Author Archives: Panther

Winter 2015 Anime Preview

5 Jan , 2015,
Panther
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Nekopara - Sayori

 

A New Year’s greeting from the creator of Nekopara, Sayori! This original artwork by Sayori can be found at this pixiv link.

A belated Happy New Year to the readers of NTP! It has been some days since the start of the year, and as of this post, the new anime season has actually already begun. However, I have not watched anything from the new season yet, and by the time you get around to watching any of them, most of you would probably have read this post. So without further adieu, let us jump into 2015 with the winter season anime.

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Midway Autumn Anime Look

24 Nov , 2014,
Panther
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Diane

Diane, so far the most interesting of the Seven Deadly Sins.

I must apologize for the lateness of this post. I had planned to do it last week, which was the time when Terra Formars episode 7 aired. I took that episode to be the half-way point for the season, as the show itself had started airing earlier compared to the others. Without further adieu, let us proceed to how I believe the shows have been doing thus far into this season.

Note that it is of course, all my own personal opinion, and that you might find a show I decided to be distasteful an appealing one for you.

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Panther’s Autumn 2014 Anime Season Preview

28 Sep , 2014,
Panther
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Princess Lenessia

One of the characters returning this season I am really looking forward to – Princess Lenessia from Log Horizon.

The autumn anime season is upon us. In fact, as of this post, there have been at least one anime series that has aired, perhaps two. Once again, I must take time out to look at the anime series that I will be following this season. That, of course, does not mean they are the same ones that you would be watching, or even be interested in. I lay no claim to anything objective – all of this is merely my opinion and you should keep that in mind as we go on.

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Knights of Sidonia

14 Sep , 2014,
Panther
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Sidonia Gardes Formation

Part of the amazing 256-Gardes formation in front of Sidonia.

Science fiction has remained a favorite genre for anime series to pull off, but doing it well enough to be hailed as something at least well done is another matter. Among the selections of the year however, last season’s Knights of Sidonia stood out as a fantastic reminder as to why science fiction, if done in an engaging and spectacular manner, can still be a genre that can line out a most breathtaking sight in anime.

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A Midsummer Night’s Review

18 Aug , 2014,
Panther
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Saori Suzushiro

No, doing this is bad for you, Suzushiro. One of the best girls this season, of course.

It has been a busy period for me, but I have not let go of the anime series this season that I wanted to watch…except for those I dropped, of course. How has this season fared, now that we are halfway through it? Well, to be technically honest, we are more than that already, but please, indulge me in this Midsummer Night’s Dream Review.

First up, I will be using the S, A, and so on tier system to indicate how good I think an anime series has been doing for me. I find the score system to be arbitrary and rather unwieldy for actually grading or rating an anime, so this season with its +/- possibilities is a better indicator, IMHO. Secondly, I will list the anime series I dropped first, and why, before moving in ascending order through the ones I still catch.

 

Dropped Series

Glasslip (ep. 3) – As much as I think slice-of-life anime can be great, this one with all its romance bits just could not draw me in. I had expected this – Tari Tari was more of a music-based rather than romance-based series after all.

Rokujouma no Shinryakusha (ep. 5) – I have no idea how I stuck past three episodes, but the comedy was just too weak and generic for me to continue. I mean, some of you might find it good thanks to the various girls’ distinct qualities, but there is only so much I can take now without thinking, “This is something I have seen before quite a few times and I know where this is going.”

Momo Kyun Sword (ep. 3) – Yes, this was the highest possibility on the to-drop list and it made it there without a glitch. Quite frankly, I probably knew it was going to be this way and I still picked it up. I deserved it.

Sengoku BASARA Judge End (ep. 4) – I really liked Madhouse’s rendition of this series, so this really came as quite a rude shock when I saw just how far behind Madhouse the current studio, Telecom Animation Film, is. Everything seems disjointed, the animation quality is poor compared to the previous works, and the pacing is really bad. I will not go so far as to say I am a fan of the series, but I was really disappointed by this particular run, even more so than I thought I would be.

*****

Kaneki Ken

Kaneki Ken with a badass mask. One can only hope he truly becomes as badass as his mask makes him look in the anime.

Tokyo Ghoul
Current episode: 7
Current rating: C-

As I mentioned in my earlier post, Tokyo Ghoul was quite the letdown by the second episode. Till this episode, it has not really even picked itself up. Censorship problems continue to plague the series when there is no real need to, and this is not just some blacking out of the screen of gory parts either. It gets really bad at times. Further, the execution of the story and plot has been, the least to say, upsetting. I bet the manga readers of this series dropped it by the second or third episode thanks to that. While it does seem like the story might pick up from here on out, I am really skeptical that it will actually get any better than a C- rating if they continue things this way.

Kuroi Kobushi

Having a best girl in every series is actually kind of helpful for me in sticking with series. Kobushi is the best one of this one for me, though it came as quite a shock that she likes Urushiba’s dad though.

Tokyo ESP
Current episode: 6
Current rating: C

Both anime series this season with “Tokyo” in their names have suffered from largely the same problems – a lack of good execution and plot narration. Frankly, the first episode remains the best we have seen so far of this series, and that is the other problem. The second episode was meant to be the first in terms of the storyline, so we got kind of a weird look at this anime at first before jumping into the backstory. It throws people off…or at least, it threw me off. I will admit that some problems were indeed inherently visible in the first episode, but it remains the best out of this series by far, unfortunately. I say that because the background material has been said to be really good, but again, as with Tokyo Ghoul above, the quality of the animation has just been really disheartening. I will continue to follow both series but dropping either or both in the not-so-distant future seems like quite a real possibility now.

*****

Jamie Hazaford & Susumu Tokimune

These two are made for each other.

Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen
Current episode: 7
Current rating: B-

Argevollen has turned out pretty well even though it pretty much started out as a rather generic shounen mecha-type series. Despite the flak that I have seen some throw at it, I still kind of like it, though not as much as other shows this season. There is definitely some plot development potential, and there are also the mysteries surrounding both Argevollen and the entire conflict that makes the show something to keep on going for. Argevollen itself is no game-breaking mechanism either – both Tokimune, its pilot, and the mech itself are not game-winners in and of themselves. A huge advantage may be given to Argevollen’s side, but it is still Lieutenant Samonji’s strategic mind that almost always pulls Argevollen and Tokimune out of the mess they seem to get in almost every time. The other side is not without its trump cards either, what with that blonde private being so good at piloting a Trail Krieger, almost enough to do Tokimune in during the battle in the pass.

In short, I do not find it anything less than an average show, but I also do not find it anything more than that so far. The show will go on for 2 cours, so it will run over into the next season, where it will have at least three very serious competitors. However, we shall leave that for the fall season preview.

Captain Earth - Pool in Space

I seriously, seriously want a pool like this in space too. Best thing to come out of Captain Earth so far.

Captain Earth
Current episode: 20
Current rating: B

That pool in space. Good lord. Other than that though, Captain Earth was once touted, as I saw on Twitter, as “breaking records for being just shy of ‘good’.” This was true until a few episodes ago, when they finally, in someone else’s words on Twitter, “took off the kiddie gloves.” The plot is moving along nicely and at quite the pace, while the pieces have been assembled on all sides. Unfortunately, while the action has certainly been pretty fine, there are still loopholes here and there that we, as the viewers, are not let in on. In fact, as the series progresses towards its undoubtedly powerful climax, I am instead left wondering if we will ever get answers to who or what Puck is, what the Livlasters actually are, and a slew of other questions. Still, BONES has indeed delivered, if it was quite some time coming, and not at the level that was once expected.

Besides, no one can give up the charm of swimming in a pool in space looking down at the beautiful Earth and looking up at the gorgeous cosmos. This is, undeniably, the epitome of literally swimming in space.

Saegusa Mayumi & Shiba Tatsuya

Tatsuya as the lady’s man without even trying, as he seems to do to every girl in this show, even as he only romances his sister.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei
Current episode: 20
Current rating: B

流石お兄様! (“As expected of onii-sama!”; “Sasuga onii-sama!”) This continues to be the catchphrase for the show. Tatsuya manages to make every girl in the show fall for him while only really lusting after romancing his sister. Despite the obvious harem references however, as I mentioned in my look at the show 2 months ago, the technical depth of the show has continued to make it a rather good watch. Couple that with at least decent to above average animation, good jokes and action thus far, and you have yourselves a winner in the harem category.

Aside from that, I also managed to receive a lowdown of the depth of Mahouka from a friend who has read the series and gone much further than the anime in terms of the plot. It certainly is, like perhaps what Sword Art Online might seem like to its readers, something that you can get a lot out of if you go deep into its universe. Of course, SAO, for me, is hardly a good comparison; Log Horizon would be a better one. Unlike both Mahouka (so far anyway) and SAO however, I think Log Horizon did a very good job of explaining things in its universe as compared to these two. Still, Mahouka has done a good job by far, though this is of course going by personal standards. It will finish this season with the current Yokohama arc, and I have no doubt that, due to its popular reception, there will be a second season.

Barakamon

A fine piece of work indeed, and innovative.

Barakamon
Current episode: 7
Current rating: B+

Barakamon was not initially among the summer season preview for me, because I thought it would be something I would not want to watch. On advice and suggestions from Twitter folks and other places however, I picked it up around episode 3, and it has since become quite the catch of the season. Unlike Glasslip, the slice of life is pretty interesting to watch and the jokes are funny. It tries to incorporate a sense of learning as well throughout the series, but not so strong as to smother you with it. While definitely not for everyone, Barakamon might be the kind of anime series you want to watch to heal yourself with after a tough work week…if you happen to like it as such.

*****

Esdeath

General Esdeath. Her beauty is only overtaken by her sadism. Urgh.

Akame ga KILL!
Current episode: 7
Current rating: A-

Akame ga KILL! has thus far remained one of the best shows this season. While not enough to bring it up to a pure A-rating, there is at least no silly censorship in this show, and it does not stop with the violence and the grim reality of the world Night Raid lives in, while combining it with a dash of the right humor levels at the right times. Further, the unexpected development (for those who do not read the source material anyway) in episode 6 was quite the rude shock, and I can only see this show getting better as time goes by. The plot is along the same continuum, so the villains may change but the ultimate antagonists remain the same. A good thing too, for that, because with the introduction of both Seryu Ubiquitous and Esdeath, this show just got a whole lot bloodier and crazier, and I am just fine with that.

Leone remains my favorite in this show, but still, what happened in episode 6 was a terrible blow.

Mishima Lisa

This screenshot of Lisa with the light behind her might be a subtle hint that she will never be able to make it to the same level as Nine and Twelve. She may, in fact, be quite the opposite, even as she holds resentful thoughts against the world she lives in.

Zankyou no Terror
Current episode: 6
Current rating: A

Terror in Resonance, or Zankyou no Terror, has taken a turn I did not expect, with the appearance of Five. Initially, before I watched the latest episode, I was pretty much against this turn of events. It seems to be like a repeat of L and Kira in Death Note, at least conceptually, just on a different scale. However, after catching the latest episode, I must say that it has definitely not dampened my enthusiasm for this being one of the top two shows this season in my book. While it did not get back to my idea of how good a showdown between the two boys and Shibazaki might have been, it came quite close with Five coming onto the scene. And Shibazaki himself provided a clue as to how they might destroy the Tokyo area in the latest episode too, and how it might come about thanks to Five, so all in all, ok. This change hardly takes away from the show being something that could be really sinister in the long run. The shortness of its run, however, would imply a second season in order to cover the material, but we will see.

*****

Aldnoah.ZERO

Aldnoah.ZERO, now with flying battleships. Proudly brought to you by Urobutcher.

