura’s ESP isn’t a problem for someone who wears his heart so readily on his sleeve. So far, maintaining the balance between the heavyhanded and lighthearted sides of the story has been key to Kotoura-san’s enjoyability. If it can keep it up for the remainder of its length, it will end up a far better show than it seems to have any right to be.
Right down to the director and voice cast, comparisons between Maoyuu and Spice and Wolf are seemingly inevitable. In particular, the dual focus on economics and romance is a key similarity, and both shows manage to keep the former surprisingly interesting. However, Maoyuu has some work to do on its romance side – its characters are not very interesting and their relationship is iffy at best. Maoyuu also likes to swing its leading lady’s boobs around a bit too much, both literally and verbally. Right now the economics alone, while not as engaging as Spice and Wolf’s, are enough to keep the show going, but if it can do a better job than it has been of developing its characters along the way, it can go places. Maoyuu is either going to be a show about boobs or about economics, and I’m not sure which it is yet. And I’m not sure that it knows either.
YES This Is Pretty Good:
Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman started out as the best new TV anime of the season, and has gotten better with every episode. It’s essentially Lupin III meets Gintama with a superhero twist, and each episode has added more awesome stuff to the table. How can you not enjoy a show about Henshin-Superhero-Japanese-Robin-Hood having a thief-battle with Catwoman in Ye Olde Japan with a wacky, Lupin-esque Gintama oddjobs gang and a brass-tacular OP/OST? And the latest episode even featured a golden castle in an underwater cave that transforms into a giant robot! And a tiny, old-man version of Sanada Yukimura fighting off a gang of pirates with three arrows in his chest! And when it wants to, it can have a nicely-handled serious side as well. This show is seriously the most overlooked gem of the season and it is a lot of fun to watch. With the rate at which its been topping itself every week, I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Though it’s not technically a TV anime, INFERNO COP started coming out at around the same time as the other winter shows, and this is such a dry season and this show is so awesome that it deserves a mention. INFERNO COP, like Roman, has continually topped itself every week, with its titular hero battling everything from street thugs to crab monsters to the legal system to evil organizations to the zombie apocalypse to robots to dinosaurs all the way up until the latest episode where he has challenged GOD HIMSELF. And also he has for some reason turned into a hot rod. The cardboard-cutout animation, randomly-German ending theme, and at-times-questionably-translated official Youtube subs all add to the fun, and it’s always a riot to see where the next episode will lead. INFERNO COP is the hero that will save this season from drowning in a sea of its own mediocrity.