Initial Thoughts: Anime Summer 2013 Season

Another season, another batch of anime to spot check. With this being my second “real” season of checking out multiple anime as they air, I like to think I’ve learned some things about which titles to stick with and which to drop like a bad habit.

(Insert standard disclaimer of me just being one guy that doesn’t want to sift through multiple episodes of garbage before officially deeming it unwatchable. Sometimes I side with the common opinion on anime of the season. Other times I won’t. It’s kinda expected when you try to develop these things called “opinions.”)

And now, in no particular order…

WATAMOTE – No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular

WATAMOTEI read a couple chapters of the Watamote manga a while back and thought it was decent enough—a story about an unpopular girl that’s too caught up in her own delusions of what high school should be like to really develop something of a friendship with any of her peers. It had this whole unapologetic feel about it, especially when it came to main character Tomoko and her sincerely “hard to watch” embarrassing attempts at being more social. In general, its subject matter felt like something I’m sure most anime/manga enthusiasts could relate to. And if skimming the internet’s proven anything, it’s definitely done at least that much.

But I still can’t get into it.

Watching the first episode of the anime, all the problems that only felt minor in the manga felt more noticeable now that I was watching it in all its animated glory. Pacing felt slow, especially for a series that leans more towards a comedy. Scenes with Tomoko’s extended musings about defending her unpopularity seem to ramble for longer than necessary. And the general feel of the series just makes me not like her as a main character. Rather than taking all her undesirable habits and turning them on their head into something funny and enjoyable to watch, I’m led to believe that I’m supposed to cling to her character based solely on the relatability of her problem, which I personally can’t do.

Not saying I’m in denial about having never been in an awkward situation. My having a blog pretty much hints that I’ve had at least a good handful of awkward situations in my life. Just saying that WataMote isn’t my cup of uh… awkward tea.

(I will say Tomoko’s relation with her brother is probably one of the most accurate portrayals of a brother/sister relationship in all of anime. The degrees of “not caring” her brother has about her own problems is painfully accurate.)

Blood Lad

Blood LadI feel I’ve seen this show before, except done a million times better. Oh yeah, I did. Last season.

Blood Lad is yet another anime about a quirky demon and his developing interest in the human realm. Though rather than initially being a textbook baddie that develops a soft spot for humans and their daily strives, the demon in question is essentially a Japanophile. And a really obnoxious one at that.

Furthermore, the constant use of reference humor in the first episode alone just rubs me the wrong way. I get that we’re talking about a demon Japanophile, but when some of his most recent references are about Dragon Ball, signs usually point to the rest of the series’ humor being of the “least common denominator type.” And anime fans as well as the viewing public deserve better.

(Though considering that Grown Ups 2 actually happened, as well as half the trash that airs on the big 3 networks, I honestly think this is what a majority of us deserve.)

Chronicles of the Going Home Club

Chronicles of the Going Home ClubSpeaking of shows you’ve seen done better before…

For those living under a rock, the “cute school girls forming a club about nothing and having equally ‘nothing’-types of conversations” has been done a million times over to the point that I feel like if another show of similar genre pops up next season, I fear the worst (insert Ghostbusters “dogs and cats living together” bit).

Don’t get me wrong; I feel like treading the same genre past said genre’s peak is possible. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment that was last season’s Aiura. Then again, maybe the 4 minutes per episode was more helpful than I initially thought it was.

Whatever the case, Chronicles of the Going Home Club is essentially an empty husk that shows exactly how far we’ve gone from the likes of Haruhi, Lucky Star, etc. The entire cast is bland and uninteresting; the goofy situations they get themselves into have been done and done a lot better; its inexplicable seal mascot just doesn’t cut it; even the animation feels like something from 5+ years ago.

I will say that the one thing the show has going for itself is its almost Animaniacs style of self awareness, with characters constantly mentioning things like the ending theme animation. Though I’m sure even that tiny sliver of light won’t be enough to make this show shine.

Servant x Service

Servant x ServiceServant x Service is essentially the third season of Working!! except with an entirely different cast and setting. I like to think both shows take place in the same universe a la The Cosby Show and A Different World.

The main characters are a batch of social workers going through the everyday ins and outs of working for the man, with most of the humor coming from the characters’ own specific brands of wackiness rather than coming from the situations they get themselves into. You have Lucy, the well endowed main character that’s become a public servant to seek revenge on the public servant that OK’d her disgustingly long legal name; Miyoshi, the fresh out of college worker that just found her first job ever; and Hasebe, the slacker that surprises everyone whenever he gets one of the other two out of a jam. Each character, as well as the supporting cast has his or her own shtick, but for a show like this, it works.

It’s one of those shows that has a unique enough premise that hasn’t been done to death (yet), so I’m pretty forgiving when the jokes are mediocre at best. It knows exactly what it wants to be, aims for that, and is pretty decent when it comes to delivering. One of the few shows I’m actually following this season.

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club

aka "swimming anime" if tumblr is any indication

aka “swimming anime” if tumblr is any indication

Free! is this season’s Flowers of Evil, in that all its negative hype seems to be working for it. For the uninitiated, the show originated as a 30-second animation bit that exploded on the internet and resulted in a full-on show not only being made, but being made by Kyoto Animation (Haruhi, Lucky Star, K-ON!, etc). All its hype came from the fact that the 30-second bit well… appealed mainly to the female demographic in the most visual way possible. Or at least that’s how most people would put it.