Aldnoah.ZERO
Current episode: 7
Current rating: S-

Aldnoah.ZERO remains the top show of the season for me, with its dazzling mech designs and the relentless action combined with that master of epic BGM for such shows as Attack on Titan, KILL la KILL, and the Sengoku BASARA series, Sawano Hiroyuki. Nowhere else is the masterful plot narration as evident as in how the story continues to progress beyond mere prediction, with plot twists at every turn. Of course, some have picked at possible weaknesses in the series, such as how Inaho seems to be able to overcome every single Kataphract he has come across, almost with no emotion and a mere logical mind, as well as a low-caliber Kataphract of his own. It went to the point where I saw a retweet on my Twitter timeline regarding how SAO, Mahouka and Aldnoah were airing together. Basically, “they might as well call this slot the ‘OP MC Medley’.” That was a good one.

Of course, Inaho aside, I think there were a lot of people who went into the Slaine camp. Personally, I am all for the Kaizuka Yuki bandwagon. That Ohara Sayaka goodness. Of course, being serious now, the show has seen a lot of strong technological innovation, and solid action. In the way of actual plot development, however, we do get a lot of moving but not a lot of forward movement. For example, there are still unsolved mysteries that might not get solved in this short 1-cour run. The only reason this is not a true weakness of the show right now is because of all the pressure coming from the attack by the Vers Empire’s knights, and how they keep having to run. With this new flying battleship though, they will certainly have more than enough of a chance to fight back. All that remains to be seen is whether or not Asseylum will finally be able to tell the Vers Empire she is still alive, and hopefully, turn against them in an effort to stop the suffering she brought unwittingly upon the people of Earth. Oh, and who might actually end up with her as a lifelong partner, maybe.

Panther’s Summer Anime Season Breakdown

12 Jul , 2014,
Panther
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Leone

 

So, after my anime season preview, which anime series lived up to their expectations, and which did not? Of the ones I chose, which ones would be worth keeping? Will they even pass the 3-episode test? It is now time to find out.

Just a disclaimer – I obviously do not watch every show in a season, and I do not intend for this post to be anything other than my own opinions of how I think they went. You might like a show I dislike for example, or picked up something that you preferred over something that I wrote about here. So, this is more for those who have actually watched the shows, or those who are thinking of picking up the shows I mentioned, and seeing if they match up to what I said they would likely be. Again, that is from my own point of view, so take it as you will.

The 3-episode test, by the way, is a standard of measure for series for many. Basically, the anime has to keep you interested enough to continue watching it past 3 episodes, and I have found this to be a good gauge on most (but not all) occasions.

Series are listed in terms of tier ratings, following in a descending order, S, then A, then B and so on. An S-ranked show is quite likely to be an excellent show for me, but my tastes could very well be different from yours. Some of the shows only had 1 episode aired, while some have two. The number of episodes aired thus far will be listed beside the anime title. Screenshots are taken directly from the episodes themselves.

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S Tier

Aldnoah.ZERO

 

Aldnoah.ZERO (1)

Airing on Saturday nights in Japan, Aldnoah.ZERO is the story of the discovery of a hypergate on the Moon in 1972. Immigrants to Mars via this hypergate discovered the ancient remnants of a lost civilization 30,000 years past, and promptly used it to proclaim themselves different and superior to the Earthlings. The division led to a war that saw the destruction of the Moon and the hypergate. 15 years after that event, a princess of the Martian Vers Empire makes a goodwill visit to Earth in an attempt to repair the torn relations, but ends up being assassinated. Determined to take revenge, but even more so to take over Earth, the birthplace of their fathers, the Orbital Knights of the Martian empire begin their invasion of Earth, with little to stop them except the egos of the other Knights.

The first episode was nothing short of Urobutcher goodness. The princess died not in a hail of fire but one of pinpoint precision missiles en route to her destination on Earth. The animation was also fantastic when it came to the Orbital Knights descending upon Earth – above, you see New Orleans right before it gets decimated in a fireball reminiscent of what would happen if an asteroid dropped from space…which is not too far from the truth in this case. The plot and its background was given to us in various scenes throughout the episode, but not done in a way that seemed disjointed. In short, it was excellent.

I have great faith in Urobutcher and what I know of his works, and the first episode showed that there will be even more bloodshed and grimness to come, along with lots of possible mecha action and the like. Be prepared if you go into this show – it will not be nice, though in a good way, if you get what I mean.

 

Zankyou no Terror

 

Zankyou no Terror
Terror in Resonance (1)

Crimson has already done up a preview for this, so I will not go into further details as he has already watched an episode ahead of me. All I can say is that the first episode has left me wanting more, and this anime certainly goes down a route which few has gone in a way that might just be unimaginably large. This will likely end up being one of the definitive shows of this summer season.

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A Tier

Kuroi Kobushi

 

Tokyo ESP (1)

A girl named Urushiba Rinka follows a fish she sees to the top of a tower only to find more fishes, and when one passes through her, she discovers she has the ability to pass through objects. Meeting others like herself who have gained special powers, they cannot sit still, and form a vigilante group to keep law and order in Tokyo.

That was precisely what I was expecting out of the first episode, so color me extremely surprised when they dropped right into the action. The first episode had none of that. It was more like a Japanese version of X-men instead, with the espers going up against one another, and a move on the parliament itself. There was not just a lot of action, there were a lot of characters too. Further, there was no censorship to mar it like a series you will read about below, so it was all very well done.

The reason this goes into the A-tier category though was how the music seemed to drown out the speech at certain places, and how many things were just thrown at the viewer at once in the first episode. There were no less than 15 characters possibly introduced in various ways that might have an impact on the story in just the first episode alone, so that was hefty. Otherwise, I find this show to be a likely candidate as well to be a definitive show of the season. It will go on for 2 cours, so there is plenty of time to develop the material, and show us the good stuff.

