As the fall season has been rather frontloaded, so has been my first impressions series. With all the biggest shows released in the earliest days of the season, things get noticeably more low-key from here on out. Interestingly, the shows also seemed to come out in waves: the big-name blockbusters came first, then the more romance-oriented titles, the crappy light novels, the sports anime, the toy commercials, etc., which gives me a convenient way to organize these posts. After the big blockbusters, the romance titles were next off the starting line, so let’s get to it!
Series with a focus on romance have a tendency to leave me feeling very neutral. I’ve never been big on shipping – the goal of two characters “getting with” each other is too nebulous a concept for me; doubly so when anime tends to be more accurately describable as “anti-romance” which rarely allows for any meaningful interaction beyond the dreaded hand-holding. In addition, the drama surrounding relationships in these series tends to be strained to the very limits of believability and beyond, heavy-handedly manufacturing conflict where none could reasonably exist in the wild. Personal biases now stated, let’s actually look at the shows themselves.
There were two big draws for this show back when it was announced. The first is that it’s from the author of Toradora, a light novel and adaptation which are generally accepted to have not-sucked. I dropped the anime after one episode, but haven’t given it a chance since my “Any anime in a high school is 100% guaranteed to suck, especially if it’s a romance or comedy, except if it’s Azumanga Daioh” phase, so I can neither comment on that as a net positive nor negative. The second is that it takes place in college and not high school, which is admittedly likely to be a superficial difference in practice, but is nonetheless encouraging because it hints at a different target age group. But that’s all without having seen the show. In practice, it ended up being above-average as far as light novel romantic comedies go, but still not much of anything to write home about. Production-value-wise, it was wholly unimpressive – the artwork and direction was nothing special. A number of people have commented on the sound mixing, saying that the dialogue is often drowned out by the music and sound effects. I actually didn’t notice the first time around because I was reading the subtitles instead of listening to the dialogue itself, and because the air conditioning unit in my room is so loud that it does a darn good job of drowning out the dialogue by itself, music notwithstanding. But going back and listening to it again, with the A/C off, yeah, it is pretty bad. The characters are also not the most interesting – this is looking to be a pretty typical harem setup with a pretty typical harem cast. What puts the show in the above-average category is the sense of humor – it’s got a good number of absurd moments that it rolls with quite well, and it can be surprisingly patient with its punchlines at times, which lets some of the jokes work better than they otherwise would have. I especially liked the one at the beginning about the main character getting lost and following some classmates to school, only for them to walk into an ice cream shop and leave him behind while he made an impulsive purchase. The one where the crazy stalker girl sat behind the two male leads as one ranted about her to the other showed a level of comedic restraint rarely seen in anime, which typically likes to shout the punchline before the joke has even ended. The college setting hasn’t made much of a difference yet, but it’s only the first episode, after all. Golden Time, in the end, is an enjoyable enough show that I would like to see a few more episodes’ worth of what it has to offer, but I can’t see myself sticking with it through its entire two-cour length. It’s the kind of show I can enjoy for a short time before dropping it on relatively good terms. If you’re the type of person who’s into romantic comedies, though, it’ll probably be right up your alley, as it’s got the sense of humor to make even a cynical hater like me laugh a few times.
Nagi no Asukara
Between this and Arpeggio of Blue Steel, we’ve basically split Blue Submarine #6 into its constituent components – alienated fish people and CG submarine battles. Anyway, after a refreshing break from their usual formula last season with the uncharacteristically palatable
Pretentious Family Eccentric Family, PA Works is back to doing what they do best – nauseatingly melodramatic stories about unsettlingly shiny people with beautiful scenery in the background to distract us. Nagi no Asukara right in line with stuff like Tari Tari, so if you’ve enjoyed PA Works’ output in the past, you’ll probably be similarly swept up by this tale. The underwater and surface worlds are both a treat to look at, the animators certainly did not skimp on the eye candy. Though as tends to be the case with most of PA Works’ shows (though this may be more attributable to returning writer Mari Okada?), the characters were all insufferable and the drama between them utterly unconvincing. The key trait in the main girl’s character description is that she’s “prone to crying,” and much of the conflict in the episode is generated by placing her into transparently-manufactured emotionally compromising positions. This style of constantly setting up and subsequently shooting such low-hanging dramatic fruit has always struck me as ingenuine (probably not a word) and never sat well with me. Part of me wants to continue watching the series for its unique and surprising elements – I want to see more of the undersea world, and the whole puberty metaphor of a farting fish head growing out of the poor girl’s knee. There are some creative ideas at work here, but I can’t justify sitting through what will doubtlessly be increasing amounts of unsavory Okada drama to see them come to fruition, especially not for 26 episodes. So for those of you with a stronger stomach for that sort of thing, Nagi no Asukara’s got a lot to like, not the least of which are some interesting aquatic motifs to ponder and a developing love story. But for me, the cons outweigh the pros with this one.
I’ll be back next time with some less-than-kind words for some less-than-classy shows. Don’t worry, though; I didn’t hate everything this season!