I’d go into a ramble on the issue myself, but I feel like Mr. blogsuki worded it perfectly (check out the rest of his blog, btw):

“Women fanservice would be non-threatening guys who know how to install kitchen cabinets and crown molding, hence why the Property Brothers have three shows on HGTV right now. Boy fanservice would just be nakkid ladies. Men fanservice would just be nakkid ladies. So it’s a bit charming Kyoto is approaching Free! as they would K-On!.”

The main characters in the show are essentially gender-swapped versions of the ones most anime fans are familiar with, which is its main draw. You have the overly cutesy one, the brains, the serious-minded one, and the rival to the serious-minded one. It’s a formula that’s been done time and time again, so who’s to question it?

I will say, though, that as incredibly “for the ladies” as the 30-second bit was, the first episode seemed significantly tame (sans the ending animation, at least). If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought it was more of a sports anime than anything else. All it needs is the super finicky female sports club manager and we’re set.

As for whether or not I’ll actually keep up with it past the first episode, I can’t say. Part of me is sincerely interested in just how a “manservice” show will go, while the more sensible part of me just doesn’t care. Like I said, I think of it as the Flowers of Evil of this season.

Gatchaman Crowds

Gatchaman CrowdsI never watched Battle of the Planets or G-Force: Guardians of Space, and I’m sure I’m better off watching this reboot of the Gatchaman franchise without having done such.

From what I’ve gleamed of the original series, it’s essentially Power Rangers in anime form. 5-man team, mecha, forces of evil… pretty standard stuff. The problem with the jump to this reboot is just how downplayed the actual team’s been so far. Three episodes in, and only two of the crew is given any significant screen time, with the rest given just enough time for a snarky one-liner or two.

Seeing Gatchaman Crowds from a more objective standpoint, the focus mainly on Gatchaman members Hajime and Sugane works decently enough. Sugane is the seasoned vet, and a straight-shooter when it comes to getting his bad guy. Hajime, meanwhile, is the “think outside the box” rookie that the team needs. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, and three episodes in and it works alright enough.

Where the show really shines is in its world-building. In a world where not only are smart phones used in the noblest way possible, but moleskin notebooks are the hot commodity for civilians and superheroes alike—it makes for an interesting setting, at least. To have scenes with the Tiger & Bunny-looking Gatchaman mechas duking it out with flying rubiks cube monsters be less interesting in comparison to scenes with civilians saving each other with the help of their GALAX phones is interesting to say the least.

The show’s pacing so far is surprisingly slow, especially for an action series, and the character designs are a bit out of the ordinary (think Tatami Galaxy minus being paired with beautiful backgrounds, so I start to mind) but to have the underlying message so far be that the civilians are the true heroes leaves me interested as to where the show will go from here.

Yami Shibai

Yami ShibaiAt about 4-minutes per episode, Yami Shibai is essentially Are You Afraid of the Dark? for people with even shorter attention spans. Like most shows of this type, episodes have either been hit or miss (unsure how to feel about having the source of the jump scare be immediately arrested in the following scene), but the traditional Japanese paper puppet-style of animating the majority of the series as well as its short run time is enough to keep me following.

Turning Girls

Turning Girls…speaking of 4-minute shorts with limited amounts of animation.

Turning Girls is about a group of twenty-somethings living in what the Naruto series has coined as “the springtime of youth” (yep, it’s 2013 and I’m making a Naruto reference). The number of misadventures the trio of girls goes on reminds me of some of the less sadness-inducing scenes in Solanin (or any Inio Asano work, really) in that they probably aren’t the best of its kind, but you can really relate to the cast and their seemingly aimless meandering through their late twenties.

So basically, all the relatable-ness that I should have felt in WataMote ended up here in my case.

Monogatari Series: Second Season

Monogatariah, the piece de resistance.

Funky naming aside (Nisemonogatari and Nekomonogatari aired following the original Bakemonogatari, so this isn’t a “second season” by any stretch), like most returning series, I’m sure most are already decided. And while a majority of the internets deem the Monogatari series as nothing more than an incredibly text-heavy fanservice show with nothing of any substance, I can’t disagree more. The text-heavy conversations the characters have among each other on the surface seem so superficial, but as the episodes progress, you begin to see just where the meaning behind the conversations go. And when that moment clicks, you feel a certain sense of being treated to something so much more than what one would initially expect.

The general premise of “oddities” taking over people is second banana to this series’ top-notch writing, which is honestly all I could ever ask out of any series (How you gonna reference something said in the first series’ character commentary three shows later and not be praised? HOW?).

I can’t praise this franchise enough, and for those willing to delve into something more atypical, I’m sure you’ll feel the same. Or you’ll bitch about how you have to read so many subtitles, which… I mean c’mon, really?

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About daemoncorps
Gabe (daemoncorps) has been writing about anime and the like since 2005, but has been babysat by it for much longer. He primarily spends his days distracting himself on twitter or writing for Fandom Post until he realizes he has a weekly webcomic (tapastic.com/series/scramblebouquet) to work on. He also just finished writing his first full-length graphic novel about unemployment (https://tapastic.com/episode/293804).

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