 

Leone

 

Akame ga KILL! (1)

Barely making it into A-tier is Akame ga KILL!. The series follows a country boy, adept at fighting, who goes to the capital in search of fame and glory, that he might earn enough money to save his village from taxation and ruin. While there, he gets scammed of his money, and learns that the capital is actually a very corrupt place. He is “saved” by a girl of nobility, only to discover through the invasion of a group of assassins that she has actually killed his best friends who were supposed to meet up with him, torturing them slowly to death. He kills her, and subsequently gets forced to join the assassin group.

There was more humor than I thought there would be in the show, but they do not mince words, nor do they stop with the gore and the blood. The assassin group is like a group of vigilantes – where justice is unable to punish evil, evil shall punish evil instead. They kill those who are guilty, and that certainly sounds like something that has been done quite a few times. Still, the series’ humor, combined with its corrupt setting, makes for some good watching, and the only girl with nekomimi (猫耳; cat ears) this season is in it.

Akame ga KILL! is planned for 2 cours, and according to those who have read the manga, the first episode lived up to expectations, so it will likely be good enough to keep watching throughout. All is not fun and games in this show, but neither is it all blood and dark either.

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B Tier

Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen

 

Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen (2)
Silver Will: Argevollen

Argevollen, as it is better known by, has a rather generic plot. I liken it to a combination of Valkyria Chronicles‘ story, and the mecha action of Break Blade. They all have something in common – a war begins between a great power intent on conquering the smaller country for its resources and wealth, disguising it as a war of liberation. A young pilot disobeys orders from his commander while their unit starts retreating from the frontline in order to try and save civilians from being chased by enemy units. He fails spectacularly, but while trying to get the remaining civilian alive away from the battle, she unleashes a new type of mech that he is asked to pilot, one that might just change the tide of the battle in their favor.

While all too generic, they did show how Tokimune, our protagonist, failed to hit the enemy on his first try in Argevollen. The main reason was because he was trying to compensate for the slowness and the lag in his older mech type, but Argevollen moves just as you want it to. The creator of this series, as someone put it, “gets mechs”. The second episode also introduced a little variable that disallowed anyone but Tokimune to pilot the mech, dampening the series because of a rather cliche plot development, but otherwise, the mecha action has indeed been great. Tokimune is also definitively not good at piloting Argevollen – while he may be superior in technology, his inexperience as well as fighting ability makes him rely on teammates as well, which is a good thing for the series.

The third episode’s preview has its title as “One Man Army”. I am hoping it is not a reference to Tokimune becoming just like a one-man army, but I highly doubt he will get to that point because no war is won and fought alone by one man or mech, and Argevollen, despite its generic elements, does not seem to be going down that path. I will most likely finish this both for the mech action as well as the strategies and tactics used to fight the war. Oh, and the girls, all in all, probably have the best looks this season in every show I have watched so far. I mean, look at Suzushiro! None of the others are shabby either. That is some nice character design.

 

Fukami Touko

 

Glasslip (2)

There is something about slow, slice-of-life series that make or break them for me. Individual variations exist, but Glasslip seems to fall at the lower end of that spectrum. Fukami Touko (above) dreams of becoming a glass artisan, and has a group of close friends with a no-dating policy. A newcomer, Okikura Kakeru, appears before her and tells her that he came to meet her. Both apparently have the power to see or hear into the future.

Little else is really shown in the show thus far, but there are a lot of shots of scenery and the like, making it one of the more aesthetically pleasing shows of the season. P.A. Works is at least not disappointing in that area, and I must say, this would likely be quite golden as a show for people who love ones like these. There are a lot of romance problems involved, especially with the lifting of the no-dating policy in the second episode, so we will likely get to see just how the relationships between the tangled mess of folks here develop, and in what manner.

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C Tier

Magoichi Saika

 

Sengoku BASARA Judge End (1)

I really have nothing to say. The first episode left me more shocked than anything. The series was damned by the change in studio – the pacing and the art direction was seriously lacking compared to the first two seasons and the movie done by Madhouse. I have no idea why they changed studios, or why they even bothered to continue the series. Oh wait, money. Sengoku BASARA is pretty hot in various forms in Japan, owing much to its possible yaoi aspects and the overwhelmingly ridiculous action in the anime series thus far. Unfortunately, it has just gone down the drain.

Aside from bad pacing and art, the story is also different from the previous iteration, or rather, the story that led up to this point is different from the previous storyline. That was a bad move right from the start – I was coming into this wholly expecting them to continue after a recap of the end of movie. They also introduced two new characters, both women, one of whom is Magoichi Saika (above). I am fine with the introduction of new characters, but give me back my previously good action, art, and development please. This could easily be one of the worst upsets of the season; I am now unsure if I can even bring myself to finish it if it continues like this.

 

Kaneki Ken & Rize

 

Tokyo Ghoul (2)

Ghouls look like humans, but cannot survive without feasting on human flesh at least once a month. The appearance of a binge eater, Rize (mirror above), causes problems for both ghouls and humans alike, as she shatters the fragile fabric of co-existence between ghouls and humans. A freak accident kills her and leaves Kaneki Ken (also above) almost dead, and the surgeon in charge of the operation makes the decision to transfer Rize’s organs into him in order to save his life. It turns him into a ghoul instead. Now neither human nor ghoul, Kaneki must confront the horror of his new world, and find out more about the ghouls and humans if he is to continue his existence.

The story seems all well and good, but there were people already harping on the lack of quality in the first episode. I thought it was fine, but then I watched the second episode and I was like, “What are they doing?” The primary reason for this was the censorship. They had no real reason to keep censoring gore, blood, and the like, what with other shows mentioned above already doing it. Further, there was an entire scene in episode 2 where all the blood was changed to a different color, painting the entire scene in a way that Bakemonogatari once did. In that series though, it worked very well, and was a great artistic move for the show. Here? It was just gaudy eye candy that simply took away from the experience of the show. I am pretty sure a lot of people came for the blood and gore, and they would have been left feeling worse than disappointed at where this seems to be going.

In any case, whether or not I continue watching this boils down to the plot. With good material but bad execution, even a show can become little more than an existence denied by the diehard fans of the manga series, and Tokyo Ghoul might just go that way real soon, if it has not already done so.

 

Kasagi Shizuka

 

Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? (1)
Invaders of the 6-Tatami-Mat Room!?

Invaders of the Rokujouma, as it is likely more known by, is supposed to be the gag comedy of the season. None of the humor in it has not been used before though. Satomi Koutarou moves into a new apartment with a floor size that of 6 tatami mats, which is a common way of measurement in Japan. He got it cheap for just 5,000 Yen a month, and he plans on keeping things cheap, so imagine all the ruckus that comes when a ghost, then a magical girl, an underground person, and an alien all show up and try to drive him out of his apartment! Invaders indeed.

Unfortunately the humor was a little forced at times, and really, none of it having not been done before meant that you would likely chuckle at the jokes, but nothing more than that. Some fanservice might be expected, but this is not really a fanservice show. The four invaders are voiced by new talent who are backed up by some stronger talent, and that is about it. Unless you seriously find the jokes funny, this one is likely to be dropped not long after you start it.

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F Tier

Momoko

 

Momo Kyun Sword (1)

That picture says it all. Incidentally, I have never seen a post on my Tumblr go beyond 1,000 notes before, but as of this writing, the post I made with this screenshot (warning: NSFW language) has garnered over 1,600 notes. Really, why would you start on it? I expected this, and I got it full-on. I wonder if I can even keep past the next episode, in fact.

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And there you have it, the results of my picks for the summer season. I would like to say that I did well, but really? Not really. At least, I am only following 10 shows this season, with 2 more continuing from the last season, for a total of 12. Most of them also air during the weekends too, which is helpful.

Panther’s Summer 2014 Anime Season Preview

1 Jul , 2014,
Panther
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Sengoku BASARA - Date Masamune

 

Date Masamune says it all – let’s put the guns on! YEAH! Welcome to the summer, folks. And with summer, comes a whole new anime season. Date is not just there for show either (for those who know Japanese and caught the pun, good job) – he will be in this season once more. Before we get down to it however, there are a few things to keep in mind as you read this anime season preview.

The first is easy – any preview is subjective in nature and should never be taken as anything more than an opinion by another person. So please, nothing written here is absolute, and you should take it in stride with that in mind. What I write is all my own opinion – you are more than welcome to hold a different opinion, because as Virgil said, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” So by all means, do not get offended if your favorite show is not in here, or was not given enough attention. You and I just have different views about it, that is all.

 

Secondly, the preview will not cover all shows airing in the season. Most of it are major shows, and I will also skip over even more shows compared to other previews. These posts can take hours to write up. I jest you not; on my old blog trying to do almost every show in a season including my thoughts, one of these previews once took over 5 hours to complete in total. I will mention in passing some that will likely be given attention elsewhere, but I will not do much for them.

Lastly, I am taking my information from these excellent sources. Random Curiosity is a very established and well-known anime blog in the aniblog community, and you will be richly rewarded with more information than anything here if you go over there to read their Summer 2014 Preview post. Hashihime is another blog I trust, though he deals a lot more with seiyuu (voice actors/actresses), an aspect of anime I am more into than others. You can hop on over to check out his preview as well. I thank these two blogs for their sources of information, and remember, their previews are opinions too.

 

One more point – I will often talk about certain seiyuu in my posts, but I will not list their more famous roles. Some of these roles can be subjectively remembered by everyone for different reasons, while other roles may be more prominent for you for a seiyuu. I will link their ANN profiles so you can always click on their names to go there and check for yourselves.

By the way, the new season actually starts tonight in Japan (or tomorrow, if you see it as being in the wee morning hours of Wednesday), hot on the tails of several anime series finishing tonight for the spring season. Actually, the new season will start in the wee morning hours of the 3rd of July in Japan, one day away from the end of the spring season. Off we go.

Glasslip

 

Glasslip

While largely a season of sequels, Glasslip is one of the original anime series coming out that is getting quite a bit of attention. I made up my mind to watch this since I knew about it before or around the start of the spring season, when it was announced. Glasslip is about a group of students, including Fukami Touko who wants to be a glass artisan, having their lives changed by the appearance of Okikura Kakeru, who came to her saying he heard a voice from the future that led him to her. A slice-of-life anime from a studio known for doing such stuff, I am looking forward to this for a “softer” anime series.

Hayami Saori and Taneda Risa are in this, and these two have a great track record by now. They are backing up a younger, newer cast, so I guess I will not be too upbeat about the cast themselves. P.A. Works, however, has a great track record. The anime’s concept is reminiscent of Tari Tari, but with Uchouten Kazoku added into the mix, I am pretty sure that we can expect an average anime in Glasslip at the very least.

Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen

 

Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen

Argevollen is another original anime series, though this time in the mecha department. Coming from XEBEC and the makers of Break Blade, which I really liked, the story follows a long conflict between two countries that sees the balance being tipped when a new weapon is introduced. Rather typical for a plot, but I am expecting the animation quality and the action to be no less than Break Blade (the movies’). There is little information surrounding the series, but I hardly see that as a problem when XEBEC and mecha are combined in this case.

In the main team, Oonishi Saori may not be as well-known as a favorite veteran of mine, Ohara Sayaka, but both are being backed by some excellent voice talent in Hayami Sho (I have to mention Aizen Sousuke of Bleach here, still his most badass best role by far), Yoshino Hiroyuki and Sakurai Takahiro. Osaka Ryouta rounds out the cast that I know, so we can expect some excellent work in the voice department.

Tokyo Ghoul

 

Tokyo Ghoul

A horror anime series that might, for fans of the horror genre, be a long time coming, Tokyo Ghoul is one of the more hyped series of the season. While there are some raised concerns about the anime, as mentioned in RandomC’s preview, I suspect that the hype surrounding this show will at least have some truth to it when the show gets released. I am not very much into the horror genre, but Tokyo Ghoul has perked my interest enough that I will definitely be watching this for a bit to see if it is worth continuing.

Ghouls in TKG are beings that look like humans, but must feast on human flesh in order to survive. Kaneki Ken gets close to one without knowing it, and his life is changed forever thereafter. It sounds like a generic plot at first, but what happens after can turn out very interestingly sometimes. Hanae Natsuki and Hanazawa Kana voice the main characters, backed by the likes of Amamiya Sora, Miyano Mamoru, Sakurai Takahiro, Asanuma Shintarou, Nakamura Yuuichi and Konishi Katsuyuki…is this like a red carpet walkthrough of a stellar male seiyuu cast or something? At the very least, I bet fangirls of said seiyuu would be delighted to know they are all together in this show.

ALDNOAH.ZERO

ALDNOAH.ZERO

Another original anime series in the mecha genre, this one is immediately famous not for the genre, but for the creator, the infamous Urobuchi Gen, otherwise known as Urobutcher. Author and creator of such works as the visual novel Saya no Uta, and anime series like Psycho-Pass, Puella Magi Madoka Magica and the more recent Suisei no Gargantia (considerably milder than his previous works), this is a series not to be missed just because it is one done by the Butcher himself. At the very least, it should be given a chance to see whether it will go down a similar route to Gargantia, or perhaps end up being more sinister like in Psycho-Pass or Madoka.

A hypergate was discovered in 1972 on the moon, and it led to the colonization of Mars. Conflict occurred between the immigrants and Earth, and the hypergate went out of control destroying the Moon in the process. Now 2014, 15 years after the war began, the story is set to begin. Little else is known about the show, but Sawano Hiroyuki comes in as the series’ composer, ensuring that the background music will be nothing to laugh at as well.

Hanae Natsuki and Amamiya Sora star together once again in an anime series; they must be getting popular or something. Hayami Sho, Ohara Sayaka, Kayano Ai, Oukawa Toru, and Nakai Kazuya make up the veteran cast, while Misawa Sachika and Komatsu Mikako come in as relatively new seiyuu, though the latter has already made quite a name for herself as a singer.

Sengoku BASARA Judge End

 

Sengoku BASARA Judge End

ARE YOU READY GUYS? PUT THE GUNS ON!

I never would have thought it possible, what with the movie ending the series on an excellent note, but they are having this third season of Sengoku BASARA after all. All of the yaoi implications aside, the show is a ridiculous throwback to the likes of a warring state era that I dearly loved when I was younger, and read about the ones in China. And the level of ridiculous power in Sengoku BASARA has never failed to entertain, alongside the action as well as the music, so there really is nothing left to say about a show that has already set its expectations quite high.

The only worrying thing is that a new studio took over for this season instead, so I hope they will keep up the standard. Nothing needs to be said in terms of the seiyuu either – they are a very strong group. This will definitely be one of the biggest sequels to look forward to this season.

Akame ga Kill

 

Akame ga KILL!

WHITE FOX brings us the adaptation of a dark manga series, where the seemingly good are the true evil, and the killers are the real harbingers of justice. Nothing good seems to come out of this world, and those who wish to watch it should bring a very open mindset to this series as you will likely step down the path of bloodshed in order to see where the concept of “good” truly lies. The series has a lot of hype surrounding it, and will run for 2 cours, so I am definitely watching this for the gore, action, and the plot. WHITE FOX is pretty decent in its track record, so I expect that they will at least do justice to the manga adaptation.

Amamiya Sora appears once again. Konishi Katsuyuki, Noto Mamiko, Komatsu Mikako, Asakawa Yuu and Tamura Yukari are also in this, so there should be no worries with respect to the voice cast.

Momo Kyun Sword

 

Momo Kyun Sword

A re-imagining of the classic folk tale of Momotarou the Peach Boy, but with a girl instead. The plot is generic as all hell, but the cast might just make this a funny show to watch on the side. Momoko will be voiced by Taketatsu Ayana, and she will be backed by a strong host of female seiyuuImai Asami, Takahashi Chiaki, Asano Masumi, Katou Emiri, and slightly newer ones in Komatsu Mikako, Tsuda Minami, and Mimori Suzuko. There really is not a whole lot of reason to watch this other than for the fanservice and perhaps the humor though, so you would be well advised to keep that in mind if you plan to watch this.

Zankyou no Terror

 

Zankyou no Terror

While probably listed under the “horror” genre, Zankyou no Terror is more of a horrifying thriller than anything. A terrorist group has practically annihilated Tokyo in a large-scale attack, and unbeknownst to the common public, the group called “Sphinx” responsible for it is actually made up of two boys. It is the beginning of their grand game that will soon engulf all of Japan in terror.

I do like psychological thrillers and this one seems to have great tangible consequences, so I will definitely pick this up. The show will very likely play around with your mind a lot, so if you are not into that, stay far away from this series. With its deep-seated creepiness, this one looks to be quite the hit in its own right, and being an original anime series, who knows how it will go? Ishikawa Kaito voices one of the two boys, but little else is known about the voice cast. The director Watanabe Shinichiro, however, is no strange name in the industry, so we can expect quite the solid show in this one.

Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?

 

Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?

Invaders of the Rokujouma (a 6-tatami-mat sized apartment) is an obvious comedy from start to finish. With wacky characters surrounding our literally poor protagonist, he has to face a ghost determined to drive him out of this small hole. As with comedy shows, the humor could be hit-or-miss depending on your tastes, so you might want to approach this one with caution. Nakamura Yuuichi voices our lead, while Hayami Saori, Taketatsu Ayana and Yuuki Aoi are also in it. One can only hope that the humor will be good right now.

Tokyo ESP

 

Tokyo ESP

Urushiba Rinka is a normal girl, until she sees a flying penguin and chases it, resulting in her ending up with strange powers. Together with a boy from her school, they meet others with various different powers, and end up as justice fighters. The premise seems interesting and there is a lot of good hype surrounding the show’s adaptation, so I expect quite a lot out of this show. Some fantasy and magic done well is always welcome.

Kido Ibuki, a mere 16 years old, is getting a major role this season as Rinka in this one. Quite a bit of the cast are veteran seiyuu, such as Inoue Kazuhiko, Genda Tesshou, Ogata Megumi and Nakata Jouji, while some relatively new ones like Tadokoro Azusa and Misawa Sachika are also in it. There sure are a lot of good things going for this even before it airs, so it will probably be one of the top shows of the season.

Hanamonogatari

Hanamonogatari

Little really needs to be said about the continuation of the almost epic -monogatari series by NisiOisin. Hanamonogatari will run for 5 episodes covering Kanbaru Suruga’s latest problem, and for fans, you know exactly what to expect out of this by-now legendary series. Really, do I have to say anything more?

*****

Mentions

Free! -Eternal Summer- – The second season of the wildly popular bishounen swimming anime Free!. I bet there are lots of fujoshi looking forward to this.

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Crystal – Yet another season of the very long-standing series Sailor Moon. Established fan levels will probably guarantee its success no matter what.

Shounen Hollywood -HOLLY STAGE FOR 49- – A male idol anime. Idol anime are certainly getting very popular nowadays. This one will largely cater to the ladies.

Sword Art Online II – Wondering why this did not make the list above? Because I am not watching it. In fact, if I were to watch it, I would just make fun of it. I had enough of Kirito and his broken stuff. I also heard the GGO arc is bad, which is what they will cover in this. But hey, I am not even bothering with the series anymore. Still, if you are a fan of this, this is not to be missed of course.

Space Dandy 2 – I did finish the first season, but it was a lot of hit-and-miss. I am still debating if I should watch the second season. If you liked the first season though, go ahead with this one. I have heard that Westerners far prefer this than Japanese viewers, so you would do little to hurt yourself by giving the first season a go at least.

Ao Haru Ride – One of those romance genre series that I am not into. I am pretty sure there are lots of people who would be into this though, so if you like the genre, give it a try. There have been some good things said about the series.

LOVE STAGE!! – Yaoi is written all over this. You know how that goes for me – a big no. But I am sure there are many fangirls (maybe even fanboys) who would be into this so fast, you would have to take out a camera to slow it down frame by frame so you can see what they are actually doing.

 

I have left out several other sequels of shows I do not watch, but you get the general idea already from this. I still suggest going to both RandomC’s and Hashihime’s posts to find out more if you are interested, for this is just a very general look at the season at hand. Further, the shows might have hype, but whether you like it or not is another matter once they actually start airing. Have fun with that when the season starts!

 

No Game No Life

24 Jun , 2014,
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No Game No Life - Sora & Shiro

Our all-too-likely protagonists, Sora and Shiro. Siblings unrelated by blood, they represent the penultimate NEET gamer genome.

One of the stronger shows this season has been No Game No Life. By its name alone, it would have warranted at least a chance, but I would say that very few expected that a show which started strong actually got stronger. Indeed, it has gone past Knights of Sidonia to be the personal best of my spring season anime series. Unlike the previous post on Mahouka however, I agonized over what to actually say about this show, and then I realized – is there even a need? I merely need to show you what has caught my absolute attention for this show, and why I think it is well worth your time to watch and finish this series.

Some of the text in this post comes from my posts in my own personal Tumblr when I first wrote about the anime’s first episode. I believe they are worth reiterating here for emphasis.

The One True God, Tet. The very same one who brought the siblings to the world of Disboard because he lost to them at chess.

The One True God, Tet. The very same one who brought the siblings to the world of Disboard because he lost to them at chess.

No Game No Life, or Nogenora, the official Twitter hashtag for the show, has a rather generic-sounding synopsis. A pair of siblings, Sora and Shiro, are so good at gaming that even with cheats, no one can beat them. Known collectively as Kuuhaku (or Blank, in English), they have set records in games beyond the reach of others, but the reality is that they are both NEETs who have withdrawn from society. Into this background comes Tet, who challenges the siblings to a game of chess and loses. Using his divine powers, Tet brings them to Disboard, a world where everything is decided by games, and where murder, robbery and other similar crimes are not allowed.

Of course, in this world, magic also rules, and Sora and Shiro find themselves playing various kinds of games, starting out in the region where the Imanity, or humans, live. It is not just their fellow Imanity that they will face in the games to come, but also those who are able to use magic for their own benefit, and perhaps worse…

Sounds generic enough? Read on.

Stephanie Dola

Stephanie Dola, a major side character that assists Sora and Shiro in their quest…and also serves as one of the best comic relief characters this season.

At the very first episode, No Game No Life struck a deep chord within me when Sora puts reality in terms of a game. “The world is chaotic, unreasonable, and unfair. There is no way to know the rules or the goal, or even the genre, yet there are 7 billion people making whatever moves they want. The world is just a crappy game.” At the time, I wrote that:

This hits so close to home it hurts. It is also very true. But then again, is life also a game? This is but one of the many viewpoints with which to approach life. In the end, there is no one true viewpoint with which we can view life, because we all view our lives through our own subjectively colored lenses, and we will never know what another person is truly thinking, nor if the world was actually a gigantic game made by some bored omnipotent presence for (fun).

All is, indeed, not fun and games in life. Nor is it so even in Disboard. By allowing only games to decide everything, suddenly, the game is no longer something “fun” to play with, but a “battle” in which you might even have to stake your life on. Now that I think about it, this may even be an allusion to the way gaming has changed in the last decade or even less – many more people suddenly play to win, forgoing the old idea of “fun”, where you actually enjoy playing the game, for a newer concept of “winning is fun”. And when kids decide that paying to win is “fun” because it allows them to win…well, I digress, but you get the idea.

Disboard is, however, governed by a set of Ten Commandments. These Commandments are a good recurring theme throughout the anime, and are what determine how games can be started or played throughout the world of Disboard. This gets very important down the line, which you will be able to find out for yourself as you watch the series.

Clammy & Feel

Clammy Zell & Feel Nilvalen, Kuuhaku’s first real opponents. Yes they border on the yuri side of things.

You may assume that the games in No Game No Life would be rather uninteresting variations of what we might have. Chess, for example, was one of the games used in the series, and what could you do, really, to make such a game interesting?

You would be dead wrong.

Clammy and Feel, pictured above, used the concept of chess to make a different kind of game, one that strayed considerably away from the primary idea of chess, and used elf magic to insert a sort of “cheat” into the system. The game itself did not play out in the manner of chess, but more of a strategy game near the end. Further, the logic and means by which Sora and Shiro used to arrive at the solutions out of various situations, not just in the chess game but in others, add on to the flavor, variety, and most importantly, the realistic nature of the game itself. Kuuhaku not only knew how to play games, they also had the vast knowledge required to win a game before it starts. No game is ever fair, Sora argued in one of the episodes, because there is something called prior knowledge.

With regards to the cheating, one of the commandments mentioned that a game is only forfeited by a party if that party is exposed to be cheating during the game. In other words:

So according to the implications, this world is all about cheating in games without being found out. Even if that cheating meant making use of magic, apparently. There is a lot of possibly dark and shadowy stuff that might go on in games, and both Sora and Shiro are, of course, no stranger to such things.

This is perhaps what makes the anime interesting, and raises a good point – is it impossible to be good at games without cheating at something? The “cheat” might not be a tangible aspect of the game – we often hear gamers say “Koreans are automatically broken at gaming” (true almost half the time or more anyway). Is it something in their culture, something in their genes, or something else entirely? That is what the anime here seems to call into question – the concept of “cheating” as we look at it in our world. I like this particular point of view as a gamer, and I hope they expand on it a little more later on.

Jibril

Jibril, a character that first appeared in episode 6, is like the icing on top of an already delicious cake, but managing to somehow be the most delicious part of them all added last.

The knowledge that went into a game’s workings as well as how to play the game according to the different variations used in the anime series itself also lends a whole lot of charm. In episode 6, Jibril the Flugel, pictured above, made her appearance. As a weapon created to kill, she now held knowledge as dear to her, as much as her life. Sora challenged her to a game in order to win her abilities and the library she owned over to his side, and the game they played was Materialization Shiritori (see Wiki link regarding what shiritori is). One of the rules was that they could use words in whatever language so long as either party understood it, and Sora used it to immediately bring a hydrogen bomb first when he started.

The best part about this entire game was the completely well-meshed parts of both science and humor. Yes, there is a whole lot of anime humor to be had in this series, nothing that you would not have seen before, but the way they did it using references to other games and anime (Doraemon, for example, was referenced rather directly) is more than just admirable, bordering perhaps on sheer genius. Yet each game does not only have its funny parts, it also has its logical parts that the creator of the series has clearly done a lot of research on. As a fellow writer, I understand that anything you wish to write on requires research beforehand in order to write adequately about the subject, or you risk being called out for saying the wrong things. So when it comes science fiction or fantasy shows like this one, there is clearly quite a bit to be done with regards to studying up on the topic areas the writer would write on.

Shiro, Sora & Jibril

Jibril’s thirst for new knowledge thanks to the arrival of the outsiders Sora and Shiro sometimes makes her break out in a panting sequence. Voiced by Tamura Yukari, it may be Yukarin’s best work for me to date.

What I did not expect was to actually learn more from an anime series than I would think about taking away from it. Sora used the physics of the very small (collectively known as quantum physics) in his ultimate triumph over Jibril, calling into effect the result of his vast knowledge gleamed from reading widely just to be able to win at games. Specifically, Coulomb’s Force was something I never read about, and the result of the disappearance of this force brings about something even bigger than a supernova, a variation called the hypernova. This was the first time I heard about a hypernova, and I have read up on astronomy and dabbled in a little bit of basic astrophysics before, so this came completely as a great surprise. I never knew there was something even more powerful than the normal supernova. Who says you cannot learn things from anime?

This perfect blend of the serious and light-hearted sides of playing games, along with the deductions that each side in a game used to get their own advantage over the other, has resulted in a really strong anime series that has broken the norm. Even as it brings out the humor you often see in anime, it also manages to slip in a lot of critical thinking, reasoning and other kinds of skills you would definitely need not only in games, but also in real life. It goes to show that games are not just for “fun” sometimes, but even so, Kuuhaku manages to have a lot of fun in thinking through their opponents’ moves and winning with style, oftentimes in really close games. “Fun” is a secondary effect, and the people of Disboard are obviously short on it since the only real entertainment, games, has been made into a competitive arena.

Jibril

No Jibril No Life

Unfortunately, No Game No Life was only slated for 12 episodes. The last episode will air Wednesday night in Japan, and it will be an awesome finale to be sure. I am more than content to let it end on this note, but there is definitely a lot of awesome potential to be used for a second season, and I hope the series gets one. For now, I shall enjoy whatever remaining references it might have to give, both physical and mental action, and the game’s finale as it winds down to the very last climax of this season in what was surely among the better, if not the best, anime series of spring 2014.

A Look at Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei (The Irregular at Magic High School)

11 Jun , 2014,
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Mahouka - Shiba Siblings 01

The Shiba siblings, Tatsuya and Miyuki.

A recent anime that has been turning heads since it started has a small mouthful of a title – Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, or in English, the Irregular at Magic High School. Commonly referred to simply as “Mahouka“, the anime has been drawing both good and bad reviews since it began in the spring season of this year. Exactly what about it might cause someone to dislike it so, and others to like it so? Before we begin to talk about that however, let’s have a little background information. All images used in this post are from Episode 7.

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